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Bill Beverly. Crown, $26 (304p) ISBN 978-1-101-90373-5

Beverly (On the Lam: Narratives of Flight in J. Edgar Hoover’s America) makes his fiction debut with a dazzling crime novel that’s equal parts coming-of-age tale à la Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye and travelogue à la Kerouac. East, a 15-year old gang member from South L.A., sets out for Wisconsin with three other teenage boys at the behest of his uncle, on a mission to kill a key witness in an upcoming trial. Along for the ride is East’s brother, Ty, an emotionless killer at 13. The revelations experienced by the young men as they drive cross-country through America’s heartland are life changing, and in some cases, life ending. The narrative is simultaneously coldhearted and lyrical. For example, the dark, abandoned houses in a neighborhood known as the Boxes are described as “a row of loose teeth,” and planes flash “like blades” in the morning sky. Readers won’t soon forget East and his bloody journey of self-discovery and, ultimately, salvation. Agent: Alia Hanna Habib, McCormick & Williams. (Apr.)