Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Mysterious Skin” as Want to Read:
Mysterious Skin
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Mysterious Skin

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  7,627 Ratings  ·  408 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 recalls 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 the vi
Paperback, 292 pages
Published May 10th 2005 by Harper Perennial (first published 1995)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Mysterious Skin, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

George Rife You might like "All the Light We Cannot See". It has 2 characters, a boy and a girl,one French and the other German, whose stories are separate for…moreYou might like "All the Light We Cannot See". It has 2 characters, a boy and a girl,one French and the other German, whose stories are separate for most of the novel but come together near the end. It won the Pulitzer Prize.(less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
Will Byrnes
Oct 05, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Apr 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 08, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

The needs of our survival make us, unconsciously or not, choose what to forget, what to remember, how to remember, when to remember.

Same action, different perspectives, different truths. It’s part of the human condition how we experience the world so differently from each other. Nothing is black and nothing is white.

Uncomfortable read, not a book I enjoyed reading, the long term will tell me if I took anything from it. I do think that Heim's treatment of the subject matter, the uncomfortablenes
Chippy Marco
This book was so emotionally draining, the topic upsetting, the characters superbly portrayed, the story slow, but absolutely riveting, making it hard to look away from the pages. I've also seen the movie. Both medias are exceptionally done. I don't know how to write a review that can do this book the justice it deserves. Also, the writer is a master with words, his writing is stunning. I still can't comprehend how his writing can be so fantastic when the topic was so horrifying. The writer shou ...more
Sep 18, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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."
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
Marita Hansen
Oct 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing

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
Aug 13, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Simon A. Smith
A little too hip and trendy for its 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
Jun 05, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lit
I reckon I've had this book for the best part of ten years, just sitting there unread waiting for the day when I felt like reading the original novel of a powerful and truly memorable film, perhaps even the finest work by one of my favourite directors. I nearly gave it away several times, sure that it was just taking up unnecessary space in my overburdened shelves, I mean, what more could it offer me that the movie hadn't already given in spades?

And now? I'm relieved that it is over, there's a
Jan 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Heather *Awkward Queen and Unicorn Twin*
That was heart-breaking and bleak.

But good. It was good, too. This kind of gave me the experience I wanted from The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

Sometimes the writing was a teensy bit awkward and some parts were slow, but ultimately this book was really effective. There's no skimping on horrifying details, so prepare yourself.

(I read the version with the cereal and spoons on the cover. Once I realized it came directly from a scene in the book, the image became grossly terrifying.)

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
Jun 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: teen, loved
"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
◕ ◡ ◕ Mayday ◕ ◡ ◕
Apr 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Precisely twisted. Sad and devastating. Things you don't want to talk about, really. Pedophilic porns and prostitution. Really, people have to be aware of the first. This was just too heart-wrenching. The last time I cried this hard because of a book was two years ago. And that was about children too. People, just, please, take good care of your kids, your siblings, every children. Remember, you were kids once.

Neil did grew up too fast, learnt thing the hard way and he was simply mad. I hate him
Feb 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: gay-lesbian, ya-noir
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
Mar 01, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebooks

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
Kol Anderson
Aug 22, 2013 rated it did not like it
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.
Mar 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
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
"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

Oct 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lgbsts
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
Sara Williams
On the way home, we saw fires on the horizon, farmers burning skeletal stalks of corn after harvest. The orange glow at the sky’s edge made the world seem ready to crack open, and I watched until the fire fizzled to nothing more than a sparkle in the distance.
Not suited you if you're bothered about the awful truth that is out there roaming the streets, the churches, the schools. It will disturb and leave a mark hidden somewhere. It's like blood which isn't yours spilling all over your hands. T
Jul 18, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
jay moran
Jun 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I was absolutely absorbed in this book. It seemed to devour me, blurting into each and every one of my thoughts even after I had finished it, and when people ask me what my favourite read of 2015 is, I am almost certain this will be my favourite book of the year. The subject matter has potential to be very triggering, tackling subject matters that cause us to shy away and bend our heads, but if you feel you can handle that, I urge you to pick this up. It's brilliant, moving, funny, and gorgeousl ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Penn State Queer ...: Mysterious Skin Discussion 2 5 Jul 13, 2016 10:39AM  
BR - Mysterious Skin - Lena, Maya, Joshy & Sofia 8th January 2015 37 25 Jan 11, 2015 05:31AM  
  • The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things: Stories
  • Now and on Earth
  • Dream Boy
  • The World of Normal Boys
  • The Room
  • Clown Girl
  • One Fine Day in the Middle of the Night
  • Try
  • City of Night
  • Faggots
  • A Boy's Own Story
  • While England Sleeps
  • My Brother and His Brother
  • The Coming Storm
  • Glue
  • Dead Babies
  • Dancer from the Dance
  • Brave New Girl
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
More about Scott Heim

Fiction Deals

  • Daughter of Sand and Stone
    $3.99 $1.99
  • The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen
    $6.24 $1.99
  • The Silver Suitcase
    $3.99 $1.99
  • Burying the Honeysuckle Girls
    $3.99 $1.99
  • Ilsa: A Novel
    $17.99 $1.99
  • Into the Free
    $5.99 $1.99
  • The Persian Boy (Alexander the Great, #2)
    $17.99 $1.99
  • Get It Together, Delilah!
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Mademoiselle Chanel
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Abundance: A Novel of Marie Antoinette (P.S.)
    $7.99 $1.99
  • If I Ever Get Out of Here
    $5.99 $1.99
  • Chasing Fireflies: A Novel of Discovery
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Woman on the Orient Express
    $3.99 $1.99
  • Whisper Beach
    $8.49 $1.99
  • Isabella: Braveheart of France
    $3.99 $1.99
  • The Whiskey Sea
    $3.99 $1.99
  • The Bette Davis Club
    $4.49 $1.99
  • Stop Pretending: Poems About When My Big Sister Went Craz
    $5.74 $1.99
  • A Life Intercepted: A Novel
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Beneath a Scarlet Sky
    $5.99 $2.99
  • Epitaph
    $9.74 $1.99
  • How Should a Person Be?: A Novel from Life
    $9.99 $3.99
  • Bergdorf Blondes
    $8.24 $1.99
  • Bendigo Shafter (Louis L'Amour's Lost Treasures): A Novel
    $5.99 $1.99
  • Two Old Women: An Alaska Legend of Betrayal, Courage and Survival
    $10.49 $1.99
  • Invisible Emmie
    $9.99 $1.99
  • Something Like Family
    $4.99 $1.99
  • The Orphan Master's Son
    $12.99 $1.99
  • Sisters One, Two, Three
    $4.99 $1.99
  • This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance!
    $15.95 $1.99
  • The Island
    $11.74 $1.99
  • The Financial Lives of the Poets: A Novel
    $8.24 $1.99
  • Tenth of December: Stories
    $9.99 $2.99
  • Daughters of the Night Sky
    $4.99 $1.99
  • New York
    $10.99 $2.99
  • Yellow Star
    $3.99 $1.99
  • Miramont's Ghost
    $4.99 $1.99
  • I Am Livia
    $3.49 $0.99
  • The Play of Death (The Hangman's Daughter, #6)
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Requiem for a Dream: A Novel
    $17.99 $1.99
  • I Don't Know How She Does It: The Life of Kate Reddy, Working Mother
    $11.99 $1.99
  • The Eagle Tree
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Helen of Sparta (Helen of Sparta #1)
    $3.99 $1.99
  • The Things That Keep Us Here
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Halsey Street
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Woodlands (Glenbrooke, #7)
    $11.99 $1.99
“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.” 51 likes
“He spoke so slowly, cobwebs could have formed between his words.” 18 likes
More quotes…