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Skippy Dies

Skippy Dies - Paul Murray What to say, what to say. I really enjoyed this book, and I never really feel like writing reviews of my favorites, probably because it's easier to be snarky while taking the piss (oh British). Writing about something that I found intellectually stimulating, or that made me laugh, or moved me (or all three, which this one did) requires me to be genuine and thoughtful in a way making fun of Stephanie Meyer never will. But this is definitely one of my top new release reads of the year, probably a close second to The Lonely Polygamist, which I didn't review, and I didn't want to make the same mistake twice.So, why did I like this book. For one thing, it consistently amused me. Paul Murray has written what a fancier reviewer than I would probably dub "a boisterous comic novel" or something. I'd just say it made me laugh a lot, and I am a bad reader when it comes to funny books -- I read them wrong, rush them and and forget to laugh. I think spending time with a bunch of real sex-obsessed high school boys sounds like pure hell, but I never got sick of reading about them picking on each other and making lewd jokes.Murray's narrative voice is pretty effortless. He switches POV and tense at whim, and some chapters start in typical third person and then suddenly jump to second person and then stream of consciousness (sans punctuation) without missing a beat or jarring the reader (The Reader). It could have come across as incredibly affected or self-indulgent but it really works for this story, which is in large part about how we all feel alone, or terrified of being alone, almost all the time. Because he is writing about teenagers, these thoughts have an immediacy and hormone-fueled emotional force that just wouldn't be as propulsive with all those periods and commas and semi-colons cluttering up the page, or without sticking us right inside a character's head (I almost never want to be told what I am thinking while reading but Murray gets away with whole chapters of 'you's). Of course, there are adult characters too, and he captures their voices just as well, but the kids are the ones you're going to remember, because they're the ones who still have a chance at a little bit of hope.Because the adults here are pretty broken, crushed by the realities of life and unrealized dreams and unfulfilled desires, many of them sexual, sometimes sexually disturbing (Did I mention this book is about an Irish Catholic boys' boarding school? I did not? Well read the plot summary yourself). The kids haven't quite reached that point yet, but don't worry, they'll probably get there: this is hardly a cutesy, idealized portrait of childhood; it's actually a pretty accurate recreation of the ways being a teenager sucks on about every level, one of them being that its the time when all of your illusions about your life, your future, and the adult world start to fall apart.But the kids, they still want to hold everything together for a little longer. Overweight genius/social outcast/donut-lover Ruprecht, who is as much a central character as the titular Skippy (who does, indeed, die, on about page 11) in particular is obsessed with discovering the secret to the physical forces that are holding the universe together, and it's kind of heartbreaking to witness his naivety as he conducts elaborate, childish scientific experiments to prove his theories are correct because he cannot imagine being able to survive in a world in which they aren't. To some readers, the long digressions about physics and string theory will probably seem like self-indulgent filler stretching out a rather long book that is otherwise a sort of standard coming-of-age boarding school deal, but it is in these detours that it managed to make me feel something (and kept it from seeming like glorified YA striving for literary cred).See, I already wrote a ton and have no idea if I have made you want to read the book. But if I tried to organize my thoughts any more I'd probably end up deleting the review and that would certainly have been a waste of time. Plus no one is going to read Lonely Polygamist just because I gave it five stars, but maybe someone will buy this one thanks to my poorly organized thoughts collected above. Or maybe if they know that, in one section, a character offers a rather spirited and convincing argument that Frost's "The Road Not Taken" is actually about anal sex. I never thought of it that way; never again will I not.Facebook 30 Day Book Challenge Day 3: Book that makes you laugh out loud.