Mysterious Skin
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Mysterious Skin

4.08 of 5 stars 4.08  ·  rating details  ·  5,424 ratings  ·  284 reviews
At the age of eight Brian Lackey is found bleeding under the crawl space of his house, having endured something so traumatic that he cannot remember an entire five-hour period of time.During the following years he slowly records details from that night, but these fragments are not enough to explain what happened to him, and he begins to believe that he may have been a vict...more
Paperback, 292 pages
Published March 27th 1996 by Harper Perennial (first published 1995)
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1984 by George OrwellThe Catcher in the Rye by J.D. SalingerAnimal Farm by George OrwellBrave New World by Aldous HuxleyFahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Cult Classics
380th out of 385 books — 612 voters


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Mariel
Jun 08, 2012 Mariel rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: incognito boy scout
Recommended to Mariel by: five hours
"Why now?" Neil asked. "Why do you need this now? Why did you search me out?"
"I'm tired of it," I said. "I want to dream about something else for a change."


I loved the 2004 film of Mysterious Skin (directed by Gregg Araki) more than I do the original novel. Scott Heim's We Disappear is one of my special favorites that I have read this year (I am a lucky dog and I know it because I have read a lot of favorite novels in 2012). That film and that novel did something that was, to me, astonishingly c...more
Evan
Brian closed his eyes, blood trailing down his cheek and matting his hair. I felt it, damp and warm, seeping through my pant leg. It was Brian's blood, and for some reason I knew it was pure. No other man I'd held in my arms---and now, not even I---had blood this pure. His eyes reopened, and he looked up at me. "Tell me, Neil," he said. "Tell me more."
Taylor
I'm split on my opinion of this story, as tends to happen when I three-star a book. I can understand why it's received so many high ratings, and I would attribute that mostly to the ending. It leaves you emotionally overwhelmed, and it's almost enough to make you forget about the slow parts of the story. Almost.

The author explores the very different repercussions of childhood sexual trauma for two young boys. It's a heavy subject, and Heim does not shy away from the details of it. The reader is...more
Simon A. Smith
A little too hip and trendy for it's own good. I just don't buy that a 13 year old is this brooding and jaded. You don't need drugs and Joy Division until your at least 14. If you smoked cigarettes before you could drive, pimped your body before you passed Geometry and just laid back and sunk into your too kewl for school 'tude, well then...

Disclaimer: Some of the writing here is pretty tight in places and I liked the format with different characters revealing different parts of the story... Th...more
Heather
I wish I'd read this before seeing Gregg Araki's film - perhaps I would have appreciated its nuances more, but I already knew the travels, the revelations, the small, stinging heartbreaks. It's a hard and beautiful book, and it may just be one of the most faithful book-to-film adaptations I've ever seen. Heim's metaphors are unsullied with pretension: simple, precise, and evocative. He doesn't insult the reader with "deep" and "meaningful" character insights, instead allowing Brian and Neil to f...more
Marita Hansen
description

Possibly the best writer I have read, words don't convey how good this author is, and how thought provoking and chilling his tale of two boys is. Brian and Neil, total opposites in the spectrum of personalities have a common link: their little league coach, a man who through his actions has affected their lives considerably. You are given an account from when the boys are 8 right through to 19.

At the beginning of the story you get Brian's point of view, a confused eight-year-old who doesn't know...more
Isaac
I hate this book, and I hate the film too, but not because they're bad (they're not, they're both superb) but because the subject matter is so devastating.

The end is kinda beautiful, but I still came away feeling lost, gutted and thoroughly bereft that two young boys could have their innocence brutalized in such a way.

Be warned, this book is not for the faint hearted. It just about broke mine.
Frederick
Jul 08, 2007 Frederick rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those Who Consider the Novel and Art Form
I first noticed this book in my local library shortly after it was published. At the time it had the photograph of Froot Loops cereal on the cover. I think I noticed the Froot Loops on the spine. It was on the new shelf. I went to it, lured by the loops which anybody my age, give or take (mostly take) a few years, would instantly recognize from ads seen on Saturday morning network TV. The title intrigued me. I think it's from a song, but don't quote me on that. The song itself may be quoted in t...more
Will Byrnes
This is a very sharp-edged multiple coming of age novel. No Tom Sawyers here. Brian Lackey (and can’t you tell what sort of person he is by his name?) wakes up in the crawlspace under his home one midnight when he is 8 years old, bloody, with no knowledge of what had happened to the last five hours. Neil McCormick, afflicted with a floozy of a mother, finds a Playgirl under her bed one day, and realizes that it speaks directly to his undefined yearnings. He goes on to commit some terrible crimes...more
Zweegas
It's difficult to say exactly what I like about this book. I don't exactly like the plot. I do like the characterizations, but this book does actually, firmly, clearly say some things that are taboo regarding pedaphilia and sexual relationships between adult and children. This book goes beyond talking "about" taboos into actually making taboo statements. The adult / child sex scenes are graphic and intentionally creepy in the way that they're kind of sexy too. The story works with a kind of mora...more
April
"If we were stars in the latest Hollywood blockbuster, then I would have embraced him, my hands patting his shoulder blades, violins and cellos billowing on the soundtrack as tears streamed down our faces. But Hollywood would never make a movie about us."

I loved this book, really. Having seen the movie prior to reading the novel (which is excellent, by the way. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is one of my favourite actors and the movie proves it) - I kind of knew more or less what would unravel but admitte...more
Bianca
It’s been years since I first read Mysterious Skin, yet it remains the best example of two contrasting characters, two boys (and, eventually, men) who act as each other’s foil and become vital to each other’s characterizations and growth.

Brian and Neil are incredible, to me. I ache for them, I plead for them, I cry for them. The misfortune they share makes them tragic by default, but the separate paths they take to rediscover and face that haunting past is a journey I find remarkable and brillia...more
Kol Anderson
DNF @25%

Couldn't get through this. The book goes from boring YA style story-telling to some extremely graphic sex scenes with school age children. Not my thing. Just couldn't stay with it.
Chippy *Moves Like Jagger* Marco
I will review this once I get my emotions under control. But one question: How can someone write so beautifully, but the subject be so horrible? The writer should be commended for his skill.
Au
[4,5/5*]

I really loved this novel and I think the main reason for that is because, despite its dark and disturbing subject, it's not trashy. Scott Heim's writing isn't spectacular and provocative just for the sake of shocking the reader like some other authors might do (I'm thinking Palahniuk, for instance). Reversely, it's not a tear-jerker either. It's all very matter-of-fact yet sensitive, and if it's shocking at times, it's only because, again, the subject is so disturbing (I mean, this is a...more
Anna
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, LGBTQ
Setting: U.S - Midwest
Timeline: 1980's

Two words. Soul crushing, just absolutely soul crushing. Life is tragic, it is beautiful and redemptive, yet it was hard to go through the book with any sort of optimism. Once the milk has been spilled, the stain just won't come out. Things are built up, and they fall to pieces. The characters try their best to pull the pieces back together, but in the end, one just has to keep pushing along, surviving and trying to find som...more
Tancredi
"Mi aveva scelto, capisci? Tra tutti i ragazzi della squadra, lui aveva scelto me. Come se fossi stato benedetto o qualcosa del genere. Mi ha insegnato cose che nessun altro ragazzo della squadra, o a scuola, poteva sapere. Io ero suo."

Doloroso, triste, poetico, maledettamente poetico. Un grande romanzo difficile che pur avendo alle spalle una chiara vicenda autobiografica si traduce in una storia amara sulla linea sottile tra amore e perversione. Non è un manifesto contro la violenza, non è un

...more
Tommy
Not for the squeamish reader, but beautifully-written, and brings the 1980's right back into sharp focus. Especially for those of us who were in our formative years at the time. The subject matter is really rough, because it deals with child abuse, but with deep understanding and humanity. Two boys, Neil and Brian, are both abused by a manipulative softball coach when they're 8 years old, and each boy deals with it in VASTLY different ways. Their lives don't intersect again until they're almost...more
Misal
I want to preface my review with a warning for readers like myself who are going into this book with nothing but the blurb as guidance. This book is explicit. And by that, I mean that there are explicit descriptions of the sexual abuse of eight year old boys, there is an explicit scene of a man getting raped, and there is an incident of horrific bullying against a special needs child featuring the boy being taken sexual advantage of. It is not a light read, and for anyone who has been through an...more
Sharon
Arrrrrrrrrrrraaaaahhhhhhhhh bl***y GR! Wrote a review but 'an error occurred' whilst saving ! If I'm in a better mood later I'll try again :-(

Ok try again...

Enthralling read. Initially I was going to throw it down in disgust as I wasn't quite sure what I was reading at first. However, I'm glad I gave it more reading time as it didn't go where I thought it was going ie, down the titillating, child porn, abuse route. It didn't and it was much much more.

This was an uncomfortable, and sometimes darn...more
Michael
Mysterious Skin is another in the long line of unfortunate books that I saw them movie of before reading the book. I find it strange that at the beginning of the book I thought it was terrific, both in writing and content. I agree that it unabashedly grapples the topic of child sexual abuse. A book that describes a sex seen between an adult man and an eight year old boy takes a lot of risks, and a writer to go there takes a lot of balls.

As I said, at first I really enjoyed the book, but at some...more
Andy
A flawed masterpiece that continuously treaded on fragile territory, sometimes making it through the high wire act and other times falling ass over elbows into the circus net below. The fragile territory is child molestation by a Little League coach with the aftermath as told by two different boys: Brian, who grows up somewhat asexual obsessed with UFOs and aliens, and Neil, a promiscuous teen hustler.

There's something kind of weird about calling a book like this beautiful but there are passage...more
Brandon
I thought I might give some thoughts while the story's still fresh in my system. I wish I'd read the novel first, but, I have to say that I agree with the screenwriter who adapted Mysterious Skin to its movie version that Eric Preston should be Mexican-American. It just makes more sense to me as someone who's once lived near Modesto that that would be the case. In theory, it shouldn't make that much of a difference but it does since Preston's voice factors so much into the story...

I thought the...more
Kaisa
Brian Lackey and Neil McCormick are two very different human beings. One is a pimply, awkward nerd with a weird obsession with aliens. The other is a wild, terrorising too-hot-for-his-own-good type of guy who spends his saturdays hustling in the park. But Brian and Neil actually do have something in common. Something horrible and dark, hidden in their past. Brian doesn't remember, but he feels a strong need to find out what happened to him that summer when he lost several hours of his life. Neil...more
Martin Davies
This is one of those 'gay novels' or novels with a gay theme which also have some literary qualities to it, and does not stop at the surface level of narrating a story. There is pain, psychological exploration, there are alternative perspectives on the events and on the characters' inners lives which make it, unlike many books that have followed, a proper work of literature. The ending is extremely touching, very emotionally charged, and it certainly leaves the readers with strong emotions and a...more
Kizzy Dixon
I'll admit I watched the movie before the book, but that's only because I didn't know there was a book until not long ago. Though I think because I hadn't seen the movie in ages it hadn't clouded my thoughts, giving me a preconceived interpretation of how the characters etc where supposed to be.
There is no denying it, this books theme is fucked up. Though the way Heim had written it made it an emotional journey in exploring the truth of what really happens to Brian Lackey. As sad as it is. Heim...more
Rebecca
What ISN'T the matter with Kansas?

Every novel that uses Kansas as a setting parades an endless line of freaks, perverts, alcoholics and drug addicts in front of the unsuspecting reader. Mysterious Skin is no different.

This (supposedly) Young Adult book is about a bunch of dysfunctional and mentally ill people who live in America's heartland. They include Neil McCormick, who enjoys being molested by his baseball coach at age 8, his mother, a skanky alcoholic who occasionally has sex in front of h...more
Xandra
My reaction to Mysterious Skin was similar to reading Johnny Got His Gun. I felt like crying and crawling out of my skin. It's a chilling, terrifying book (view spoiler) Scott Heim doesn't rely on gore and violence to shock his readers. He narrates, in a cold voice, a depressing story and forces us to accept its reality, however disturbing and horrifying it may be.
I was a shell of a human being after reading this, but I guess that's...more
JC
This is not an easy book to read. How are we supposed to feel when a character describes the first time he has sex with a man when he is nine years old? We are supposed to feel uncomfortable but one of the ways that Heim makes us uncomfortable is through his exploration of Neil's own willingness, his already awakening sexual identity. It reminds me, in a way, of Lolita, but from the perspective of the child. It is important to emphasise that Heim does not defend or excuse what Coach did to Neil...more
Tom O’Connell
Perhaps best described as a slow-burning drama about the effects of child abuse, featuring two very different protagonists - Brian, a meek recluse who believes his repressed memories were alien abductions, and Neil, a reckless, wrong-side-of-the-tracks hustler who's convinced his childhood experiences were "love".

Pretty ambitious subject matter for a debut novel, but Scott Heim handles it all with a delicate sense of restraint. The prose is pretty simple, and it makes the tale all the more power...more
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Scott Heim was born in Hutchinson, Kansas in 1966. He grew up in a small farming community there, and later attended the University of Kansas in Lawrence, earning a B.A. in English and Art History in 1989 and an M.A. in English Literature in 1991. He attended the M.F.A. program in Writing at Columbia University, where he wrote his first novel, Mysterious Skin. HarperCollins published that book in...more
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“It was a light that shone over our faces, our wounds and scars. It was a light so brilliant and white it could have been beamed from heaven, and Brian and I could have been angels, basking in it. But it wasn’t, and we weren’t.” 26 likes
“He spoke so slowly, cobwebs could have formed between his words.” 9 likes
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