Dexter means “skilled in workmanship, industrious one”
Matthew 10:16 (KJV) —“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves”
When Dexter's mother, Nell, is killed in a drive-by shooting, the 12-year-old leaves the city and comes to Ashboro to live with his grandfather, Officer Charlie. Dexter had already lost his grandmother in the Burnt Swamp fire when he was two, and his father to cancer in 2005. Dexter and Gavin quickly become buddies—not because they have so much in common, but because Dexter has the integrity and spiritual maturity that God and Uncle Warney know Gavin needs in a friend.
You'll find Dexter always has a pocket full of gum or candy or mints—something to chew and to share. He's a people-person, and this helps him satisfy his giving nature. He struggles with perfectionism and, by quickly admitting it, thinks it's an okay problem—but is it?
This young African-American, a quiet sort of kid with a quiet sort of strength, comes across more like a grown man than a kid because of his genius-level IQ, godly values, and squeaky-clean character. Dexter was considered an oddity in the ghetto community, but that's where his parents chose to live for two reasons: the low-cost housing allowed them to send Dexter to private school and sit under the End Times teachings of Pastor Abe, the preacher they had followed to the city from Ashboro ten years ago after he lost his wife and daughter in the Burnt Swamp blaze.
Dexter puts up a pretty convincing front in public because he is determined to be an “overcomer” who is serious about trusting God not matter what. But, because he is a kid who analyzes and intellectualizes nearly everything, he has so spiritualized his parents' deaths that it has made him numb to the need to grieve. Insecurities and unanswered questions rage within his small frame. Even though he has the ability to discern good and evil, he hasn't been able to come to terms with the malevolence that swirls around him and around Burnt Swamp—not yet, anyway—not deep down, not in his heart, not when he closes his eyes at night all alone in his bed.
He's into computers. Being new in school and highly literate, ethical, honorable, polite, and generally Christ-like, it won't be long before the kids at Sunken Bridge start calling him “geek,” “nerd,” “egg head,” or “dork.” It's inevitable. But Dexter won't mind. Or at least that's what he will try to convince himself.