I remember seeing the film adaptation of Scott Heim’s Mysterious Skin a few years after it’s release. It wasn’t that bad though I didn’t really know what to make of it, besides the fact that both lead characters were seriously fucked up- in their own special way- . It was only later that I realized the film was adapted from a book and while perusing a bookstore that was closing its doors I came across and immediately picked it up. While my last review of Boy Meets Boy tackled young love for teenagers both gay and straight, this novel is a complete 180, dealing with much darker and more depressing themes.
I’m going to use the book’s own summary for fear that I’ll give too much away if I use my own words, something I may repeat in future reviews.
At he 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 victim of an alien encounter. Neil McCormick is fully aware of the events from that summer of 1981. Wise beyond his years, curious about his developing sexuality, Neil found what he perceived to be love and guidance from his baseball coach. Now, ten years later, he is a teenage hustler, a terrorist of sorts, unaware of the dangerous path his life is taking. His recklessness is governed by idealized memories of his coach, memories that unexpectedly change when Brian comes to Neil for help and, ultimately, the truth.
I thought it was going to be difficult, swapping from one character’s perspective to another (the book changes narrative not only between Neil and Brian, but other characters as well) but it was actually very doable. It is extremely difficult to read about two people, who are so obviously ruining their lives in completely different manners when you as the reader know how easily it could be mended but have no way of helping them. I identified more with Neil, though I think I felt more sorry for Brian, because while Neil knew who he was from the beginning, we have to follow Brian on his journey of self discovery throughout the entire story and watch make mistakes that are not really his fault. Maybe because I saw the movie first- rookie mistake, I know- It is extremely saddening to see how an instance in the lives of two young boys can have such an astounding impact on how they develop. If this review is a bit of a ramble I’m sorry, I just don’t want to give anything away. Heim makes use of teen angst, extends it into an almost adult angst and he shows in amazing detail how two different people process the same experience and how it affects them and their surroundings so differently. Though it’s not an uplifting novel- not all novels have to be- it’s a very good read.