Author: David Almond
Number of Pages: 208
Genre: Juvenile Fantasy/Magical Realism
Skellig was a very unique story, but I just didn’t love it as much as I hoped I would. I think it was because even though there were a lot of great ideas, I mostly failed to emotionally connect with any of it. I’d never read anything by David Almond before this, and I think I can already see how he’s carved out a unique style; a David Almond novel is a David Almond novel the way Roald Dahl practically occupied his own niche genre. The main character in Skellig is a young boy named Michael who is having a really rough time of things.
He and his family move into a real fixer-upper of a house with a garage that would make the filthiest, most unhinged hoarder shudder. Michael’s parents don’t pay a lot of attention to him because his baby sister is chronically sick, and they wear out all their energy worrying about her. One day he disobeys his parents’ orders and sneaks into the garage, where he meets what appears to be dirty, half-crazy feral man lying in the corner.
Michael sneaks the man (Skellig) Chinese food and keeps him a secret from his parents, but after he’s been befriended by a bright girl named Mina he begins to realize that there’s something extraordinary about the squatter. For one thing, most homeless people don’t have scars on their backs where bird wings appear to have been removed.
Skellig is filled with a gothic sense of atmosphere, and while it’s a little bit creepy pre-teens should be able to handle it. It has that sense of secrets and discoveries waiting to be made that I absolutely ate up when I was a kid. While the protagonist Michael comes off as an everyboy (almost to the point of being a little dull) the colorful and vivacious Mina seemed a little good to be true.
I never quite bought her as a child of the age she was supposed to be, although I appreciated that the author offered a rare positive depiction of homeschooling. I was left with a lot of questions about Skellig and even at the end it was like I still didn’t know anything about him. While it might have been intentional on the author’s part to leave him an enigma, I failed to connect to any of the characters and at the end I was left largely unaffected by what could have been a hugely emotional story.