Book review: Mysterious Skin by Scott Heim


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 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.


Fair warning, this novel is emotionally draining and devastating in equal parts. Tackling sexual abuse and trauma, this is no easy read but it’s surprisingly simple to lose yourself in the pages.⁠⠀
Unusually forthright in its writing, this one is certainly not for the faint-hearted and if you have even an inkling that this subject matter could trigger you, I’d recommend giving this one a pass as Heim is never shy in his descriptions of the abuse. However, I’ll add to that that there is no insensitivity in these pages and you never get the feeling that the author is exploiting trauma to sell his work.⁠⠀
This story is a journey of self discovery in the most traumatic of ways. No two humans are the same, we all deal and come to terms with things in different ways and that’s exactly what this novel show us.⁠⠀
I’m not sure what else to say about this book other than it has a lasting impression. I have also watched the film version with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Brady Corbet, which is is equally incredible and uncomfortable.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Book Details:

Pages: 292
Edition Published:
2005, Harper Perennial
Genre: Fiction, LGBT
Goodreads Av. Rating: 4.04

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