In his latest book, Boy in the Blue Hammock, Ladner author Darren Groth highlights and challenges the assumptions made about neurodiversity through the protagonist Kasper, a character inspired by his own son.
The story follows the journey of Kasper, an intellectually disabled 15-year-old boy with a limited ability to speak, and his failed-service-dog Tao making their way to refuge after police have “purged” their town and killed Kasper’s family, explains Groth.
The speculative fiction book is set during the rule of a regressive, totalitarian regime that has isolated and erupted the nation into a violent divide.
This book is one of his first intended for adults, and though he’s worked to represent neurodiversity and intellectual disability in his previous books’ characters, this is also the first one that he’s brought his son with autism spectrum disorder to the page.
“What is particularly interesting and challenging about that is, my son has really significant communication challenges, so, this idea of voice was really quite central to the story. It was really important for me to take on this challenge because my son’s community figuratively, but also quite literally, at times have no voice in society,” he says.
The “white-knuckle ride” of a story explores how society views and underestimates individuals with intellectual disabilities, particularly those who communicate differently than neurotypical people.
Groth hopes that readers will connect with Boy in the Blue Hammock and be inspired to reflect on the assumptions they personally make about people with disabilities.
From there, he encourages readers to start having conversations about the themes explored in the book with the people around them.
This latest book is one of seven other novels that Groth has written.
In 2016, he won the Adelaide Festival Award for Young Adult Literature and has been shortlisted for numerous other prestigious prizes.
Boy in the Blue Hammock will be released on April 30 and will be available at Black Bond Books in Ladner, Albany Books in Tsawwassen and other bookstores.