Desert Boys

Chris McCormick. Picador, $25 (240p) ISBN 978-1-250-07550-5
The first-person narrator of McCormick’s engaging coming-of-age story is Daley Kushner, the son of a “severely cautious” Armenian immigrant mother who won’t let her son play paintball as a kid, growing up in Southern California. There are 12 stories, linked not only by Daley but by prominent characters in his life. The stories in which Daley, known in the book as Kush, interacts with his friends have a shaggy, circuitous, random feeling—a combination of edge and aimlessness that believably evokes adolescent anomie and angst. The opening story, “Mother, Godfather, Baby, Priest,” by far the longest, falls into this category and sets the table for what follows. Teenage Kush and his friends are grappling with issues involving sex; Kush is also queer and discovering his sexuality, which informs his outsider status in this and later narratives. Stories with a more conventional focus, such as “My Uncle’s Tenant,” about a charismatic but ultimately unsavory character Kush meets through his uncle Gaspar, benefit from the background that other stories have provided. Close friend Karinger figures at least peripherally in every story, and the penultimate one, “Shelter,” depicts a warmly amusing escapade involving the duo at just the right point in the book. A lovely, quiet book by a promising new voice. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/28/2016
Release date: 05/03/2016
Ebook - 978-1-250-07551-2
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