Review by Booklist Review
*Starred Review* It's no spoiler to acknowledge that Skippy, the main character in Murray's second novel, does indeed die, since the boy is a goner by page 5 of the prologue. Following his character's untimely demise, Murray takes the reader back in time to learn more about the sweetly engaging Skippy a 14-year-old student at a historic Catholic boys' school in Dublin and his friends Ruprecht, a near genius who is passionately interested in string theory; Mario, a self-styled lothario; and Dennis, the resident cynic. We also meet the girl with whom Skippy is hopelessly in love, Lori, and his bête noire, Carl, a drug-dealing, psychopathic fellow student who is also in love with Lori. The faculty have their innings, too, especially the history teacher Howard (the Coward) Fallon, who has also fallen in love he with the alluring substitute teacher Miss McIntyre. And then there is the truly dreadful assistant principal, Greg Costigan. In this darkly comic novel of adolescence (in some cases arrested), we also learn about the unexpected consequences of Skippy's death, something of contemporary Irish life, and a great deal about the intersections of science and metaphysics and the ineluctable interconnectedness of the past and the present. At 672 pages, this is an extremely ambitious and complex novel, filled with parallels, with sometimes recondite references to Irish folklore, with quantum physics, and with much more. Hilarious, haunting, and heartbreaking, it is inarguably among the most memorable novels of the year to date.--Cart, Michael Copyright 2010 Booklist
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
While there is an undeniable similarity between this long novel and another popular series featuring an adolescent protagonist who, along with his friends, gets into all kinds of mischief at a haunted boarding school, the two works couldn't be more different; this is a decidedly adult novel. The primary plot charts the brief life of 14-year-old Daniel "Skippy" Juster, a student at Seabrook Academy, an elite junior high school in Dublin. Skippy is smitten with Lori, who attends the neighboring girls' school, but has a problem: Lori's sort of boyfriend, Carl, is a sociopathic drug dealer. Another major narrative follows Skippy's history teacher, Howard "The Coward," a man equally infatuated with WWI and Miss McIntyre, a fellow teacher. With dark humor, Murray examines adolescent sexuality in an age of texting, video games, and the casual use of pharmaceuticals. Murray nails the banter of junior high, the nuance of middle-age yearning, and the excitement of string theory, and shows mastery in weaving disparate elements into a cohesive and engaging narrative. This is one of the darkest and funniest novels in recent memory. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review
At Dublin's Seabrook College, Skippy survives the daily indignities common to a boarder's life in an elite boys school. Still, something's wrong. Why does he want to quit the swim team? Why are his grades slipping? And who's the dark-haired St. Brigid's girl Skippy is always trying to spy on with his roommate's telescope? Seabrook is the world in miniature, and its gates threaten to burst from the hugger-mugger of cruelty, scandal, and materialism teeming within. It takes Skippy's tragic death and a sequence of events both hilarious and horrifying to recover the consolations provided by sympathy and friendship. Whether these will be enough to redeem Seabrook remains anyone's guess, though Murray suggests that a fleeting sense of grace may be all we can hope for and more than we deserve. Verdict Murray's second novel (after An Evening of Long Goodbyes) is almost flawless, a gift for fans of character and plot. In addition to his masterly use of James Joyce and Robert Graves throughout, Murray has created a social realism that holds its own with that of Dickens. Skippy Dies deserves to be widely read and loved. [Also available as a three-volume paperback boxed set, ISBN 978-0-86547-948-7, $30; see Prepub Alert, LJ 4/15/10.]-J. Greg Matthews, Washington State Univ. Lib., Pullman (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
If Harry Potter lived in an alternate Ireland, had no real magical powers but talked a good game, and fell all over himself every time he saw a girl, he might well belong in this splendid, sardonic magnum opus.It seems safe to guess that Dublin resident Murray (An Evening of Long Goodbyes, 2004) knows the world of boarding schools, of drab dorms, fetid hallways and teenaged lads with their layers on layers of desperation. It seems even safer to guess, though, that unlike Seabrook College for boys, his Ruprecht Van Doren has no exact counterpart in real life. While the others lust after the girls in the prep school next door, Ruprechtwho "arrived at Seabrook in January, like a belated and non-returnable Christmas gift, after both his parents were lost on a kayaking expedition up the Amazon"is exercising his weird brilliance by opening portals into parallel universes and confounding post-Newtonian physics. All the same, he's a fairly normal kid compared to some of the others, devout in his studies, hand up in class, quick to volunteer for extracurricular activities. Out in the hall, after all, there are thugs and drugs, kids steeped in Vietnam films and antinomianism, other kids lost in their own dismal worlds. The grown-ups aren't too much different; one teacher who is only ten years out of Seabrook himself has visions of the place in flames, while another seeks to find his way across the generation gap to find out just what junior is thinking. Throughout lurk the ghosts of the dead of World War I and the tutelary spirit of Robert Graves, odd sightings of whose memoir Goodbye to All That dot Murray's narrative. Oh, and then there's a fatal doughnut-eating contest as well, whence the title. Murray wanders confidently through the torments of the adolescent imagination, and he delivers a rollicking tale worthy of a Stephen Dedalusbut a lot more comprehensible.Long and impossibly involved, but also beautifully written, with much truth and not a wasted word. A superb imagining of a strange worldthat of pimply-faced kids, that is. Alternate universes, too.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.