A 2019 Indie Book of the YearBrisbane, 1983: A lost father, a mute brother, a mum in jail, a heroin dealer for a stepfather and a notorious crim for a babysitter. It's not as if Eli's life isn't complicated enough already. He's just trying to follow his heart, learning what it takes to be a good man, but life just keeps throwing obstacles in the way -- notably Tytus Broz, legendary Brisbane drug dealer. But Eli's life is about to get a whole lot more serious. He's about to fall in love. And, oh yeah, he has to break into Boggo Road Gaol on Christmas Day, to save his mum. Joyous and heartbreaking, Boy Swallows Universe is a story of brotherhood, true love and the most unlikely of friendships.
"Consider Eli Bell of Darra, Australia. His mother, Frankie, and her live-in boyfriend, Lyle, are heroin dealers; his brilliant, visionary brother, August, older by a year, is a selective mute who chooses not to speak; and his best friend is an elderly murderer. Eli is 12 when readers meet him; he will age to 18 through the pages of this marvelous bildungsroman, as circumstances educate him in the ways of the world, which are sometimes heartbreaking. Speaking of which, it should be noted that dealing drugs is dangerous and can make terrible things happen. When they do, Eli and August are reunited with their father, who has long been absent from their lives. Eli has a dream of becoming a journalist when he grows up and of enjoying the romantic company of a working journalist, the beautiful Caitlyn Spies. Meanwhile, the evil Tytus Broz, the Lord of Limbs, and his vile henchman, Iwan Krol, enter Eli's life, bringing with them the possibility of death. There is much more to come in this marvelously plot-rich novel, which told in Eli's first-person voice is filled with beautifully lyric prose (a fat man has legs like the faces of walruses without tusks ; the sun is a white hot god of a thing ). The characterization, too, is universally memorable, especially that of Eli and August. At one point Eli wonders if he is good. The answer is yes, every bit as good as this exceptional novel.--Michael Cart Copyright 2019 Booklist"
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review:
"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.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved."
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved