Yes, this book seems silly at first but it contains an incredibly well developed theme around reality vs history or what can you believe? And although the reader has to plow through a doorstop’s worth of tragi-comic adolescent weirdness, somehow, at least in the recorded version, the characters are so compelling (in a train-wreck sort of way sometimes) this reader kept going – and going – and going –
It really is somewhat too long and Murray uses several rather convoluted plot threads. The humor is vital to keep the story from becoming seriously tragic. The readers (performers?) are excellent – excellent – excellent!
Daniel Juster (aka Skippy) age 14, is a typical male student at Seabrook College, a Catholic boys school (high school level) in Dublin, Ireland. He dies tragically on the floor of a doughnut shop in the very first pages of the book. The next two large sections are basically a flashback to the months leading up to his tragic death. The last third or so deal with life and all the adjustments to be made afterwards.
The main focus is on the characters, mostly students. There’s Lori, the girl Skippy has fallen in love with, Carl, a “bad boy,” who also pursues Lori, Ruprect, Skippy’s fat, genius roommate, Dennis, a mean, class-clown type, and Mario, the sex-obsessed son of an Italian diplomat. Then of course there are the teachers – mainly Howard Fallon, a history teacher, Aurelie McIntyre, a substitute geography teacher, Father Foley and the Automator, Greg ?, the principal – or the school’s equivalent. There are many other minor characters making up the small multitude of personalities in a high school.
Aside from the mandatory sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll (and there is lots of that on several levels – virtually all illicit), a number of topics relevant to adolescent boarding school come up: video games, mysticism, sports, poetry, parental control, Gallipoli (WWI), even string theory and the occult. It just keep rolling along – on and on – into deeper and murkier waters.
Overall, it’s a fun novel and I’m glad I read it – especially glad I listened to it!