cover image Boys of Alabama

Boys of Alabama

Genevieve Hudson. Liveright, $26.95 (304p) ISBN 978-1-63149-629-5

In Hudson’s luminous debut novel (after the collection Pretend We Live Here), a German teenager with a supernatural power moves to Delilah, Ala., with his parents. Max delightfully takes in the “exotic” sights— rivers “rushing like arteries cut open across the earth”; a Confederate flag flying from a truck. Despite Max’s mother’s unease, Max adjusts easily to his new life by joining the high school football team, though the homophobic culture causes him to question his burgeoning feelings for his friend Pan, a goth outsider from school. Max reveals his power of resurrection to Pan by reanimating a dead squirrel. After Max gets caught up in a fervent evangelical group led by a man known around town as the Judge, his parents weigh their concern about his involvement with the Judge against their support for his efforts to find himself. (“The Judge man called his supporters a Christian army,” his mother exclaims to his father. “He’s trying to draft our son!”) After Pan tells Max about the dark side of the Judge’s evangelism, it pushes him to help resurrect people who can speak the truth about the Judge, putting both Max and Pan in danger. While the conclusion feels rushed, leveraging the characters’ strong bond in service of a melodramatic climax, Hudson writes tenderly about cultural displacement, toxic masculinity, and friendship. This complex tale achieves a startling variation on the theme of teenage rebellion. (May)