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Mysterious Skin [Kindle Edition]

Scott Heim
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $13.99
Kindle Price: $3.79
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Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers

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Book Description

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.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"The summer I was eight years old, five hours disappeared from my life"?so runs the catchy opening to Heim's impressive first novel. The speaker is Brian Lackey, now a troubled teenager, once an introverted kid growing up scared in the small town of Hutchinson, Kans. The reason for his memory lapse and his fear, as we and Brian learn during the course of the novel, turns out not to be the space aliens that he first suspects, but his molestation at the hands of his Little League coach. The key to Brian's reclamation of those lost hours is homosexual hustler Neil McCormick?the slugger on that Little League team and an accomplice to Brian's sexual abuse. Working its way over the course of a decade toward Brian and Neil's reunion, the narrative unfolds through chapters whose points of view alternate among Brian, Neil and a handful of their siblings and confidants. Heim makes numerous freshman mistakes, including a relatively static narrative, prominent characters who outlive their usefulness and occasional lapses in the writing. He also creates scenes of genuine beauty, however, and handles his complicated characters and delicate subject matter with calm assurance.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Brian Lackey and Neil McCormick are so different by nature that they might never have met except for a shared incident at age eight. One summer afternoon, a storm forces the cancellation of a Little League game, and Brian catches a ride home with his coach and Neil. Ten years later, Brian still can't remember that afternoon, although he suspects that it was a turning point in his life. His search for answers eventually leads to Neil, who helps re-create the afternoon of seduction and sexual abuse that Brian has blocked from his mind. Told from a variety of perspectives, this novel looks at the long-term effects of sexual abuse and the coping mechanisms employed by abused children. First novelist Heim deals frankly with a controversial topic without becoming accusatory or maudlin. The result is powerful stuff that every public library should have.
Thomas L. Kilpatrick, Southern Illinois Univ. Lib., Carbondale
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 335 KB
  • Print Length: 308 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0060841699
  • Publisher: HarperCollins e-books; Reissue edition (March 17, 2009)
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00166YCD8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #169,771 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
76 of 78 people found the following review helpful
Great literature gives us fascinating characters. Daring literature takes us places we may not want to go. Among the fascinating people roaming the streets today few can be as weirdly interesting as the homosexual who offers himself up for a "good time" by scrawling his phone number on a public bathroom stall or the loopy individual who is chillingly convinced he has been abducted by aliens. You have to wonder who these people are and what damaged background could've led them to such outlandish behavior. In Scott Heim's stunning book Mysterious Skin he suggests that both behaviors could've been triggered by the same trauma, and by the time you are done reading, you will be convinced too.

Neil and Brian are two eight year old boys who have been sexually abused by their Little League coach, but their two reactions couldn't be more different. Neil is already aware of his homosexuality when he meets the coach. His father is dead and his mother is a provocative though loving drunk. Neil fancies himself in love with the coach and readily submits to all that is asked of him. Brian, on the other hand, is the product of a loving family, and one that is mildly dysfunctional in ways that could be considered more normal than "normal". For Brian the experience is so painfully disturbing that he buries it in his subconscious, blacking it out so that as the years unwind he becomes fascinated with what happened to him during his "lost hours", eventually reaching the conclusion that he was abducted by aliens.
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64 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful mess of a novel September 5, 2004
By Willow
I'm a big fan of, and somehow I stumbled upon the page for an upcoming movie called Mysterious Skin. It interested me, so I thought I'd check out the book. Well. I finished it about twenty minutes ago, and I'm speechless.

MYSTERIOUS SKIN has so many different characters, memorable quotes, and mind-boggling descriptions that I couldn't put it down. I'm not going to go into the full story, but the book is fantastic. Basically, it's about two boys that share a common bond, though neither of them know it in the beginning of the story. As the book advances, both characters (Brian Lackey and Neil McCormack) start to come to terms with an event that took place during the summer of 1981.

There are a few parts of the book that are extremely graphic, some pages were hard to read without putting the book down and trying to clear my mind. My short description does NOT do the book justice.

MYSTERIOUS SKIN is a fantastic novel, one that I wouldn't have chosen to read if I hadn't heard of the movie. This is definately the best book I've read in a loooong time. Highly recommended.

Overall grade - A+
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Two boys were sexually abused by their Little League coach in the summer of 1981. Neil McCormack spent the entire summer as Coach's lover, embracing his status as Coach's special friend, the recipient of attention, treats, and money. Brian Lackey, on the other hand, only had one incident with Coach, but he doesn't remember anything other than the fact that he lost several hours during the afternoon of a rained-out baseball game.

Brian grows up as a strange, skittish boy. He wets the bed and he knows something strange happened to him. Does UFO abduction explain his loss of memory? Fragments start to come back, and he desperately records them to make some sense of the missing time.

The only person who can explain Brian's missing time is Neil, who bullied younger boys after his summer with Coach and then grew into a sexual hustler in his teenage years. After high school, he headed off to NY to begin his hustling career in earnest.

The climax of the novel comes when Neil starts to view sexual abuse from another vantage point, and Brian gets the answers about the hours that went missing during his summer in Little League. The novel centers on the degree to which each boy was shaped by his experience with Coach, and how it stayed with them for life.

The prose is sexually frank, but not sensationalist. The mystery of what happened to Brian is tantalizing and unfolds gradually over the course of years. The journey makes for a great story. On a side note, the movie adaptation is very true to the book and makes an excellent companion to the novel. It's amazing to see the characters come to life on the big screen, exactly as they were portrayed in the narrative.
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars When I read it I knew I wasn't the only one. June 24, 1999
By A Customer
When I went to High School in Kansas I soon learned that an author had gone to the same one as me. After a few years, I found Scott Heim's first book "Mysterious Skin". I read it and it was like a punch in the chest. The story takes place in my community and amongst the people I thought I knew. I also share the same sexuality as the main character. I found the book to be a sweet and painful release to the suffering I've gone through in this state of Kansas. The hurt and horror of this book was all to familiar. Heim's words and language, his graphic paintings of reality, and his twists of beauty and perversity pour out onto the pages of this unworldy novel. Don't expect to read it and pass it off. His books will live in your memory for a long time. To take his work to heart is to look at this world with wider eyes. Definately, this book is a must. Even though the book hurts so much to read and you will want to put it away, you can't. And in the end, through the horror, you will see the beauty of his work.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars 4 1/2 stars -- creepy AND substantive
4 1/2 stars -- This is a haunting and disturbingly open-ended book. It's about two boys (young men, by the time the story ends) who go through similar traumatic experiences at the... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Stanley Crowe
4.0 out of 5 stars an interesting story told by an a very capable author
'Mysterious Skin' is a very well written story about two kids who have a shared experience during their youth that affects them very differently in their teenage years. Read more
Published 6 months ago by lazza
5.0 out of 5 stars The psychology of repression
A fascinating book and equally fascinating movie.
Published 6 months ago by J. K. Lassitter
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for parents of young children!
Excellent story about the lasting results of child sexual abuse.
Published 6 months ago by ROCC0
5.0 out of 5 stars This should be on the top one hundred books to read...
Mysterious Skin by Scott Heim

Brian Lackey wakes up in the crawl space of his house at age eight unable to remember what had transcribed in the last five hours after a... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Carlos T. Mock
5.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing Yet Hopeful Story of 2 Teenagers Dealing With Trauma.
4.5 of 5 stars –
This was a fascinating book about two teenage boys and how they deal with and grow differently from traumatic experiences they each had at age 8. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Tex Reader
1.0 out of 5 stars A prime example of why authors should not tackle things they cannot...
This novel is a study of the effects of sexual molestation on two nine year old boys. It is an example of pop psychology gone haywire. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Jaromir Benesch
5.0 out of 5 stars Disturbingly fantastic
I enjoy reading dark fiction. This book definitely falls in that category. The vivid imagery sticks with you-whether you want it to or not. Read more
Published 18 months ago by ALC
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Story
This is a good juicy story and a lot more in-depth than the movie. I would definitely recommend for people who like these kind of books.
Published 19 months ago by G. Hook
4.0 out of 5 stars Eye opening depth
I thoroughly good read, the style of writting was amazing, I loved every minute of it. I'll never look at Kansas the same.
Published 23 months ago by robert beaupre
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More About the Author

I'm the author of the novels MYSTERIOUS SKIN (1995); IN AWE (1997), and WE DISAPPEAR (2008), all from HarperCollins / HarperPerennial.

MYSTERIOUS SKIN was made into a 2005 film, directed by Gregg Araki and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Brady Corbet, Michelle Trachtenberg, Mary Lynn Rajskub, and Elizabeth Shue.

Since I'm a longtime music fanatic, I've recently been focusing on editing a series of e-books called THE FIRST TIME I HEARD series, where noted musicians and writers tell their first-person stories of hearing an iconic band or artist for the first time. THE FIRST TIME I HEARD JOY DIVISION / NEW ORDER was the lead book in the series, and installments that followed (or are forthcoming) include books on Cocteau Twins, David Bowie, The Smiths, Kate Bush, Abba, My Bloody Valentine, Kraftwerk, The Pixies, Roxy Music, R.E.M., and more.

I was born and raised in various small towns in the center of Kansas. I went to the University of Kansas in Lawrence, and moved to New York City in 1991 to get my MFA degree at Columbia University. After 11 years in New York, I moved to Boston in 2002, and that's where I'm currently living.

My personal website is, and I have a weblog at

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