Skippy Dies by Paul Murray sucks and I stopped reading it | Book Review



That’s how far I got into this 661 page ‘novel.’

In the first chapter alone, I already knew I wouldn’t like Skippy Dies by Paul Murray. It’s the exact kind of ‘slice of life’ novel that I hate: an ensemble cast with no discernible goals besides solving their vague ‘problems’ that aren’t fully explained until much later in the book.

For example, we’re introduced to a character known as ‘Howard the Coward’ rather early, but we don’t learn the history of that name until page 432.

You think I’m willing to stick around for that Paul Murray?? HELL NO. I only know that because I got so sick of your nothing story that I started jumping around trying to see if it ever got interesting.

So yeah, I got to 126 pages, jumped around a bit, and ultimately just stopped. Skippy Dies is a really shitty novel.

The Summary

Skippy Dies follows an ensemble cast that revolves around Seabrook College for Boys, a school in Dublin. If there’s a main character, I couldn’t figure it out. Much of the page time is dedicated to Howard, a teacher at the school who’s unhappy (both in career and relationship), and Daniel ‘Skippy’ Juster, a student who appears to be midst a mental breakdown.

The novel’s initial point of action is chapter one’s death of Skippy. The series than appears to go back in time as though to solve the reason behind his death. Best I can guess from my 126 pages is either suicide or overdose.

There’s no accurate summary for such a story. Similar to John Dies At The End by Jason Pargin, the back cover just gives concepts of plot. A direct quote: “Principally concerning the lives, loves, mistakes, and triumphs of…”


I’ve come to realize any inside flap or back cover of a novel that can’t give a discernible goal or obstacle is gonna be shit.

Prove me wrong.

The Bad

Since I couldn’t finish the book, I’m officially stating that there’s nothing good about it. Except that, I guess, it fulfills the definition of a novel and is readable.

Generally, it was boring and pretentious. Maybe I’m past the age where I can stand reading about the blasé ‘problems’ of high school kids. Maybe it’s something about Irish fiction that I’m not getting. Either way, it wasn’t an interesting story.

Incredibly little happened in the 126 pages I read. We’re introduced to a lot of characters, given a lot of set up, but there’s nothing to look forward to besides, perhaps, the reason Skippy died chapter one. Still, I don’t really care since it’s somewhat clear (based off my 126 pages) that it was from stress, a suicide, or an overdose.

I think the stupidest inclusion is Howard, a teacher at the school. Obviously we’re supposed to sympathize with the guy since he’s unhappy with his work and his relationship, but I have no pity. The guy clearly isn’t trying to fix his problems, so why should I care about him? He’s also introduced via (nearly) drooling over a new substitute but acts as though he’s not interested in her. Based off a couple pages later in the book, it’s possible the two sleep together (thereby further ruining his relationship) but I SUPER don’t care.

The writing is just annoying; it’s unclear and pretentious. I have difficulty picturing anything and the dialogue is all over the place. Just bad. Plain bad.

Final Thoughts

It’s garbage and I’m not sure why I picked it up so many years ago. Maybe it appeals to teens still trying to come of age? I think I was mostly swayed by the cover art and it’s design.

There’s a quote by The Times on the cover that I find amusing: “Noisy, hilarious, tragic. A carnival of a novel.” I can interpret that as a rip against the book, not praise. Noisy is super accurate in the writing. It’s hilariously bad. It’s tragic it was ever published. A carnival of a novel because it’s not worth it’s price, offers less fun than it advertises, and all around a poor use of time.

Final Rating


Don’t read this book.


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