Skippy dies | Los Angeles Public Library
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Skippy dies

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In Skippy Dies, Murray visits the humiliation, pain, and disillusionment of adolescence so vividly, don't be surprised if you experience a traumatic junior high flashback while reading it. The book wastes no time delivering on its title - in the opening lines, 14-year-old Daniel "Skippy" Juster, a student at a Catholic prep school in Dublin, keels over in the midst of a doughnut-eating contest, scrawls "Tell Lori" on the floor in jelly filling, and dies.

What happens next is no ordinary boarding school coming of age story, but a hilarious and surprisingly moving examination of the interlocking events that lead to Skippy's death. Told at breakneck speed, these include (but are not limited to): haiku, World War I, bungee jumping, pop stars, psychotic drug dealers, string theory, fistfights, Robert Graves, Irish folklore, very difficult maths, and love at first sight.

Though Skippy Dies weighs in at a hefty 661 pages, it's a fast read, due largely in part to Murray's wicked, irreverent sense of humor, and endearing characters. The book is probably not be for everyone - those with a low tolerance for 14-year-old boy humor and lewd readings of Robert Frost poems might not appreciate its charms; however, I truly cannot remember the last time a book made me laugh so hard.

If you like this book, you might also check out A Fraction of the Whole, about a dysfunctional family of Australian outlaws and misfits. Like Skippy Dies, it's funny, outlandish, and unconventional (and like Skippy Dies, it was also nominated for the Booker Prize).