Title: Slake’s Limbo
Author: Felice Holman
Number of Pages: 126 (paperback)
Advertised Age Level: Ages 9-12
Age and Grade of Main Character(s): 13 years
Language: no profanity
Drug/Alcohol Use: references to kids drinking and taking pills
Violence: main character is the victim of bullies – gets chased and beat up but not described
Social Issues: bullying, child neglect, homelessness
Suggested Movie Grade: PG
Artemis Slake’s life is a series of miseries. Small for his age, he faces constant bullying and harassment from the kids at school. His guardian – an aunt – alternates between verbally and physically abusing him and neglecting him outright. His teachers think he’s dumb and worthless. He rarely has enough to eat, the glasses he needs to see beyond ten feet broke long ago, and he doesn’t have a friend in the world.
When a gang of boys chase Slake into the New York City subway system one dreadful day, Slake discovers a hole in the wall of one of the subway tunnels that leads into a small space that Slake decides to call his own. For 121 days, Slake remains underground, living off the money he makes selling discarded newspapers and the kindness of the owner and waitress at a subway diner. He becomes a master of the subway system, makes a few adult friends, gets a job sweeping the diner floor, and surprises himself with his ability to survive all on his own.
Potential Points of Concern
Slake is bullied mercilessly, chased and beaten up by boys his age. The only friend he manages to make is killed when he is hit by a truck (not described).
Slake’s guardian – an aunt-like figure – hits him and accuses him of lying and stealing. Or she is absent altogether, leaving Slake to fend for himself. There is rarely any food in the house, and Slake often goes hungry. He passes out at school from hunger.
Slake runs away from home and lives in the NYC subway system without any notice by adults or authorities.
Age Appropriateness: 9 +