Boy Swallows Universe

Trent Dalton. Harper, $26.99 (464p) ISBN 978-0-06-289810-4
Dalton’s splashy, stellar debut makes the typical coming-of-age novel look bland by comparison. The novel tracks bright, confused young narrator Eli as he moves through the ages of 12 to 19 in the 1980s in a seedy suburb of Brisbane. Eli’s best friends are his older brother, August, an electively mute genius with premonitions of the future, and former felon Slim, his babysitter and a notorious, frequent escapee from a heavily guarded prison. Eli loves his parents, but they’re a mess: his mom and step-dad deal heroin, and his dad is a depressed, panic-stricken alcoholic. The novel follows Eli as he nearly gets caught up in dealing drugs himself, discovers a secret room with a mysterious red telephone in his house, breaks into prison to wish his incarcerated mom a merry Christmas, and avenges the wrongs done to his family—all while pursuing his dream of becoming a journalist. In less adept hands, these antics might descend into whimsy, but Dalton’s broadly observant eye, ability to temper pathos with humor, and thorough understanding of the mechanics of plot prevent the novel from breaking into sparkling pieces. The author shapes Eli into an appealingly credible hero capable of shaping a future for himself despite a background that doesn’t bode well for him. This is an outstanding debut. (Apr.)
Reviewed on : 01/24/2019
Release date: 04/02/2019
Genre: Fiction
Ebook - 480 pages - 978-1-4607-0841-5
Ebook - 464 pages - 978-0-06-289813-5
Downloadable Audio - 978-0-06-290873-5
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Audio book sample courtesy of HarperAudio
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