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Skippy Dies by Paul Murray

As promised, 14-year-old Daniel “Skippy” Juster dies in the opening scene of Paul Murray’s tragicomic masterwork. But much remains to be seen in the ensuing chapters. Who is responsible for his demise? And why does he die such a weird death, gasping for air on the floor of a doughnut shop without having eaten any doughnuts? And what are we to make of his final message, written on the floor in syrupy raspberry filling: “TELL LORI”?

Set in Dublin at the Seabrook College for boys, Skippy Dies combines the visceral power of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest with the raw anxieties of life in the 21st century. The result is a dazzling and uproarious novel in which nearly all the characters are at odds with one another (and with themselves) as they walk the line between fantasy and reality, spectacular deception and jaw-dropping revelation.

Read more . . .

While a ruthless Acting Principal (“the Automator”) tries to dissolve the school’s affiliation with the Holy Paraclete Fathers, faculty and students alike revel in unholy obsessions. For the teenage drug dealer Carl, it’s porn, laced with his borderline psychotic fantasies. For the pudgy young genius Ruprecht, it’s a quest to open a portal to a parallel universe. Unable to get his students to understand the magnitude of the Great War, the history teacher Howard Fallon spends equal time trying to get it on with his sexy colleague Aurelie. For Eoin “MC Sexecutioner” Flynn, life is an endless hip-hop soundtrack.As for Skippy, with a distracted father and a cancer-stricken mother, he simply dreams of a day when no one harasses him anymore. There’s not enough Ritalin in the world to bring normalcy to Seabrook, but then again, normalcy is all relative within those historic walls.
Faber & Faber; Reprint edition (August 30, 2011)

Book Club Party Ideas

After all, much of the action takes place at Ed’s Doughnut House, including Skippy’s untimely demise, so what could top a doughnut-themed book club party for Skippy Dies?

Hang doughnuts with ribbon from the chandelier or light fixture or wherever your heart desires.

Hanging Doughnuts

There are fun doughnut-themed party items should you want to get really crazy with your decorations (as if doughnuts hanging from your chandelier isn’t crazy enough.) I found an adorable pink smiley face doughnut mylar balloon, assorted colors of doughnut balloons, doughnut seat cushions (available in your favorite doughnut flavor), party supplies and garland.


“…’JC’ is I think my favourite Sonic Youth track, capturing perfectly the volatile teenage mix of attitude and vulnerability, sexuality and anxiety.” ~ Author Paul Murray, on the music blog largehearted boy

From Paul Murray himself, for a teen angst atmosphere choose Sonic Youth and the JC track in particular for your book club party music. You can find Sonic Youth at your favorite music store or go to for easy mp3 download. Listen to samples of the Sonic Youth album, Dirty, below.

Book Club Menu

Teens love pizza, and Ruprecht (page 109) proclaims pizza as his “favourite food” in his address to “fellow intelligent life forms.” So …. pizza it is! Prepare the wonderful (and guilt-free) Zucchini Pesto Skillet Pizza with Homemade Wheat Pizza Dough or go to our pizza recipes page for more recipes.


A doughnut cake is easy to make by stacking a variety of doughnuts and doughnut holes on a cake plate. You can use cake decorating icing to help keep the doughnuts in place.

Doughnut Cake

Besides doughnuts, coffee is also expected at a doughnut shop.  Rather than serving your coffee piping hot, serve iced coffee with some Baileys Vanilla Cinnamon Irish Cream Liqueur, a splash of whisky and a doughnut hole garnish.

Book Club Resources

Awards for Skippy Dies

  • 2010 The Man Booker Prize Longlist
  • 2010 Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Award for Comic Fiction
  • #3 on TIME Magazine’s Top Ten Fiction of 2010
  • Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Fiction (2010)

Ratings at the time this post was published

Goodreads: 3.71 stars (15,900 ratings)
Amazon: 3.9 stars (194 ratings)
LibraryThing: 3.85 stars (453 ratings)
My Rating: 5 STARS Skippy Dies blew me away! Paul Murray took me on quite an emotional ride with his intelligent, wonderfully witty and profoundly moving novel! I was roaring with laughter one moment, then fighting back tears the next. This is a hefty tome at well over 650 pages, but it is worth every moment!

Discussion Questions

Spoiler Alert: Discussion guide may contain spoilers to the book.

1. What were your initial theories about why Skippy died?
2. Why can’t Howard be happy with Halley? Is his obsession with Aurelie any different from
Skippy’s obsession with Lori?
3. Who are the heroes and villains in this novel? Is the bad behavior due to bad parenting, high testosterone
levels, materialism, lack of belief in a difficult God? Other factors?
4. How does Seabrook compare with your high school? Which characters most closely resemble
you and your circle of friends?
5. What do the novel’s priests have to say about the nature of the suffering they see at Seabrook? Do
they defy or fit the stereotype of prep-school priests? Read more . . .

6. When Carl’s parents fight loudly (David versus jealous mother Lucia), what do you think they’re
teaching him about love? How do they manage to stay so clueless about their son?
7. With his emphasis on marketing, branding, and public relations, does the Automator (Greg Costigan)
reflect a typical trend in education today?
8. Would the novel have been as interesting if it had been set at the all-girl’s school St. Brigid’s? Are
teenage girls as destructive as teenage boys?
9. Howard tells the Automator that Skippy earned his nickname because he has buck teeth, which
cause him to make a kangaroo-like noise when he speaks. What makes Skippy an easy target?
Are those who pick on him (including Father Green, badgering Skippy about obscenity in front
of the whole French class) sadistic?
10. Google “M-theory.” What do the articles seem to say about the search for order in the universe,
even before the Big Bang? Why is it an ideal theory for Ruprecht’s obsession, and for this novel?
11. Part I closes with a blend of Professor Tamashi’s interview on the eleventh dimension and scenes
from Skippy’s “seduction” by Lori. What does it take to give and get love in Skippy Dies? What
do those scenes say about the reality that love creates? What does the novel say about the reality
that drugs create?
12. Lori’s father, Gavin Wakeham, is an alumnus of Seabrook, and he is eager to share with Skippy
his recollections of the faculty (which included a fondler, alumni who returned to their alma
mater to teach when other opportunities didn’t work out, and the perennially socially conscious
Father Green). What impressions did the school make on Mr. Wakeham? What impressions will
it leave on Skippy’s class?
13. Discuss Ruprecht’s quartet and the musical performance he links to communicating with the
dead. Is it a step forward or backward for him, mentally?
14. Which came first: Carl’s drug use or his obsession with power and violent sex? When he became
haunted by Dead Boy, did you think he was seeing a hallucination or a ghost? Reread his explosive
closing scene. Is he a Demon, or the victim of one?
15. After Skippy’s funeral, his father tells Howard that Skippy’s great-grandfather served in Gallipoli.
Does Skippy’s generation lack valor?
16. Howard and Father Green are appalled to see the Automator defend Coach Roche. Is Tom worthy
of defense?
17. Ultimately, who is to blame for Skippy’s death?
18. Discuss part IV, “Afterland.” Is Greg’s message a victory letter? Did he get everything he
(Discussion Questions from Faber & Faber (available at

Purchase Skippy Dies at your favorite bookseller

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The Author

Paul Murray is an Irish novelist born in 1975. He graduated from Trinity College in Dublin where he studied literature. He earned his Masters in creative writing at the University of East Anglia.

Recommended Reading

If you enjoyed Skippy Dies, check out An Evening of Goodbyes, by Paul Murray, and 2 of my favorite novels of teen angst, alienation, and confusion, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger and The Secret History by Donna Tartt.

An Evening of Long Goodbyes by Paul Murray The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Personal Insights, Favorite Quotes, etc…

Skippy Dies is filled with so many great passages. Here’s a few of my favorites without giving anything away. If you’ve read the book, you’re sure to remember these too!

Dennis’ comments on Mario’s “lucky” condom. (page 155) Poor Mario!

Halley’s description of “Irish-looking” Howard. (page 77) I’ve thought this myself.

Skippy and “The Game”. (page 105) I kept hoping the final outcome would somehow be different.

Dennis’ take on Robert Frost’s The Road Less Travelled. (page 350) An interesting, x-rated, interpretation from the cynical Dennis!

Lori’s insights following her encounter with Ruprecht after the concert. (page 653-654) Moving and hopeful.

“The achievement of maturity, psychologically speaking, might be said to be the realization and acceptance that we simply cannot live independently from the world, and so we must live within it, with whatever compromises that might entail.”

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