...[Vinocour] makes her case delicately, every page offering an incriminating new piece of evidence, scientific fact or court case that demonstrates just how unjust our legal system is to anyone suffering the misfortune of mental illness ... Nobody’s Child dismantles troubling legacies in our legal and mental health systems while also illuminating shortcomings in our approach to child protective services, foster care and incarceration — not to mention social ills like racism, poverty, gender and educational inequality. It is not, however, a prescriptive book. Vinocour offers no road map for how we might do better, just a long hard look at what we’ve done and where it’s brought us. But this is also the book’s power: the knowledge that we have done this to ourselves, created this system of trap doors. Vinocour leaves us there, blinking in the wonderment of our own madness.
The result is as engrossing as a mystery novel. Vinocour uncovers the numerous points at which the social safety net might have helped Dunn and even saved Raymie’s life, but failed to do so due to prejudice, apathy, and underfunding. While it’s clear that Vinocour is an experienced, compassionate professional, she uses some dehumanizing language about Dunn and other people with mental disabilities...Despite these failings, Nobody’s Child is an eloquent indictment of a legal system that makes little accommodation for the mentally ill, particularly those—like Dunn—who are already at a disadvantage based on skin color or socioeconomic status.
Though the author has changed many 'identifying details,' making it uncertain that the events unfolded, as she writes, in Rochester, New York, and other pertinent facts, the story is unquestionably a page-turner, and revealing the ending would be a spoiler. It’s fair to say, however, that in this case, nobody wins ... A satisfying courtroom drama that hits the sweet spot between good storytelling and sharp legal analysis.