Bee's Reviews > Mysterious Skin

Mysterious Skin by Scott Heim
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's review
Apr 22, 2011

it was amazing

A really strong book. Strong and very very provocative. Also, at times, very hard to read because it's so dark and so horrible. It's explicit and it's brutal, and that is also why it's so believable and powerful. You'll get the message it intends to tell, without a doubt. A must read for anyone who thinks they can stomach it.

Two boys, different but yet very much alike, share a history; however, they remember it very differently. Brian has a 5 hour long lapse in memory from a day in the summer of '91, when he was 8 years old. He recalls going to his little league game in the morning, and he remembers waking up underneath his house, arms and legs clutched together and bleeding from his nose. He has no memory of the time in between. As he gets older he starts recalling clues of his past, mostly in dreams, and he's starting to believe he was abducted by aliens. Meanwhile, Neil remembers everything from that summer perfectly, only with a slight rose-colored shimmer. He remembers falling in love with his little league coach and sharing secret memories with him. As Neil grows up he starts hustling, and his view of men is influenced solely by his coach. When the two boys finally meet again at the age of 19, their memories won't be the same again.

There are a lot of different perspectives, a lot of different people help share this story; this works for me because it adds to the realism of the book. The story is there, but it's more objective when told in so many different voices - and yet it is at the same time so incredibly personal and subjective because we get such an intimate portrait of these two characters.

This book is wonderfully written. It says so much without sometimes saying anything at all, and we're shown so much instead of being told about it. There isn't even a mentioning of the word pedophile, but the reader knows even before anything happens that this is what it is all about.

The portrait of the coach is detailed and horrifying, and yet we know very little about him. The characters are well rounded and fascinating, even the ones that are sickening. There are no purely “good” characters, all have strengths and weaknesses. Brian is the purest character, but even he has streaks of darkness inside him. Neil is shaped by his experiences and has taken an entirely different road than Brian, he’s not regarded as an innocent by society because of the way he acts out but he’s clearly innocent at heart, and the portray of his character is wonderful. Eric is another character that is just so wonderful, I really love him. Also, the missing father figures and the two vastly different mother figures are fascinating and not at all clichéd or caricature characters. The range and depth of these characters, even the small and insignificant ones, impresses me greatly.

The use of details and the descriptive style is also something I’m just awed about. The writing itself makes me love this book, and the story makes it impossible to look away from the writing for even a second. At times this heavy topic gets to be almost too much and it's hard to go on reading, but the story is told in such a way that you can't stop reading until the very end.

I'm blown away by this book, and slightly shocked even though I knew exactly what I could expect from this book before I started it. It's sad, and it's heavy, but it's a wonderfully told story, and sometimes I for one crave a little darkness. Now though, I feel gutted and sliced like the fish and turtle in this book…now that was one traumatizing scene in itself!

Finally I have to bring up the most telling quote: "And then I wondered how many others there had been - where they lived now, the diversity of ways they'd chosen to remember." because it reminds me that this shit actually happens in the real world, and that is just horrible to think about.

footnote: I saw the movie adaption of this book after I had read this, and it's a pretty good movie. I'm glad I read the book first though!


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Reading Progress

April 22, 2011 – Shelved
June 9, 2011 – Started Reading
June 9, 2011 –
page 24
8.22% "ugh, I almost wish I didn't know what this story was about...ignorance could have been bliss!"
June 10, 2011 – Finished Reading

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