Mr. Barrett’s style, both exact and poetic, is reminiscent of any number of Irish writers who keep language on a string. His stories are crowded with young men and women making a racket while going nowhere, with ambitions that don’t really stretch past scoring the next high or kissing the next girl ... One sign of his striking maturity as a writer is that his characters stay in character ... Mr. Barrett keeps their dialogue tight and leaves any attempts at lyricism to himself, when he describes their surroundings or adopts their perspectives ... What separates his tough characters from those written by others is how carefully he applies the details that soften their edges ... Mr. Barrett does foundational things exceedingly well — structure, choices of (and switches in) perspective — without drawing attention to them. These are stories that are likely to be taught for their form.
Barrett evokes the lives of his young characters – bouncers, petrol station attendants and minor criminals – with great skill, describing sensitivity and harshness in a way that doesn't overdo either side of that equation ... His stories invite second readings that – the mark of really good work – seem to uncover sentences that weren't there the first time around. Chekhov once told his publisher that it isn't the business of a writer to answer questions, only to formulate them correctly. Throughout this extraordinary debut, but particularly in the excellent stories that bookend it, Colin Barrett is asking the right questions.
Colin Barrett’s short, brutal collection of stories presents clearly and without sentimentality a picture of the young Irish small-town male, in his current crisis of hopelessness and alienation ... The centrepiece of the collection is a 73-page novella, Calm With Horses. In its high-octane violence and profound nihilism, it reads like a Martin McDonagh screenplay, although it is substantially more self-aware than that writer ... The intricate and sophisticated facility with language is often a counterpoint to brutish purpose ... The stories could do with a little more leavening.
There is a menace in the air in Barrett's story. He doesn't have Barry's linguistic exuberance and energy, but he has a power all his own. The centrepiece of Young Skins is a 73-page novella, 'Calm With Horses,' which deals with the aftermath of an attempted sexual assault ... On the surface, it's about how a small-town drugs operation falls apart, but it's the characterisation that makes it so memorable and affecting ... Barrett's use of language is powerful and surprising ... These stories are moving and memorable and show a writer who understands people, place and the effects of porter on the human psyche.
The stories’ protagonists function on society’s fringes—as bouncers, washed-up musicians, cheap muscle—yet all eschew the single dimension often reserved for such characters, instead speaking in voices both world-weary and wise, equally confident and lost ... Moments of violence punctuate several of these stories, but the collection’s true impact comes in the gifted prose of Barrett, which flourishes in poetic and spare scenes; he is an assured, powerful new literary voice.
['Stand Your Skin'] is a powerful dark shadow of a tale, the heart of this collection of six stories and one longer novella. Barrett knows the woods and roads surrounding Glanbeigh as well as he understands the youth who roam them. This is his territory, his people. He writes with beauty and a toughness that captures the essence of boredom and angst ... Barrett has given us moments that resonate true to a culture, a population and a geography that are fertile with the stuff of good fiction.