This is such an amazing read I am going to have to reevaluate my Top 5 reads for 2010. Set in a Dublin boarding school it has nothing to do with the famous Kangaroo. It follows both the students and teachers at the school and the Skippy of the title is a student who unfortunately makes a noise not dissimilar from the TV kangaroo. Skippy dies in the opening paragraph during a doughnut eating contest and the novel recounts the events that lead up to the fateful eating contest.
One of the best things about this books is it takes you back to your school days, in a good way not “the horror, the horror”. The first two-thirds of the book had me constantly chuckling as I read. You almost forget that the book is set in the modern-day as it evokes memories of every classic book and film set in a school and you get completely caught up in the boys’ and teachers’ schemes, battles, melodramas and broken hearts.
The novel is split up into three books; Hopeland, Heartland and Ghostland and can be read in one volume or is available in a 3 volume boxed set (which I love!). Skippy dies in the first paragraph and the story catches up to this event at the end of Book Two. Book Three then deals with the aftermath and the tone of the book is distinctly different. And this is where the absolute genius of the book lies.
The first two books are full of the joys, dreams and pursuits of the blissfully naïve who are slowly hurtling toward the harsh truth of life. The story is full of humour as the boys pursue girls, torment teachers and carry out somewhat crazy experiments. The lives of the teachers are equally entertaining especially the history teacher who fawns over a substitute teacher, that the boys also have the hots for, and the acting-Principal known as “The Automator” who is trying to hold onto his new position.
But the tide changes in Book Three. Like all teenagers the students’ lives are completely insular but the death of Skippy, and the reasons for it, thrust them into the stark reality of the world. As you have already been sucked into the boys’ world and have been lulled into a sense of lightheartedness by the book’s humour you are also confronted by the book’s turn. The school, the boys’ lives and the history teacher’s life all fall into disorder and insecurity in the wake of Skippy’s death and the school’s authority is called into question by everyone. The boys must find a way of moving on with their lives despite their new-found knowledge and a chaotic school concert is a fitting climax to this wonderful novel. This is an extremely enjoyable read that will move you, entertain you and have you pestering all your friends to read it too.
You can watch my video review here