Skintown by Ciaran McMenamin

I am always grateful when I get sent a free book to review. I consider it a dutiful honour each and every time.

However, it does sometimes present a dilemma, and in the case of Skintown I had to do something I really don’t like doing – abandon it.

Skintown is the first novel by Ciaran McMenamin, and has a really interesting backstory. Based on true events, Skintown follows the story of a character called Vinny, growing up in ’70s Ireland when the IRA were at their most terrifying.

Vinny is having a bad Saturday night. All he wanted was a Hawaiian burger from one of the choice joints on Chippie Street after a few pints. Just a few hours later, after a mindless act of kindness, Vinny finds himself wedged into the back seat of a shiny black Ford Fiesta, with two prime cuts of under-the-influence thuggery watching him from the front.

Perspective is everything in a divided town where a bottle is as likely to be filled with burning petrol as it is with beer. And there’s nothing that can shift perspective more the high adrenaline rush of an all-night rave and blissed-out sex, where all divisions dissolve along with inhibitions and most of your clothes. The morning after is going to hurt like hell.

Skintown is Vinny’s drink-and-drug-fuelled odyssey through fights, riots, fishing, ecstasy, sex and acid house. Bristling with a restless energy, this superb debut is a wild ride of a novel.

It definitely had a Trainspotting vibe to it, and I began feeling excited and optimistic about what was to come.

However, after getting just less than half way through I decided to give up. I can’t say exactly what it was that made me decide to stop reading, but the fact that I was beginning to ‘put off’ reading it was a very big clue that I wasn’t really enjoying it.

I don’t think the author did enough to make me invest in the story or the characters. As I said, I was nearly half way through, and  I felt like nothing had happened and that nothing was going to happen.

There was no build-up, no ‘page-turning’ tension – and I just felt like I wasn’t getting the “restless energy” I had been made to expect.

Perhaps this one just wasn’t for me. And that’s okay. It has received really positive early praise elsewhere:

“A riot of a novel written with energy and verve…” – Irish Examiner

“Supercharged riot of a debut” – Joseph O’Connor, author of Star of the Sea

“Scurrilous, saucy, unputdownable” – Carlo Gebler

I will definitely come back to Skintown in the future – it may be that, in another setting, I read it differently and enjoy it more. Do you ever feel like sometimes you need to be in the right headspace for a book?

I won’t be giving this book a star rating, because I didn’t finish it. But I’d really like to hear from other people who have. Is it just me? Please leave your comments below.

(Also, am I bad blogger for writing this review? I didn’t know whether to attempt to be fair and honest, or whether to just ignore it and not do a review – thoughts would be appreciated.)


  1. I agree that if i’m sent a book then its my duty to review it. I appreciate your honesty in you review. I think its measured and constructive. Its important to maintain integrity as a blogger even if it doesn’t mean you can always be as positive as you might like.

    • Louise Dickens Reply

      Thanks for the feedback 🙂 It’s never nice when you don’t enjoy a book, but that doesn’t mean someone else won’t!

  2. I feel the same way — I try and read a book before its release, but it is hard to keep up with it when I have other books I want to read!

    As for reviewing books that end up less than stellar, I definitely agree about keeping one’s integrity. I admit I have not written reviews for books I’ve been given proofs of because I just couldn’t participate positively to it. There are books where I can objectively find something positive, and there are those where, try as I might, I just can’t. Those I leave alone. The not-so-positive ones, I post reviews of them a week after publication day.


    • Louise Dickens Reply

      Thanks Gemma, I agree – if I had nothing positive to say about a proof, I’d probably leave it and not post a review until much later (so as not to taint the release).

      It’s funny, I think, because a proof is a privilege and therefore we book bloggers tend to view them differently. I’ve had no problems writing a negative review for a book I’ve purchased!

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