One would think from the title that this book is meant to be humorous. And the first pages of the book would lead one to believe this is so. It is however, a book overfilled with pathos. The humour is lost in the sadness of the events. Skippy and his friends all attend an exclusive private school in Dublin, the Seabrook College of Boys with a sister college located right next door. Dialogue among the children is spot on and the interactions between staff and students also very believable. The plot however, is incredibly bleak. Skippy dies, obviously, but as the story unravels we discover just how tragic the events are that lead to his death. And the pathos? It's practically steeped in it. It makes life seem sad, cynical, hypocritical and ironic. Nobody gets their just desserts so to speak. Bad overwhelms good and we are left with a faint hope for humanity by the end. That said, Mr. Murray captures the voices of his characters fabulously and because of this, makes his sad and pathetic novel, eminently readable.
Skippy's death, which is no secret given the title, strikes a hammer's blow into the lives of those around him. Murray takes his time to examine the life of one boy, his inner life - using the language with which he speaks to himself; and his life interconnected with others. The story of how Skippy Dies is a complex one, real lives are too complex for there to be simple explanations. The book is deceptively simple to read, one gets carried along on the stories and adventures of teenage life, that time of intensity, of casual cruelty, of BFF's and Bullies - it's easy to forget sometimes that Skippy Dies. I'm glad I read this book. I found myself having to force myself to read more than a few pages at a time ... you see, I liked Skippy, and part of me didn't really want to know why Skippy Dies.