Skagboys by Irvine Welsh: Review

Skagboys by Irvine Welsh

Skagboys by Irvine Welsh


Skagboys by Irvine Welsh is the highly anticipated prequel to his 90’s phenomenon, Trainspotting. It follows the infamous characters Renton, Sick Boy, Spud and Begbie from their pre-heroin days to their fall from grace.




Set during the 1980s, Skagboys opens on a violent clash between demonstrators and police during a workers’ strike. Here we meet Renton, a joiner and Edinburgh University student. He does a few recreational drugs and only tries heroin because he’s tried everything else. Soon, he’s lost the love of his life, is committing petty crimes and ends up in rehab. But, that’s not where the story ends.



Skagboys by Irvine Welsh review


Skagboys is written in Irvine Welsh’s normal style of phonetic Scottish. Although it might be awkward to read for a few pages, once mastered, it adds to the imagery and setting of the story. It opens with a gripping scene of moral and class war. Then, for the next 400-ish pages, Welsh details the lives of the main characters. During this, the story occasionally feels padded and directionless. Sadly, the actual decision process of characters to take heroin for the first time, felt unrealistic and jarringly sudden. Renton goes from being disgusted by heroin users, to two pages later stating he was just scared and dives right in. Spud’s character takes one single sentence from being completely against it to becoming a user.


Final thoughts


Skagboys only seems to come into its own in the last third where the boys end up in rehab. The diaries Renton writes there are engaging, heartfelt and brutal. The finale captures their utter desperation and will have you torn between urging the group on or being disgusted by their actions. Although this book suffers from a slow and unsatisfying start, the ending is everything you would want and expect from a Trainspotting prequel.


If you enjoyed Skagboys by Irvine Welsh, you’ll love Problems by Jade Sharma.


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