The author spent time growing up in the custody of Tennessee’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and renders the hospital and its residents with vivid description and spot-on dialogue. At times whimsical, poetic, or irreverent, Slowpoker skillfully uses humor to mask the melancholy pervading these lost boys’ existence. Even after Delphus, who suffers from epilepsy, stumbles into the “normal” outside life of happy families and helpful salesmen, he chooses to return to Clover Bottom, noting without complaint, “Out in the real world, there ain’t no place for us to go.” Superheroes, kung fu Buddhists, and CIA agents fill the boys’ imaginations as their reveries come to life. Occasionally, extended tangents distract from the narrative momentum, but these anecdotes carry ample charm thanks to Delphus’s spritely wit.
The author’s lighthearted name aside, this is sophisticated literature, both in structure and character depth. Artifacts intersperse Delphus’s first-person narrative—a newspaper article, footnotes, and more—and moments of magical realism intertwine with practical challenges. The characters’ vibrant, evolving personalities and varied voices are memorable. The life-affirming connections between these young people nurturing one another against the odds will appeal to readers of serious fiction about mental health, social services, and growing up.
Takeaway: A playful yet profound caper peeks into the hidden lives of lovable youth mental health-facility residents.
Great for fans of: Victor Lodato’s Mathilda Savitch, Truman Capote’s My Side of the Matter.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: B