Prologue and Chapter 1 Summary

Ruprecht and Skippy, a pair of fourteen-year-olds, are in a doughnut shop one night for an impromptu doughnut-eating contest. They are classmates at a private school in Ireland named Seabrook, and Ruprecht is a sort of genius. Ruprecht is in the middle of scarfing down his doughnuts when he notices that Skippy is in distress; the boy is gasping and his face is turning red and purple. When Skippy falls to the floor, Ruprecht snaps out of his stupor and tries to figure out what’s wrong. A crowd of patrons begins to form around Ruprecht and Skippy. Ruprecht keeps asking Skippy what is wrong, but Skippy is unable to speak. Finally, Zhang, an employee of the doughnut shop, tries to manually clear Skippy’s throat and then begins the Heimlich maneuver. Ruprecht looks down at the table and notices that all of Skippy’s doughnuts are there and have not been touched; he announces that Skippy might not be choking. As he is fading, Skippy uses some strawberry syrup on the floor to spell out “Tell Lori” but is unable to finish it. A fellow patron assumes he means to tell the girl he loves her, but Skippy dies on the floor before anyone can confirm it. Ruprecht is emotional and shocked. He steps out into the fresh air as he waits for the ambulance to arrive.

Months earlier, Howard Fallon, a rather hapless Seabrook history teacher, is attempting to engage his class (which includes Skippy) in a discussion of World War I; however, it is clear that the boys have not read the material. Many of them are not paying attention now. Howard calls on virtually every boy, including those asleep or spacing out, but cannot get even the most basic information from them. Finally, the last bell of the day rings, and the students filter outside.

Howard also feels anxious to get out. He surreptitiously grabs his stuff and briefly greets the school’s much-feared French teacher, Father Green (who was a teacher back when Howard was a student at the school). On his way out, Howard is surprised to find a classroom that is still full of students even though the school day ended ten minutes before. His answer comes in the form of the shapely Miss McIntyre, a long-term substitute for Geography. The boys hang on her every word until she realizes they’ve run over and excuses them.

Howard lingers outside to attempt to talk to her and ends up running into her. As he helps her up, she asks him to carry her books to her car for her. The smitten Howard complies and repeatedly bungles all attempts at small talk on the way out. In the parking lot, they see students have covered Howard’s embarrassingly meager car with feathers. Miss McIntyre admits she has heard the boys’ nickname for him: Howard the Coward. She also tells him bluntly that he has no chance of sleeping with her.

Chapters 2-3 Summary

In the boys’ dormitory, Skippy is attempting to finish a zombie-themed video game. His friends—including Mario, Geoff, Dennis, and Ruprecht—are quickly getting bored with the activity. The boys live in the Tower, the oldest part of Seabrook, which used to house the entire school before it expanded. The building is dated, but it offers an unobstructed view of St. Brigid’s, the nearby girls’ school. Ruprecht Van Doren is the newcomer in the group, having joined the school mid-semester when his parents died in an accident. Ruprecht is a heavy kid with an obsession for science and experiments; in fact, a large portion of the basement is devoted to his odd inventions and concoctions. Ruprecht feels a fascination with the origins of the universe, which he believes hold the keys to a wide array of scientific discoveries. Ruprecht’s chief opposition in the group is Dennis, the resident cynic. Dennis is prone to smart-aleck remarks, vandalism, and other forms of mischief. The other boys generally like Ruprecht in spite of themselves—Ruprecht is a dreamer, which makes him somewhat appealing. He dreams of one day going to Stanford to study under a scientist interested in the same questions he explores.

A mortified Howard drives home in his feather-strewn car. He recalls leaving the school as a student a decade earlier, never dreaming he would wind up working here. Howard’s girlfriend, Halley, has repeatedly attempted to assuage his concerns about his nickname—Howard the Coward—and insists the boys only picked it because of the rhyme. Howard isn’t so sure; he thinks the boys know about something in his past.

When Howard arrives home, Halley is on the phone. Howard ducks into the bathroom and calls his friend and fellow teacher Farley. Howard relays his experience with Miss McIntyre; Farley reveals that her first name is Aurelie. Howard insists there might be some possibility of attraction in her blunt denial of sex and romance between them; Farley is dubious about this.

After his call, Howard talks with Halley, who complains about her day job writing reviews of electronic equipment. She gives Howard a small video camera that improves the quality of the things it photographs—a perk from her job. The two argue incessantly. Lately, the subject has been Halley’s chain smoking, but both are caught in an endless cycle of criticism. Halley is an American, and her temporary status in the country has silently introduced the question of marriage into their three-year relationship. Howard loves Halley, but he keeps imagining Aurelie tantalizing her classroom.

Chapters 4-5 Summary

Near the doughnut shop, two miscreants from Seabrook, Barry and Carl, are tormenting a third boy, Morgan. Barry is on top of Morgan, pinning his arms down with his knees. Carl stands nearby and periodically snorts furniture polish. They are trying to extort something from Morgan, who insists he doesn’t have it. Carl produces a lighter and sprays the furniture polish into the lighter, creating a flame that burns Morgan. Morgan screams in pain and produces a small orange bottle of pills. Barry and Carl leave Morgan and head to the restroom in a Burger King. In one of the stalls, they crush some pills up and snort them through drinking straws.

Next they decide to head over to the doughnut shop to harass Charlie, the shop’s Asian owner. They encounter a woman, and Barry begins to make racial insults that he learned from one of his favorite movies, Full Metal Jacket. (Barry also frequently refers to Charlie and the girl as “Gook” and “Gookette.”) Carl also insults the girl and throws money at her, as if to pay for sexual services. When Charlie enters and appears ready to fight, the boys leave. Outside, they follow two girls from St. Brigid’s who had watched the conflict in the doughnut shop. Carl likes the girls, and Barry tries to convince them to follow him. In an alley, he produces Morgan’s bottle of pills—Ritalin—and claims the girls can use them as diet pills if they want to buy them. A car goes by, and the girls beg off. Carl is angry with Barry because he thought the pills were for them, not for selling. He takes the bottle of pills, empties it, and throws the pills into the street. Barry is angry, but Carl smacks him in the side of the head.

Skippy (whose real name is Daniel Juster) is getting ready for his early morning swimming practice. Skippy feels the effects of a pill he took this morning to calm himself down. The boys practice and the coach warns them not to be complacent because they won the meet last weekend. After an unsatisfying shower, Skippy meets his friends for breakfast. As Dennis, Mario, Geoff, Ruprecht, and the others trade the usual nonsense and sexual barbs, Skippy is increasingly on edge. He focuses on the sound of Ruprecht scraping his toast with his knife. After class, random people come up to Skippy to congratulate him on the recent win. Skippy heads to his locker and takes another pill. He sees another boy bragging about his fireworks, but the boy quickly locks up the fireworks when he sees Carl and Barry approach. In his religion class, Skippy feels increasingly on edge. The boys play musical chairs behind the teacher’s back, but Skippy is unable to join in. His head is swimming; he can only focus on the cacophony of sounds, including the still-present scrape from Ruprecht’s toast.

Chapters 6-7 Summary

In the faculty room at Seabrook, Howard notes the oddness of being a former student and a current faculty member. He also notes that the teacher population forms cliques every bit as divided as those of the students. Farley, Howard’s cohort and another former student, enters the excessively beige room. Two nearby spinster teachers quiz Farley to find out if he is what their women’s magazine has dubbed “a kidult”—an adult who is devoted to irresponsibility. Farley escapes the quiz and joins Howard; Farley generally has the better attitude of the two and has settled comfortably into the life of teaching that Howard finds depressing. Farley notes that his students are particularly attentive because they are approaching a unit on human sexuality and reproduction. They are joined by Jim “Kipper” Slattery, so nicknamed by his ability to put his students to sleep; he has been at Seabrook so long that he taught Farley and Howard when they were students. Farley questions Howard about his obsession with Aurelie. Howard tries too hard to play down his interest and even accuses Aurelie of being snobbish and inappropriate—just as she walks into the room. They are soon joined by Tom Roche, the swimming coach, a dour man who walks with a cane. When Farley tries to joke with Roche about the swim team’s recent win, Roche storms out. Farley explains that Roche is also a former student from Farley and Howard’s time. His leg was badly injured his last year of school during a bungee-jumping accident at Falkey Quarry. His injuries prevented what was an all-but-guaranteed athletic career. After Aurelie leaves, Howard wonders if she is interested in Tom; Farley continues to poke fun at his obsession.

Dennis and several of the other boys attempt to copy each other’s homework at the last minute as French class is about to begin. The room immediately silences at the appearance of the severe and much-feared Father Green (nicknamed “Cujo” by students). Skippy continues to feel unwell and is distracted by Mario’s fallacious whisperings of sexual escapades to another student, Kevin “What’s” Wong. Father Green overhears the whispering and assigns blame to Skippy. Cujo makes him stand up in front of the room and asks him about the salacious discussion; to further humiliate Skippy, he references graphically sexual lyrics he heard on the radio and asks the young man if he is a virgin. The mortified Skippy is unable to speak, which only further enrages Father Green’s anger: he demands an answer. In response, Skippy throws up on What’s Wong.

Chapters 8-9 Summary

As Halley works on her latest technology assignment, she reflects on her relationship with Howard Fallon. She met him at a screening of The Towering Inferno not long after her arrival in Dublin. Both of them stayed through to the end credits and met afterward when her map blew out of her hands and landed on Howard’s chest. She found him very cute, in part because of his Irishness. They soon began dating, at first by taking in a host of 1970s disaster movies. Howard had recently been working in a finance job that made him a lot of money; it sounded as though his school, Seabrook, had lots of connections in the finance world and that path of career was sort of expected of graduates. Recently he felt burnt out and took a position teaching history at his alma mater. In a quiet moment, Howard had confessed the details of the accident at Falkey Quarry, in which alcohol played a significant role. Halley had long suspected that the accident was one of the motivators in his return to Seabrook—either for self-punishment or some kind of atonement; he now refused to speak of it.

Halley looks out the window and sees a happy family across the street. She knows she is bored with her job and unmotivated to write creatively, which had been the reason for her abrupt move to Ireland. She knows that she and Howard fight a lot and worries that her boredom has caused his boredom. She sees him making an effort every day but knows he might not still be in love with her.

Greg Costigan, the layman acting as principal (whom Howard nicknames The Automator), greets Howard in the hallway. The principal is a member of The Holy Paraclete Fathers, the order of priests who have traditionally run the school since its inception in the mid-1800s. However, the principal suffered a debilitating heart attack at the beginning of the school year and his health continues to deteriorate.

The Automator initiates a walk to his office, asking small talk questions. He is not terribly interested in hearing the answers (or he supplies them himself). The Automator has several points in his agenda. First, he is feeling Howard out for support; since the Paraclete orders numbers are dwindling and their median age is above sixty, the Automator is angling to transfer the control of the school to lay people. Second, he asks Howard what he knows about Skippy Juster and the vomiting incident in French class. The Automator asks him to have a talk with Skippy to find out about his situation. Finally, the Automator is very interested in “branding” the school by orchestrating a large musical celebration of the school’s 140th anniversary. He wants a historical celebration of the school and puts Howard in charge of it. Almost as quickly as the meeting began, it ends, with Trudy Costigan, the Automator’s wife-cum-secretary, ushering Howard out.

Chapters 10-11 Summary

At lunchtime, Carl and Barry work their way through the playground of the junior school. One by one, they attempt to find out which kids are medicated and see if they can get some of their pills from them. The results are mostly fruitless until they run into Oscar, a particularly hyper kid they are sure is medicated. Under the guise of doing an experiment for school, they ask Oscar for his pills and offer him candy in exchange. Oscar states that he knows another boy who also takes pills, and Barry encourages him to get his friend. The boy runs off and returns a short while later with his friend. They tell Barry and Carl that they don’t want candy; they want fireworks. Both Barry and Carl are trying to keep their tempers in check in hopes that they might be able to solicit these kids again. Barry departs and returns a short while later with a bag of firecrackers. He gives the boys three firecrackers each in exchange for their pills.

That night, Carl and Barry go to meet the two girls they met at the doughnut shop. The girls have brought three of their friends and quickly agree to buy the pills. One of the original two girls, whom Carl fancies, asks to talk to Carl privately. Her name is Lorelei but she goes by Lori. She takes him behind a tree and tells him she doesn’t have any money but wants to do something in exchange for the pills. She makes out with Carl, who then orders Barry to give her some pills. After the girls depart, Barry is ecstatic about their new business venture.

Shortly after the incident in Father Green’s class, Skippy calls his father at home to tell him about it. Skippy’s dad is surprised but assures Skippy that he’ll be feeling better soon. When Skippy asks to talk to his mom, his dad goes to check on her and finds she is sleeping. Skippy, still shaken by the incident, asks to come home this weekend. His father finds all kinds of excuses not to let him, particularly that midterm is in two weeks and will include a visit home. Skippy’s father mentions a doctor, but it is unclear whether the doctor treats Skippy or his mother. Skippy is emotionally distraught but tries to hide it from his dad. He realizes that they have an unspoken rule: they play-act a stereotypical father-son relationship. The Game can continue as long as no one acknowledges it is a game. When he asks to go home, he risks ending that seemingly perfect veneer. As he hangs up the phone, Skippy can still hear Father Green’s critical voice deriding him in his head.

Chapters 12-14 Summary

Ruprecht finds Skippy in their room and tells him that Father Green has been looking for him. Skippy tells says he already came by to apologize for the incident in his classroom. Ruprecht logs on to the METI website (Message to Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence), founded by his idol, Professor Tamashi, a Stanford academic with whom Ruprecht hopes to study. Using this system, Ruprecht sent a message into outer space with the hopes of reaching some other form of intelligent life. Ruprecht’s message told of his love of hippos, his aspirations to Stanford, and his passion for Yahtzee. As of yet, no aliens have responded. Skippy asks Ruprecht if he thinks time travel is possible; Skippy wants to prevent the future from happening....

(The entire section is 588 words.)

Chapters 15-16 Summary

After finishing with Howard, Skippy runs directly to his room in a panic. He cannot imagine what else his teacher would want to talk about, but the thought of another conversation like that already sends his head spinning. Inexplicably, he pulls a huge bag out of his closet and starts dumping clothes on the bed. He sees something flicker just outside the window. There is a surge of light and sound as the room begins to feel uneven, and Skippy scrambles for Ruprecht’s telescope. As he looks through it, he chastises himself for thinking it could have been a UFO that went past the window. Suddenly, through the telescope, he sees something that looks like a saucer.

In the basement, Ruprecht works on his Van Doren...

(The entire section is 527 words.)

Chapters 17-18 Summary

Carl sits in his bedroom watching graphic pornography. Some of it involves people, but there is also a fair amount of it based on cartoons, Disney movies, and video games. Downstairs, Carl’s parents are in the middle of a huge screaming match. Carl’s mother says her husband went out with a much younger woman. As he attempts to drown out their domestic discord with the stereo, Carl reflects on the booming business he and Barry have been doing. The fireworks have proven to be a huge hit with the younger kids, dozens of whom have handed over pills in exchange for firecrackers. Meanwhile, Lori and the other St. Brigid’s girls have quickly spread the word about Barry and Carl’s business. Lori has continued to pay Carl...

(The entire section is 389 words.)

Chapters 19-21 Summary

At swim practice, just before Midterm break, Coach Roche lets the boys play water polo; he calls Skippy over to the side of the pool. In a much more organized fashion than Mr. Fallon (Howard), he tries to find out what is bothering the boy. He tells Skippy that his repeated absences from practice will affect his ability to compete at the next meet, which should have lots of scouts. He is tough but fair with Skippy, and he lets him know they can talk any time. However, Skippy reveals nothing about what is bothering him.

Miss Ni Riain, the Irish teacher, is droning on during the last class before break (and the much-anticipated Halloween dance). All of the boys know she is obsessed with Irish folklore, so they ask her...

(The entire section is 444 words.)

Chapters 22-23 Summary

Although he keeps getting texts from her, Carl has decided not to go to the dance to see Lori. In his angry mind, he feels manipulated by her unwillingness to go all the way for the pills he supplies. In the middle of his thoughts, he hears his mother in a screaming fight on the phone with his father. Carl’s father is claiming that his very expensive car has broken down, leaving him stranded at a motel. Carl’s mother accuses him of making excuses because of an affair that he’s having. Meanwhile, Barry is also texting Carl to ask where he is. The Automator left strict instructions that the doors should be closed by 8:30, and that time is fast approaching. Eventually, Carl’s mom comes into his room to announce that she and...

(The entire section is 413 words.)

Chapters 24-26 Summary

The unsupervised kids make out heavily during the slow song. One of them, the lothario Titch, is interrupted by the arrival of another girl; she is clearly upset and has to talk to him about something immediately. Elsewhere, students are harassing the DJ over his music selections; he seems to favor songs that are at least twenty years old. When the sound goes out, the DJ leaves the booth to find the source of the problem. Suddenly, the sound comes back on—a thundering hip-hop song—and the DJ realizes he was tricked out of the booth by the complainers, who have now taken over the music. He searches for Miss McIntyre and Mr. Fallon but does not see them anywhere. Barry receives a text from Carl, asking him to sneak him in; he...

(The entire section is 569 words.)

Chapter 27 Summary

Early Saturday morning, the day after the Halloween party, an early morning phone call awakens Howard and Halley; it is Greg Costigan, who angrily demands that Howard report to work in an hour. Howard does his best to pass it off as no big deal to Halley, who has not heard about the night before. On his way to work, Howard reflects on the events of the previous evening:

He and Aurelie are on top of her desk when she stops their fervent lovemaking; a chill has entered the room. They quickly dress and head out into the hall to find the deposed DJ lamenting the inappropriate music. In the gym they find complete chaos. Most of the kids are high, stoned, or both, and many of them have removed most if not all of their...

(The entire section is 461 words.)

Chapters 28-29 Summary

As usual, Skippy thinks of his interactions with his dad as a Game. In the Game, the most important rule is that you do not say what you are really feeling. Skippy finds it much harder to play the Game when he is home for Midterm than when he is just talking to his dad on the phone. Skippy and Dad play the Game as Dad grills dinner. After dinner, Dad suggests calling Nina, Skippy’s little sister, who is away visiting family. Skippy tries his best to play the Game with Nina on the phone, but she keeps insisting that she wants to talk to Mummy. As usual, Mummy cannot come to the phone because she is upstairs resting. Skippy feels angry at his little sister’s inability to abide by the rules of the Game, and he starts shouting at...

(The entire section is 497 words.)

Chapters 30-31 Summary

Carl waits outside Lori’s house; he has ducked into a corner where he hopes the security camera will not pick him up. He calls Lori over and over again, leaving long silences as messages. He has been downing the pills he was going to bring her and is significantly altered. He gets more and more enraged by her silence and starts to picture her alone in the house, terrified by his messages. When he finally gets a text it is from Barry, not Lori; he wants Carl to meet him at Ed’s, the doughnut shop. Carl tries to beg off, but Barry insists urgently. Angry and sure that Lori will come out the second he leaves, Carl gets on his bike and heads for Ed’s.

Carl passes the doughnut shop, does not see Barry inside, and heads...

(The entire section is 482 words.)

Chapters 32-34 Summary

Ever since the dance, Ruprecht has been spending an exorbitant amount of time working on his inventions and scientific pursuits. He rarely socializes with his buddies during meals or break times; instead, he descends into his basement to follow his latest fixation: M-theory. Ruprecht is so consumed by it that he even finds ways to bring it up in all of his classes, regardless of its pertinence to the studies at hand. The one teacher who indulges him slightly is the science teacher, Mr. Farley. Mr. Farley explains that M-theory is so complicated that scientists cannot even agree on what it is, let alone how to prove it. Mr. Farley asserts that the theory is so far beyond the grasp of the current scientific community as to be a waste...

(The entire section is 499 words.)

Chapters 35-37 Summary

Dennis is furious with Ruprecht for telling Father Laughton that he plays the bassoon; now Dennis has to participate in the Christmas concert. With other boys begging off left and right, the performance will only be four kids: Dennis, Ruprecht, Geoff, and Jeekers—a boy who consistently runs second place to Ruprecht. The boys try to cheer Skippy up about not hearing back from Lori after his haiku text. When Mario reveals he got her number from the bathroom wall at Ed’s Doughnut Shop, the entire group erupts into an argument about whether the number is the right one or not. Unseen, an angry Carl approaches the group and slams Skippy’s head against the wall; the number was correct after all.

Halley laments working at...

(The entire section is 496 words.)

Chapters 38-40 Summary

Ruprecht finds Skippy alone in their room, wrapped up in a blanket and playing video games. Skippy is still obsessed with Lori, who has not yet contacted him. Skippy tries to convince Ruprecht that it is possible that Carl beat him up simply because he’s crazy and a bully, not because he knows about the haiku that he sent to Lori. As Ruprecht drifts off to sleep, he wonders if he would explain Skippy’s situation with M-theory and string theory. Maybe the universe is built on an asymmetry that results in loneliness.

Father Green makes his regular visit to St. Patrick’s to visit shut-ins and the impoverished—mostly older women. He listens to them complain about their health and the deterioration of the...

(The entire section is 459 words.)

Chapters 41-42 Summary

Dennis is a new convert to Ruprecht’s scientific genius following the experiment. The night before, Dennis had left after the initial experiment because he felt sick; however, this morning whatever illness overtook him seems to have vanished. Despite the disappearance of Optimus Prime, Ruprecht remains suspect because they were not able to reproduce the experiment. Dennis informs Skippy that it is their job as his friends to instill confidence in him. Like his night with Lori, Skippy wonders if the experiment in the basement was just another dream.

Mario and Ruprecht attempt to recreate the experiment using Mario’s shoe, but it fails once again. Dennis and Skippy run in with printouts from the Internet, full of...

(The entire section is 429 words.)

Chapters 43-45 Summary

Halley spends one night on the couch and then abruptly moves out. She does not contact Howard; she comes to remove more and more of her things during the day while he is at work. He feels terrible about having hurt her so badly, but he knows he could not go on lying to her—not just about Aurelie but about the failure of their relationship. To protect himself from the kind of humiliation Slattery suffered during his separation, Howard only tells Farley. Howard quickly begins to live like a caveman; by early Saturday evening he is drunk and in his underwear. Unexpectedly, Halley comes in to retrieve more of her things. She expected Howard to be out, but she says little. After about fifteen minutes of packing, she leaves with barely...

(The entire section is 466 words.)

Chapter 46 Summary

The boys try to give Skippy advice about his date that night with Lori; the sex-crazed Mario’s advice is typically graphic. All of them worry that Carl will doing something violent if Skippy goes through with his date. They also talk about the upcoming plan to smuggle a pod into the basement of St. Brigid’s, which presents several problems. The gate is locked at five and the grounds are closely guarded by a surly janitor and his dangerous dog. Ruprecht (using plans of the school provided by Niall’s sister) thinks the fire escape offers their best chance, even though it is attached to the nuns’ quarters. In class, the dull Mr. Slattery gets misty as he teaches Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” which Dennis insists...

(The entire section is 431 words.)

Chapter 47 Summary

Skippy (whom Lori calls Daniel) cannot believe he is actually at Lori’s house. When they first enter the house, Skippy thinks he is about to meet Lori’s mom; she turns out to be the housekeeper and cook. When Lori’s mom enters the room, she looks like an adult version of Lori. She is very pretty and makes a big fuss over meeting Skippy. Lori takes Skippy on a tour of the house, and he is struck by how big and opulent it is. When he sees her bedroom, he is surprised by the intimacy he feels, but they do not stay there. They go downstairs to watch TV and Lori asks Skippy about the swim team. He had told her he hated it and wanted to quit, so she is surprised to hear about the upcoming meet. He says he does it to make his...

(The entire section is 502 words.)

Chapters 48-49 Summary

While Skippy is on his dream date with Lori, the boys are readying their mission to St. Brigid’s basement. They refer to themselves as Team Condor; the Team consists of Ruprecht, Mario, Geoff, and Dennis. As they are preparing to head out, Dennis is suddenly struck ill, similar to the way he felt sick the night of the experiment. He vows to soldier on but soon collapses in a heap. The Team scrambles for a replacement and quickly enlists Odysseas, another of their classmates. Although he does not fully understand the mission or its purpose, he offers his dark-colored fencing outfits for added camouflage.

When they arrive at St. Brigid’s, Geoff sets off to distract the janitor. Earlier in the day, the boys preplanted...

(The entire section is 437 words.)

Chapters 50-52 Summary

Skippy wakes up the day after his date to find Ruprecht covered in leaves and sitting pensively on his bed; he does not want to talk about the mission. At breakfast, Ruprecht leaves the table when Mario appears with his tray; there is obvious tension between them. Mario explains that he was delayed while getting out of the laundry room. When he finally crawled out of the window, the janitor’s dog chased Mario and Ruprecht up a tree, where they had to stay hidden for several hours. Odysseas was already in the tree, having been attacked by the dog earlier. The boys notice Skippy’s sunny mood and Dennis seems jealous of Skippy. Later in the day, Skippy runs into Carl in the hallway. Skippy expects the worst but Carl ignores him....

(The entire section is 420 words.)

Chapters 53-54 Summary

With the prospect of Aurelie’s return dimming, Howard sinks further into a depression. In addition to missing Aurelie, he constantly notices Halley’s absence from the house. His shaving and grooming have become erratic, and Dennis has moved Howard up on his list of teachers close to a breakdown. One day in the faculty lounge, Farley tells him a joke about a sailor foolishly in love with a mermaid whom he can never have. Howard is indignant that the joke is intended as a comparison to Howard’s pining for Aurelie. Tom Roche enters gruffly, and Howard silently notes that this month marks the anniversary of Tom’s accident. When Farley asks Tom what is bothering him, the Coach grumbles about organizing the upcoming meet.


(The entire section is 474 words.)

Chapters 55-56 Summary

The cold weather sets in the day before the swim meet; Skippy sleeps in instead of going to practice and heads down to breakfast. Once there, Siddartha, one of his teammates, comes over and yells at him for skipping out on practice right before an important meet. During lunch break, the boys head to the mall and Skippy gets a call from his dad. At first, his dad asks about the swim meet tomorrow and Skippy pretends he is going. Then his dad says that Coach Roche called and told him Skippy quit the team. As usual, Skippy does not say much in response, but he is floored when his dad says he explained the situation with Skippy’s mom to Coach Roche. The coach was very understanding, but both he and Skippy’s dad think he should not...

(The entire section is 480 words.)

Chapters 57-58 Summary

The Friday before the swim meet marks the eleventh anniversary of the Falkey Quarry accident. The idea of bungee cording came from Guido LaManche, a senior known for goading the other boys into all kinds of things: Guido comes into the newly opened Ed’s Doughnut Shop extolling the thrills of bungee jumping at Falkey Quarry. The group (which includes a few blond girls) balks at first, particularly when Guido explains that it will cost them twenty pounds each. Uncharacteristically, Farley volunteers first and Guido uses Farley’s relatively low social status to shame the others into joining them. Howard ends up in Tom Roche’s car with two of the blondes. Tom is a star athlete; the nerdier Howard feels lucky to be in his company....

(The entire section is 410 words.)

Chapters 59-60 Summary

KellyAnn, the girl Titch impregnated, is in Ed’s Doughnut Shop with Janine. As KellyAnn devours her treats, she insists her appetite must be a result of pregnancy cravings. Janine is in a bad mood, especially since Ed’s is not the place cool kids hang out on a Friday night. KellyAnn asks Janine about Lori and whether she is still dating Daniel/Skippy. KellyAnn then goes on to criticize Lori’s interest in Carl, whom she believes is crazy and dangerous. In her opinion, Daniel’s geekiness is preferable because he is sweet. Janine seems particularly on edge when Carl’s name comes up, even when KellyAnn points out his cutting tendencies. Janine is anxious to get out of Ed’s and find something to do.

Alone in his...

(The entire section is 425 words.)

Chapters 61-62 Summary

Lynsey, one of the more advanced employees at Ed’s Doughnut Shop, is attempting to train Zhang to move up to the second level. Lynsey notes his recalcitrance and wonders if it has anything to do with The Incident. Zhang was there the night Skippy overdosed in the doughnut shop. Senan, the owner, was concerned about the negative publicity of having someone die in his restaurant. As a result, Lynsey has been fielding numerous inquiries from the press. Dubbing it a kind of Romeo and Juliet story, the assumption is that Skippy took an overdose of painkillers because of some issue with his relationship with Lori. Lynsey finds Zhang to be an ineffective employee, but she has to offer him counseling services to protect the restaurant....

(The entire section is 496 words.)

Chapters 63-64 Summary

In the days following the funeral, the boys generally keep to themselves. They spend hours playing video games, listening to music, or playing sports. One day, Ruprecht breaks the silence and leaves notes for the other boys in their lockers. They all meet in his room; the boys avoid sitting on Skippy’s empty bed. Ruprecht tells the boys that he wants to redo the pod experiment to go back in time and save Skippy. As he explains this, Dennis groans audibly and leaves the room. When he reappears, he is holding the Transformer toy that “disappeared” the night of the experiment. Ruprecht is uncomprehending at first, but slowly realizes that Dennis faked the disappearance of the toy as a joke at Ruprecht’s expense. Dennis yells...

(The entire section is 419 words.)

Chapters 65-66 Summary

Howard leaves early from work while he considers the contract offer. He is haunted by something one of the other priests on the board said: when issues like this arose in the past, they had thought it best to handle it internally. Howard wonders how many of the stories he heard as a student were actually true—he wonders how many kids have suffered because the school covered up a problem.

He is surprised to find himself calling Halley. She answers and is pleasant but very cool. She has heard about Skippy’s death and expresses sympathy without yielding any warmth to Howard. Finally, Howard admits that he made a mistake. He calls his dalliance with Aurelie a fantasy and realizes how much better things were with Halley....

(The entire section is 467 words.)

Chapter 67 Summary

Lori is trying to readjust to regular life after Skippy’s passing. Her parents have been trying to help her cope by buying her lots of presents and taking her on spa trips. Her parents also start to set up appointments for her with modeling agents and talent scouts. Janine has been incredibly supportive, while KellyAnn’s pregnancy has made her unbearable. One day the girls are talking about sex and debate whether a girl can become pregnant from performing oral sex; Lori passes out.

Lori’s lightheadedness is partly due to her experience with Carl and partly due to her confusion about the Plan. Janine came up with the Plan and it seemed like the perfect solution to her problems. Lori wanted to keep seeing Carl but...

(The entire section is 467 words.)

Chapters 68-69 Summary

Carl has the feeling that someone or something is following him. Ever since Skippy’s death, Carl sees him everywhere—next to him in class, in his dreams, even in his room. Carl is also reeling from being shut out by Lori. He knows what he did was wrong, but he wanted the whole world to know that Lori was with him, not Skippy. Carl tries to deal with these problems by smoking more high-strength marijuana from Deano and the gang. Carl now lives in a perpetual fog and keeps losing money from his drug deals. Barry warns him that this is a major problem, so Carl replaces the lost money with his own.

One day, Barry and Carl are hanging out with Mark, Deano, Knoxer, and Ste. Barry inquires about where the four older boys...

(The entire section is 521 words.)

Chapter 70 Summary

The remaining three students in the quartet, Geoff, Jeekers, and Dennis, go to visit Ruprecht in his room to try to convince him to participate in the concert. Ruprecht is continuing his decline as evidenced by the condition of his room. Dirty laundry and empty doughnut boxes cover the room, and Ruprecht has noticeably gained more weight. Jeekers, who always comes in second to Ruprecht, has secretly enjoyed his rise in academic standing during Ruprecht’s acting out. Later, in the rec room, the boys look out the window and are surprised to see a van parked in front of the school with writing on the side that reads “Van Doren Drainage.” Dennis delights in the discovery that Ruprecht has been lying about his deceased parents;...

(The entire section is 437 words.)

Chapter 71 Summary

The next morning, Howard is readying his lesson in the teacher’s lounge when Costigan comes in and makes an announcement about Tom: he is transferring to a school in Mauritius. The other faculty (who know nothing of the scandal involving Skippy) congratulate the coach and ask why he did not share that he was thinking of relocating. His new job will involve some teaching but mostly coaching rugby; it will be the first time he has revisited the sport since the accident. Howard is sickened by the disingenuousness of the display, knowing that both Costigan and Tom are playing this out to sell the faculty on the illusion that his leaving was a choice. Howard is pushed through the crowd towards Tom, whom has no choice but to...

(The entire section is 423 words.)

Chapters 72-73 Summary

On the ride home, the boys actually ask a few questions about what Howard had taught them in the park; he is pleasantly surprised. When he gets back to school, he sends them in and goes home without checking in with the office.

The next morning, he is immediately called to the Automator’s office. Costigan lets Howard know that someone else is covering his class and proceeds to question him about the impromptu field trip the previous day. Costigan tells him that he was inundated with calls from angry parents who were furious that a teacher took them into the city without their permission. Costigan assumes Howard is acting out because of the Skippy Juster cover-up. He reminds Howard that he signed the contract of his...

(The entire section is 437 words.)

Chapters 74-75 Summary

At home (and well on his way to drunkenness) Howard is watching the television when he sees his old classmate, Guido, talking to a reporter. In the distance is Howard’s neighborhood, and Howard’s house is visible in the shot. Guido is talking about the development of a Science Park that has been halted by an archaeological discovery; Guido thinks progress is more important than preserving every scrap of Irish history. Guido had talked Howard, Tom, and the rest of the gang into the ill-fated bungee jump that permanently injured Tom—then he had changed schools almost immediately and gone on to a prosperous career. Meanwhile, Howard remained at Seabrook and took the blame for Tom’s injury, earning him the nickname of Howard...

(The entire section is 484 words.)

Chapters 76-78 Summary

Ruprecht rejoins the quartet, and they are back in the Christmas concert. Titch, the emcee for the event, is dubious about Ruprecht’s participation. He spies on Ruprecht and his friends rehearsing and thinks their rehearsals sound odd. He also notices a bunch of Ruprecht’s gang hauling computer equipment into his room. Titch tries to warn the Automator about it, but he is swept up in preparations for the impending concert. Ruprecht keeps stopping the rehearsals to say that what they’ve done with song does not sound quite right but he does not know how to fix it. He is not even sure what they are going to try to communicate to Skippy with the song. Geoff has the nagging feeling that the song sounds like something else. He...

(The entire section is 466 words.)

Chapters 79-80 Summary

The Christmas concert has finally arrived, and Greg Costigan is internally congratulating himself on a job well done. One of the alums congratulates Greg and notes that he seems to be en route to permanently taking over the role of principal. Greg’s moment of glory is temporarily threatened when he sees Howard at the door. The Automator, with the help of Brother Jonas, races up the aisle to intercept him. Howard is clearly in rough shape. He smells strongly of alcohol and his hand is crudely bandaged. Greg greets Howard politely and informs him that the event is sold out. Howard keeps trying to find a way to get in, but Greg assures him that he will get a copy of the DVD. As they walk Howard out (under the guise of getting him...

(The entire section is 491 words.)

Chapters 81-82 Summary

Jeekers surprised himself by agreeing to Ruprecht’s mission. He has always been runner-up to Ruprecht, and he knew his parents were going to be in the audience. As they head onstage in their tin foil outfits, it occurs to Jeekers that he wants to disappoint his parents. He is tired of them pushing him to be the best; he feels like their love is conditional.

The quartet begins the song for the audience and it sounds quite lovely. Suddenly a voice seems to be accompanying them, but initially no one can see the source of the singing. Eventually the audience realizes the singing is coming from a cell phone placed near a microphone. The song is a Bethani pop tune called “Three Wishes,” and the young kids in the crowd...

(The entire section is 445 words.)

Chapters 83-86 Summary

Carl flees the woods to his home, where he finds his mother unconscious on the couch from her latest round of sleeping pills. He continues to have visions of the Dead Boy, only now he realizes the Boy is not coming to get him—he is trying to tell him he needs his help.

Father Green works in his basement office late into the night. For weeks, students have been harassing him because the general consensus is that he molested Skippy, driving him to his death. Students repeatedly write “Pedo” on his office door and the faculty ignores him at all costs. A voice inside Father Green’s head asks him why he has not left Seabrook yet, and it occurs to him that he thinks he deserves this ill treatment. He did abuse boys in...

(The entire section is 432 words.)

Chapter 87 and Epilogue Summary

The face Lori saw at her window was Ruprecht’s. She had permission to go outside, so she went out to meet him in the yard of the Residence. She noticed that he had grown considerably fatter, and he could see that she was dangerously thin. She asked him why he came to see her and he explained that he wanted her to sing a Bethani song for Seabrook’s Christmas concert. He would call her on his cell phone and she would sing into the phone. Ruprecht explained that it would be an attempt to contact Skippy in the afterlife. She did not completely understand, but she agreed to do it. She practiced the Bethani song over and over again and did lots of vocal exercises.

The night of the concert, Ruprecht calls her from...

(The entire section is 632 words.)