Young Skins by Colin Barrett

Young Skins – Reviewed by SD

Young Skins by Colin BarrettSet in the small fictional town Glanbeigh, Co. Mayo, in ‘Young Skins’ the reader will meet characters such as Val; a bouncer at a nightclub, Bat; a greasy biker, Eli and Doran; two ex-band members and two marijuana sellers. The book has won numerous awards, including the 2014 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award and the 2014 Rooney Prize for Irish Literature. ‘Young Skins’ is the first collection of short stories by Colin Barrett. It is published by ‘The Stinging Fly’ who encourages new Irish writers and promotes short stories.

The book consists of 7 short stories- ‘The Clancy Kid’ which is about two friends on their way and not much happens in this one but it is a good introductory story and the reader can get a taste for Barrett’s style of writing. ‘Bait’ is about two friends; Matteen and Teddy. Matteen is the best pool player in town but he is caught up with a girl. This story has a great unexpected twist in the end. ‘The Moon’ is about a bouncer who is dating a young girl, there isn’t much to the man’s life. It consists of routine. ‘Stand Your Skin’ is about an anti-social, greasy man and his interaction with a young teenage girl and a college student. ‘Calm With Horses’ is about two drug sellers. One is sort of the “bodyguard”, being the best boxer in the town but their business takes a turn for the worst. ‘Diamonds’ is about a man in AA and this story makes reference to the title of the book. Then, ‘Kindly Forget My Existence’ is about two ex-band members who sit in a bar, debating whether to attend Marianne’s funeral; the girl they both loved.

My favorite story in the book was ‘Calm With Horses’. It is action-packed and very well put together. It is the longest story in the book but it is well worth it. I really liked all the characters in this story. One being a great father and a kind “old dear” regardless of the deathly situation she is in. The ending of this story is great; I also really enjoyed ‘Kindly Forget My Existence’ as I loved the characters and their interaction with the bar-man. It was also somehow humorous.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Young Skins’. It’s the first Irish book I’ve read and the writer was great, he was very descriptive and visual. I found the stories quite dark as some related to addiction and death but it wasn’t at all dull, regardless. I would recommend the book to anyone as I think anyone would enjoy it. It is very entertaining from start to finish. Irish people will love the Irish areas and the Irish accents.