by John Wray

Hardcover(Large Print Edition)

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Early one morning in New York City, Will Heller, a sixteen-year-old paranoid schizophrenic, gets on an uptown B train alone. Will is on a mission to save the world from global warming—to do it, though, he'll need to cool down his own body first. And for that he'll need one willing girl.

Lowboy tells the story of Will's odyssey through the city's tunnels, back alleys, and streets in search of Emily Wallace, his one great hope. It also follows his mother, Violet Heller, as she tries desperately to find her son before psychosis claims him completely. Violet is joined by Ali Lateef, a missing-persons specialist, who learns over the course of the day that more is at stake than the recovery of a runaway teen: Will Heller has a chilling case history, and Violet—beautiful, enigmatic, and as tormented as her son—harbors a secret that Lateef will discover at his own peril.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781602854451
Publisher: Center Point
Publication date: 04/28/2009
Edition description: Large Print Edition
Pages: 380
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

John Wray is the author of two critically acclaimed novels, The Right Hand of Sleep and Canaan's Tongue. He was named one of Granta magazine's Best of Young American Novelists in 2007. The recipient of a Whiting Award, he lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Reading Group Guide

The following author biography and list of questions about Lowboy are intended as resources to aid individual readers and book groups who would like to learn more about the author and this book. We hope that this guide will provide you a starting place for discussion, and suggest a variety of perspectives from which you might approach Lowboy.

About the Book

Early one morning in New York City, Will Heller, a sixteen-year-old paranoid schizophrenic, gets on an uptown B train alone. Will is on a mission to save the world from global warming—to do it, though, he'll need to cool down his own body first. And for that he'll need one willing girl.

Lowboy tells the story of Will's odyssey through the city's tunnels, back alleys, and streets in search of Emily Wallace, his one great hope. It also follows his mother, Violet Heller, as she tries desperately to find her son before psychosis claims him completely. Violet is joined by Ali Lateef, a missing-persons specialist, who learns over the course of the day that more is at stake than the recovery of a runaway teen: Will Heller has a chilling case history, and Violet—beautiful, enigmatic, and as tormented as her son—harbors a secret that Lateef will discover at his own peril.

1. How does the author demonstrate in writing what Will is going through, what the world looks and feels like to him? How does the tone and style in Will's sections differ from the sections that follow Lateef or Violet?

2. How much responsibility do you think Violet bears for what happens to her son? How much of his behavior is genetically driven, and how much is a result of Violet's influence and the circumstances of his upbringing?

3. Look at the scene in the cupcake shop on pages 130-133. What goes wrong in Will's communication with the girl behind the counter that sets him off? What are some of the triggers throughout the story that cause Will to lose touch with the world as others see it?

4. How did your thoughts about Violet change over the course of the novel? What clues did the author give that she might not be what she seemed? Have you ever known someone who concealed a mental illness from the people in his or her life?

5. What attracts Will to the subway?

6. What were your impressions of Dr. Kopeck? Do you think he has Will's best interests at heart? What are some of the challenges that might arise in treating a patient like Will?

7. On page 157 we learn that Lateef "hadn't been able to make up his mind to catch [Will and Emily]. He still couldn't make up his mind?" What's holding him back? What's particularly difficult about this case for him? Do you see any connection between the relationship between Will and Violet and Lateef's own upbringing?

8. What kind of portrait does the novel give of New York City? Do you think the city itself has a strong influence on the deterioration of Will's mind?

9. What draws Emily to Will? Why does she agree to see him—and travel with him over the course of the day—despite his earlier behavior?

10. How do you interpret Will's markings in the magazine Violet finds in his room? Why do you think he connects sex to the idea of global warming and saving the world? Does any of this trace back to his life with Violet or his time in the hospital?

11. Will's illness often prevents him from seeing essential things about the world around him, but he also has sensitivities that other people lack. Do you see signs that Will is gifted, as well as disturbed? What elements of the world does he pick up on that others are likely to miss?

12. What do you think happened to Will in the hospital? Does the account of his time there line up with your understanding of how patients are treated in mental hospitals? How well do you think our health care system provides for people with mental illness?

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Lowboy 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 37 reviews.
AlaskanReader More than 1 year ago
This is a brilliant book about a schizophrenic adolescent who has run away from a psychiatric facility. A detective and his mother are looking for him. The chapters are juxtaposed between those from his voice and perspective and those from the voice and perspective of his mother and the detective. I have never read a book that so accurately gets into the mind of a schizophrenic. As a clinical social worker who often works with the seriously and chronically mentally ill, I can say with surety that John Wray gets it. The book is mesmerizing and difficult to put down. Lowboy, nickname for the protagonist, loves subways and he is riding underneath the bowels of Manhattan trying to keep one step ahead for the real and imagined enemies that are following him. Meanwhile, as his mother and the detective search for him, they are developing a relationship of their own. I am not a fast reader but I read this book in two days and bought three more copies to give to friends. It is a rare and wonderful find. John Wray's writing is brilliant.
Jon_B More than 1 year ago
A fairly quick but still thought-provoking read, Lowboy is part family drama, part exploration of mental illness and subjective reality, and part examination of New York City - in particular, its subway system - as a layered and mysterious breeding ground for impossible myths that intrude upon the real world. There are a lot of critics, writing teachers, and others who complain about "unreliable narrators" especially when it comes to the mentally ill, and this book is an excellent example of why those complaints shouldn't be taken too seriously. There are three central characters in this book, and none of their perceptions of reality can really be trusted as objective, though there are of course varying degrees. But the conflicting and yet overlapping worlds these characters live in - and the ability of the city itself to ill in the gaps and make any perception "true" - is fascinating to watch as the story unfolds. Anyone looking for more technical or historically accurate portrayals of the underground should probably look elsewhere, because while much of this book takes place in the tunnels underneath NYC, it's much more the subway system of urban myth than one of reality, with some additions of Wray's own such as a non-existent underground river running across Manhattan. But because of its very strong connections to the true atmosphere of the place the book has a way of making even the more improbable underground scenes feel like potential everyday events.
tcarter on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The path of this is novel is set by a young man, who has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, as he escapes from his carers into New York's subway system on a mission to save the world. That path is also being trodden, always a half step behind, by a Missing Persons detective and the boy's mother. I'm still not sure if this book is a work of genius or just of cleverness. There is no doubt that it sucked me into its world and caused me to reel as I was caught up in the shifting sands that form the characters' perspectives. But, it didn't leave me reeling because it seemed to peter out rather than climax. On further reflection I may come to see that it's bathetic lack of resolution is part of it's inherent and necessary ambiguity, but at the moment it feels like a cop out.
wulf on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
From the early chapters of Lowboy, I anticipated that this would be a detective thriller; that is what meeting a policeman with a penchant for code-breaking suggests. In that respect, I was disappointed - this isn't a police procedural or even much of a thriller.It is, however, a novel of psychology. In particular, it travels through the subterranean thoughts of its eponymous protagonist but also his mother, his "girlfriend" and the detective who is charged with tracking the absent Lowboy down.It reminded me a little of J D Salinger's "Catcher in the Rye". In the grand scheme of things, not all that much happens but the course of the story does lay a disturbed mind open for examination. For action or detection, look elsewhere but, for a study of some people and their thinking, this work has literary merit.
heidialice on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
William, aka Lowboy, a New York teen, suffers from the paranoid delusions associated with schizophrenia. In the fever of his delusions, he leaves the mental hospital where he has been a patient for 18 months, and goes on a mission to save the world. Meanwhile, his mother reports him to the police, and the case gets assigned to Detective Ali Lateef in the Special Category Missings section. The novel alternates between Lowboy's experiences, those of Lateef, and those of William's mother, Yda Heller, aka Violet, as the latter two pursue the former.This novel has high ambitions, and partly succeeds. What the author does best is capture the claustrophobic inner world of William, under full sway of his paranoid delusions. He also succeeds in a secondary theme of questioning the definition of mental illness: while William is a clear-cut case, the others in the story question themselves and each other. Who is sane, and who decides? And how much does it matter? Unconvincing to me was the actual plot of the book: while tension builds throughout the chase, much of the action is implausible, and the climax doesn't really resonate with the emotional intensity of the rest of the book.
arubabookwoman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
[Lowboy] is kind of an updated Catcher in the Rye, but its protagonist (Will) is a paranoid schizophrenic teenager who has escaped from a mental hospital. We travel with him for a day as he rides the subways and walks the streets of New York City, on his mission to prevent the imminent (as in within hours) end of the world. As the day wears on, and his medications wear off, Will descends deeper into psychosis. He has committed violent acts in the past, and may try to repeat some of those acts.He is pursued by Detective Ali Lateef and his enigmatic mother Violet, always one step behind him. The subway itself also becomes a character, and Will "interacts" with other riders (he is after all one of those subway riders a lot of us are wary of sitting next to), and with some of the subway "dwellers." While the book may sound like a thriller/mystery/detective story, it is actually a collection of character studies of several lost individuals, including Will, Detective Lateef, Violet, Heather a homeless subway dweller, and one of Will's school friends.I liked the book, but I'm afraid that it might not be to the taste of some readers. In the end it is rather bleak, and all the characters are sad. The reader is left with no hope for a better future for any of them
SqueakyChu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A distraught mom contacts the New York City police because her 16-year-old son Will, diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, has escaped from the facility in which he was living. Officer Ali Lateef joins Mrs. Heller in her efforts to locate her son who happens to be spending most of his time riding throughout the city¿s subway system. In his quest to save the word from imminently overheating, Will tries to find his friend Emily whom he considers his perfect solution to this problem.In the fractured way the story is told, I started out ready to dislike it. However, when I let myself just read the narrative without forcing too much sense out of it, I began to picture the world in the disjointed way a schizophrenic person might possibly experience it. What I was not prepared for was the sheer intrigue of the story. Once I got to know the main characters, I was driven to see what the outcome of the chase after Will would be. I just let the story carry me along until I got nearly to the end when I started reading with a frenzied pace.There were parts of the story that just seemed so human and ¿right¿ to me. First, there was the mother¿s overprotectiveness of her ¿problem¿ child. In addition, we had Will¿s attachment to his mother whether he wanted to be attached to her or not. Friend Emily was attracted to Will even though she knew she should not be. Like any teenager, she let her heart rule her head and thereby put herself into an unforeseen and troubling situation. Last, I thoroughly enjoyed reading about how Officer Lateef dealt with the mom. It could not have been an easy job for him. I know this was just a novel, but he seemed so real.Strangely enough, I read most of this book on my DC Metro subway commute to and from work. Even if others don¿t have a subway commute, I think this story is original and entertaining enough to merit a reader¿s attention.
alexann on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I put this aside about p. 90. The chapters from Will's (or Lowboy's, as he prefers to be called) perspective are pretty intriguing, although reminiscent of ...Dog in the Night-time. Lowboy apparently is schizophrenic rather than autistic, but the feel is very similar. He's decided to go off his meds, and escaped from the institution--I'm wondering what will happen to him. But the chapters about his mother and the detective have not held my attention.
bruchu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Inside the Mind of a Teenage Schizophrenic"Lowboy" has all the ingredients for an outstanding book, a great setting, interesting complex characters, and intense suspense. However, I believe that this will make a much better movie than it does a novel which is why I haven't rated it higher.Having said that, one has to give John Wray a ton of credit for tackling such a complicated project as a novel. And certainly there are some great parts of the book that I thoroughly enjoyed.The characters which include a teenage schizophrenic are probably too complex to be accurately portrayed through the written word. But, Wray makes up for it through his intricate details of the New York Subway system in which most of the book takes place.Overall, I felt that John Wray did as much as he could given the complexity of the characters and story. I definitely look forward to reading more of his work in the future.
captom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"Lowboy" hits on so many diverse issues yet ties them together in an intricate quest of a sixteen year old runaway as he tries to save the world. His world view is skewed in that schizophrenia has re-wired his brain and scrambled his outlook. To Wray's credit, he does not romanticize the illness and is credible in describing it. This is only one component that furthers a story involving the chasers (the boy's mother and an otherworldly policeman), a girl friend, and various characters on the New York subway. Enjoy a many layered novel that puts together an interesting story.
janewylen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A page-turner about a schizophrenic boy who escapes from a mental hospital and leads a police man on a merry chase. A surprise ending. Although the book is fun to read, the plot and the writing are not up to the four star level.
billmcn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm still looking for the definitive description of what it's like to be schizophrenic. Lowboy isn't it, but it has its moments. There are two intertwined stories here, schizophrenic sixteen year-old Will's journey through New York City and his pursuit by his mother and a missing persons detective. The first of these is the strongest: everything is filtered through Will's point of view, and the mismatch between what he perceives and what we can puzzle together to be actually happening provides a compelling view of schizophrenic thought processes. The latter is weak: too much expository dialog, characters that never quite snap into focus, and a twist that if you can't see it coming from a mile off, you can at least see it from twenty or so pages. I think it would have enjoyed the novel better if it had jettisoned the mother, the detective, and the thriller plot that takes over in the last half and focused entirely on Will's fractured experience of the world. Not great, but compelling descriptive prose and stretches of New York City picaresque make me curious to see what else John Wray has written.
iluvvideo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Interesting book. The story of a schizophrenic 16 year old boy, who escapes from his 'school' (hospital ward) and takes to the subways of New York City to do what he needs to do. That is to stop global warming! The story read fairly easily, written in a stream of consciousness style that fit Lowboy's thought processes. Unfortunately, by the last third of the story, it became tedious and the plot lost stem. There is mention of a major plot twist toward the end, so I kept reading. Boy, was I underwhelmed! The twist had very little to do with any plot development and was not worth the wait. Now this is not to say the whole experience was tedious. Far from it. Lowboy's travels from early home life, the onset of his mental illness and the circumstances surrounding his hospital confinement were done very well. It just seemed the story bogged down toward the end.
Jubercat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I found Lowboy to be a compelling read. It switched back and forth between the mostly unreliable point of view of the schizophrenic, off-his-meds, main character, and the detective who is trying to find him before he hurts himself, or anyone else. I agree with other readers that there was no real "secret" revealed at the end. (That was just a marketing ploy in the book description.) But it is an interesting, off-kilter story that focuses on the marginalized people of society (the mentally ill, the homeless) and on two people (Ali and Emily) who, I got the impression, had been somehow damaged by life and are drawn to the mother and son who temporarily offer them a different view of the world.
Girl_Detective on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Will Heller is a 16yo schizophrenic who has stopped taking his meds, and run away from his caretakers to ride the NYC subway. This book is many things: psychological mystery, coming-of-age tale, and meditation on global warming are just a few. Initially, the comparison of Will to a famous NYC roaming schoolkid named Holden was most obvious to me. As the tale unraveled, though, I was put more in mind of Hamlet and Raskolnikov. This is a smart, scary, many-layered tale. I enjoyed and admire it a great deal.
smorey on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really liked the idea behind this book but the actual execution has left me wanting. I enjoyed the first 2/3 of the book; however, once the paranoid schizophrenia really ramped up my desire to keep reading dropped off. Paranoid schizophrenia is a complex and overwhelming disease and being engrossed so completely inside of it is disorienting and tiring. If Wray's objective was to give the reader some insight into what it is to suffer with this illness then I think he came very close to hitting the mark. On the other hand, if the he was trying to ramp up the drama for a big finish he lost me along the way because I was too busy trying to find/follow the storyline inside the chaos of Lowboy's mind (among other things that I won't mention so as not to spoil). Overall I would recommend this book with the caveats that: its last half is not a "light read" and the reader will not walk away with any warm fuzzy feelings.
mariacfox on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Few books in my collection receive the esteemed honor of becoming underlined/highlighted. I knew right away this would be one of them. A fantastic look into a schizophrenic teenager's mind, this book was compelling beautifully written. The writing alternates between a stream of consciousness style and a more sterile narrative approach so the reader gets a glimpse into the main character's mind as well as the world around him and those involved in his life. This book is a definite contemporary to Catcher in the Rye but no less original; I would highly recommend it!
pbadeer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Having no personal experience with paranoid schizophrenics or their thoughts, I cannot speak to whether Lowboy is a work of true genius or simply bizarre. Sorry to say, taking it only on its literary merits, I¿m going with bizarre.William Heller (aka Lowboy) is a paranoid schizophrenic who has stopped taking his medication and has re-entered the real world. The problem is: he wasn¿t supposed to do either. The book alternates chapters between Points of View of Lowboy and the Missing Persons specialist assigned to his case. As Will¿s medication continues to wear off, the chapters using his voice become more chaotic ¿ one of the more obvious literary techniques used (or at least one of the few techniques I understood) ¿ and more disturbing. At the same time, those trying to help him know that it is also a matter of time before Lowboy loses control and they are afraid of the consequences. Unfortunately, not everyone who is supposed to be helping is actually proving helpful and those chapters become frenetic as well. In the end, the book takes on the profile of a fast paced thriller where you don¿t really understand what you are enthralled by. As chapters unfold, an undercurrent of a mystery arises, and that mystery is what kept me tied to the book. I was convinced that there would be a breaking point where everything would start making sense. I was wrong.
theanalogdivide on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I suppose I liked this book enough. I know that's not much of an endorsement, but there are a number of pieces that don't quite fit together for me. Maybe it's because the last few books I've read all tread familiar territory, but I'm having a lot of trouble giving this one a fair shake. Then again, many of the elements that seem familiar seem to have been done better in other books, and a few of the other elements are simply stylistic tropes that have always bugged me in contemporary fiction. Call it decent, but flawed.
vpfluke on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Although already reviewed a number of times on Librarything, I want to say something about its appeal to me as a pulbic transportation novel. Will Heller is a very disturbed boy of 16, who has found his unique metier as a denizen of Manhattan subways (hence his monicker, Lowboy). The author tries to inhabit the interior mind of Lowboy, and show how someone who is very different functions both in thinking and doing. His mother and a NYPD detective try to "rescue" him back to a "special home", as he successfully eludes them in his adopted environment. The challenge for me is to see if I can figure out where he is in the subways and do I personally recognize where he is.
pensivepoet on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Personal opinion is I would prefer something more complicated or moving than this book. Familial relationships, mental health issues, new york city -- all of it is more complicated and moving than this book. What we have here is a 16 yr old individual with schizophrenia off his meds meandering through new York, overstuffed with incongruous observations as one would expect from someone experiencing psychosis. There is also a detective stock character into ¿solving puzzles¿ set with the task of finding the young man. Accompanying is a frail dowdy mother character that we find out later also has a mental health history. There has been a previous incident of the boy pushing a girl onto the train track during a psychotic break. The girl and lowboy are written to having a typical teenage puppy dog love right in the middle of the detective + mother¿s quest for finding the AWOL lowboy. An end event concludes the novel that at least to me, was predictable. Ending not included for spoiler¿s sake. Although Lowboy¿s thoughts are engrossing and possibly a good mirror for the experience of those experiencing psychosis, similar more complete accounts are available in equally heartbreaking nonfiction forms. And on top of that, mental illness need not always be a tragedy punctuated by comedic points, as it is in this book. Beyond the brief tragic romance between lowboy and Emily (token girl crush), I was not entertained nor educated by this book. And even in the small sad love story between teenagers - how many times can a girl fall for the ¿crazy¿ boy with issues? The book is meticulously crafted and conceptually OK. But it won¿t surprise you if you have any experience with individuals with mental illness/mental health literature. No more. No less.
citatel on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Imagine a film you've decided to watch until the very end, even though it's so bad that you absolutely hate every second of it. Now imagine it's a book and instead of 90 minutes the pain lasts for 9 hours. Or more.
mscott1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Although this was a beautifully written book, the story did not intrigue me as much as other similar books such as "The Caveman's Valentine" or "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close". The characters just did not appeal to me. They were all too distant. However, as I said, the book is incredibly well written.
bragan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A schizophrenic sixteen-year-old boy escapes from a mental hospital and takes to the New York subway system in the belief that only he can prevent the imminent end of the world. It's an excellent, believable portrayal of a schizophrenic mind, effectively written and blessedly free of the usual pop culture stereotypes. This boy isn't a soulless psycho, a holy fool, or entertainingly wild 'n' crazy, and he doesn't have colorfully cartoony hallucinations or "Surprise, that wasn't real!" plot-twist delusions. He's just a thoughtful, intelligent teenage kid whose perceptions of reality are strange and broken and sad.The other characters, unfortunately, are rather less convincing, and there's a vague sense of artificiality to much of it that made the book harder to engage with than I would have liked. At least, that's true up until the last hundred pages or so, when some sort of invisible switch flipped in my mind, and I suddenly found myself utterly gripped by it for reasons I'm still not entirely clear on, but am not complaining about.
Destinee_C More than 1 year ago
I will admit that at times this story can get weird and a bit confusing, but you should not let that stop you from reading such a great book. I'm just a high school student, and I thought this book was wonderfully written. I picked up this book because I thought it was very interesting and different that the main character has schizophrenia, and I wanted to see how an author would develop such a character. I think Wray did a great job on this book. The story is truly unique and even though that Will's character starts to lose a bit of his sanity as the story progresses, I have to say that I fell in love with the character Will; the author really does a great job at telling the story of a runaway schizophrenic. This book is so good that it actually remains one of my favorite story. Don't let the bad reviews keep you away.