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Lowboy: A Novel by John Wray
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Lowboy: A Novel (original 2009; edition 2010)

by John Wray

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5524518,107 (3.25)36
Member:HeyitsKirby
Title:Lowboy: A Novel
Authors:John Wray
Info:Picador (2010), Edition: 1 Reprint, Paperback, 272 pages
Collections:2010, Your library
Rating:****
Tags:None

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Lowboy by John Wray (2009)

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Showing 1-5 of 44 (next | show all)
As far as YA lit goes, this is a fairly boring book. I never felt invested in any of the characters nor did I feel any of them were relatable. Unlike some of the other stellar books out there that are palatable for teens (eg, Everything Happens Today), you'd HAVE to be a novice reader to overlook the things this novel lacks. The best that can be said about it is that its main character is Holden Caulfield-ish, and even then I'd rather have just re-read Catcher in the Rye than this. ( )
  Seven.Stories.Press | Jun 13, 2014 |
A couple of people whose opinions I really respect recommended Lowboy to me, saying it was in a similar vein to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. I think that one really has to be a fan of the recent trend to write in a flat, unemotional, almost neurasthenic manner in order to like this book. I am not a fan of it. This book's tone reminded me a lot of Steve Rasnic Tem's Deadfall Hotel. Both books deal with extraordinary situations involving deep emotion yet felt very similar to reading the back of a cereal box. By the time I was 2/3 finished, I was near desperate with frustration for the book to end already.

Will Heller is a schizophrenic who escaped from psych lockdown in order to complete a mission to save the world. His mission is never made clear in any manner and it's not because of the frenetic, changeable manner of some forms of schizophrenia. It's because Will is an unclear cypher. His interactions with others ring false, especially his interaction with another mentally ill person who lives in the subway system. His mother, Violet, is trying to find him before the worst happens and she is helped by Ali Lateef, who is a "missing persons specialist." Neither character has any meat to them. Violet has a DUN DUN DUN big secret that spurs her on to help find her son and you will know what that secret is very quickly.

The whole book hinges on people doing inexplicable, stupid things. You expect it from Will/Lowboy. He's mentally ill and unmedicated. But Violet behaves inexplicably and in a manner that does not make even the most basic level of sense. For example, she sees two kids walking along the sidewalk and more or less tackles them before she realizes the kids are not her missing son and his ex-girlfriend. The characterization is so shaky and the writing so predictable that it's not even a spoiler to reveal that the two kids are not who Violet thinks they are.

In the most inexplicable part of this book, Ali falls for Violet and I have no idea why. No clue as to what any man could find attractive about Violet. No idea what was going on with that. None.

Interestingly, Emily, Lowboy's ex-girlfriend, was the character who got the fewest lines but was the most realized character in the book. She's a clever teenager, full of bravada, who follows the ill but attractive Will into danger. But when danger comes, she recognizes it. Wray should write a book about Emily. She was awesome.

He may have, in fact, written a book about Emily. I don't know. He has other books out but I don't think I will be reading them any time soon. I just don't like this manner of story-telling. I need more oomph. I need emotions that play out in a tangible manner. I need to understand the decisions of the sane characters. I need more catharsis than this book could offer.

Two stars because I felt a glimmer of excellent story-telling when Emily was on the page. ( )
  oddbooks | Jun 12, 2014 |
I didn't "get" this book. I know that they tried to capture the mind of a schizophrenic..but..it was just all over the place. I know..I know..I guess that's the point but really, I didn't understand what this was going for.

I had the same feeling reading this that I had when I was making my way through "The Catcher in the Rye". I know that both of these books are moreso about "the journey" and not the destination - but I just didn't see the point.

That being said, I do like Wray's style when he was writing outside of the scenes with the novel's main character, William - his descriptions of his surroundings were excellent; some overall great stuff.

I just found that a lot of the characters were annoying - frustrating even.

Ah well, can't love 'em all. ( )
  branimal | Apr 1, 2014 |
Great! An excellent book to read on the subway since there are lots of subway-related details, but I did get so engrossed in it that I missed my stop once. Characters are well drawn, believable, and likable.

The copy on the inside flap gives away too much of the plot, so beware if you're thinking about reading it. ( )
  thatotter | Feb 6, 2014 |
Lowboy is fluidly written with evocative descriptions, particularly of the city and the subway. Wray successfully navigates the reader from viewing the main character as a confused innocent, grappling to make his way in a threatening world--the paranoid part of paranoid schizophrenia that at it's more benign end hits on something almost universal, to seeing him as the dark psycho in a creepy suspense (this part of the book flirts with the feel of a mainstream suspense flick), and finally to some sad combination of the points along this continuum. He is part victim, all disturbed. The side of the story that revolves around his mother is a bit unsatisfying. The payoff is a sort of a "yeah, and...??" It's obvious. You know it all along and you're expecting some more concrete, new, and shocking revelation. If there were more to that end of the story, it would enrich the book overall. ( )
  tercat | Nov 19, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 44 (next | show all)
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On November 11 Lowboy ran to catch a train.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0374194165, Hardcover)

Amazon Best of the Month, March 2009: I'm not the first and certainly won't be the last reader to herald Lowboy for the subtle homage it pays to one of the best-known heroes in 20th century fiction, or to envy and delight in its masterful vision of New York City as seen from its darkest, most primal places. What's most seductive for me about John Wray's third novel--and arguably the one that puts him squarely on the map alongside contemporary luminaries like Joseph O'Neill, Jonathan Lethem, and Junot Diaz--is how skillfully it explores the mind's mysterious terrain. This isn't exactly uncharted land: John Wray's Will Heller--a.k.a. Lowboy--is a paranoid schizophrenic off his meds and on the lam, certain of both his own dysfunction and of the world's imminent collapse by way of global warming, but Wray handles that subtext delicately and is careful to make Will's mission to "cool down" and save the world feel single-minded without being moralistic. Wray invokes all the classic elements of a mystery in the telling, and that's what makes this novel such a searing read. As Will rides the subway in pursuit of a final solution to the crisis at hand, we meet (among others) Will's mother Violet, an Austrian by birth with an inscrutable intensity that gives the story a decidedly noir feel; Ali Lateef, the unflappable detective investigating Will's disappearance whose touch of brilliance always seems in danger of being snuffed out; and Emily Wallace, the young woman at the heart of Will's tragic odyssey. The novel moves seamlessly between Will's fits and starts below ground and Violet and Ali's equally staccato investigation of each other above. This kind of pacing is the stuff we crave (and we think you will, too)--the kind that draws you in so unawares that before you know it, it's past midnight and you're down to the last page. –-Anne Bartholomew

John Wray on Lowboy

John Wray Three years ago, not long after I'd begun Lowboy, I made a decision that--in retrospect--even I find slightly odd: to write as much of the novel as possible on the New York City subway. The reasons for this admittedly drastic step ranged from the practical (subway cars have no internet access, no cell phone reception, and next to no procrastination options) to the wildly romantic, if not outright ridiculous. Like some over-eager method actor, a part of me was convinced that I'd write about the subway more vividly and honestly if I immersed myself in it absolutely. Fully half of Lowboy's narrative takes place underground, much of it in the subway tunnels, so getting the look, smell, and feel of subterranean New York right was crucial to the book's success. It also happened to be cheaper than renting an office.

The challenges of my new workplace weren't the ones that I'd expected. I was amazed at how effectively I was able to tune out the commotion around me, simply by putting on headphones: a good playlist on my laptop was essential, but beyond that, as long as I avoided rush hour, staying focused presented no great problem. The seats in the older cars made my back hurt after a few hours, certain stretches of track in the outer boroughs were so rough that it was hard to type properly, and restrooms were few and far between, but I adjusted to those things in time. The more comfortable I got, however, the more my frustration grew, for the simple reason that the subway was starting to feel like my living room. I was becoming resistant to its strangeness: I was seeing it with the eyes of a commuter. Nothing could have been farther from the point of view of my protagonist, a sixteen-year-old schizophrenic boy, newly escaped from the hospital, to whom even the most familiar things feel alien. The harder I looked, the less I seemed to see.

I'm not sure what triggered the change that came a few weeks later, but I know that it came suddenly. I was riding the Coney Island-bound F in the early morning, staring blankly out the window at the tunnel racing past; I remember feeling bored and vaguely hungry. When I turned around, though, I seemed to be in a different car completely. For the first time, every feature of the interior had a clear purpose to me: the seats stopped short of the floor for ease of cleaning, the orange and brown tones were meant to encourage well-being, and the polka-dot pattern on the walls, which I'd never looked at closely, was in fact made up of the official seal of the state of New York, repeated countless times in brown and grey. The discovery made me a little paranoid--on the lookout, suddenly, for more signs of Big Brother's presence--which was just the state of mind I'd been pursuing. From then on, the novel all but wrote itself.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:52:30 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Possessing paranoid schizophrenic beliefs that he can save the planet from climate change by cooling down his own overheated body, sixteen-year-old New York youth Will Heller pursues a terrifying and delusional odyssey through the city's tunnels and backalleys.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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