Murray's trick, though, is keeping his readers interested when he kills his main character in the prologue. What emerges after we learn that Skippy really does die — that the title isn't just a gimmick — is a portrait of Seabrook College, a modern-day boarding school in Dublin, Ireland. The novel begins several weeks before Skippy's death, and follows him and his group of kind of nerdy (his overweight roommate Ruprecht is obsessed with astrophysics; 11-dimensional M-theory, in particular), prank-pulling, drug-doing, girl-obsessed friends through their day-to-day trevails.
The brilliance of this book is that we read with the same sense of immediacy that these kids seem to be living their lives. We're constantly looking for clues that might predict why Skippy will die; like everything seems important at the time, but we have no way of know what actually is. Isn't that the way teenagers are? Like everything that happen, or every decision may forge the path for the rest of you life? Ruprecht, wise beyond his years, explains (in example of some of Murray's sagacious prose):
"...that every path you take, no matter how lofty or effulgent, aches not only with the memory of what you left behind, but with the ghosts of all untaken paths, now never to be taken, running parallel."Murray's writing (see below for another fantastic theme-furthering passage) and the huge cast of characters make this book tremendously readable. I especially enjoyed the story of Howard the history teacher, his crush on the substitute geography teacher, and his failing relationship with his American girlfriend, Halley. Murray is very insightful and writes with an amazing sense of affinity for his characters, even the ones who are real jerks. After all, life is hard. But reading this novel sure is lots of fun! Four out five stars (minus one for missing a few chances to edit some sections, which drag a tad). But still very highly recommended.
("And she realizes that love doesn't go in straight lines, it doesn't care about right or wrong or being a good person or even making you happy; and she sees, like in a vision, that life and the future are going to be way more complicated than she ever expected, impossibly, unbearably complicated and difficult. In the same moment she feels herself grow older, like she's finished a video game and moved on invisibly to the next stage; it's a tiredness that takes over her body, a tiredness like nothing before, like she's swallowed a ton of weight...")