This was arguably the best book I read this summer. Paul Murray does such a fabulous job of getting into a 14-year-old’s head. A not just one 14-year-old, but several. He is able to be the sensitive 14-year-old, the outcast, the popular one, the nerdy one. He knows how they think, he knows how the adults interact with the kids, he is even able to speak as the exasperated teacher.
Spoiler alert: Skippy does, indeed die. He dies in the first few pages. The story is more about the days and weeks leading up to his death, why he died, and what his world was like. I laughed out loud, and even said to people sitting next to me (who, luckily, were my family and they just ignored me) “Listen to this! It’s so funny!”
The entire book is not funny. But there are definitely very funny parts. Murray walks the incredibly fine line of early puberty–the dirty jokes, the desperation of trying to be older, the teasing and the fear. But these boys are also still very child-like; believing in fairies and nonsensical science experiments and plans. They have so much pressure–from their school academically, in sports, and with girls. Pressure from their friends, pressure from their parents–all coming at them from all sides. And they aren’t quite mature enough to handle all they have to do.
I’ll be honest, the end was a surprise to me (usually I can figure it out), and quite sad. But it is an amazing book, written by someone who knows the crazy, illogical, just fun of being a 14 year old boy.
Next week’s book: Wool by Hugh Howey