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Josh Malerman. Del Rey, $27 (400p) ISBN 978-1-5247-9699-0

In this strange, uneven horror novel, Malerman (Unbury Carol) depicts a mad couple’s experiment in trying to separate the sexes. Deep in the woods of Michigan sits a complex full of young boys. There used to be one for every letter of the alphabet, but when J was just two, A and Z were sent to the Corner. The Alphabet Boys don’t know what that means, exactly, but they know it’s bad. They also don’t know that the world holds anything but men. Raised by D.A.D., also known as Richard, they have no idea that women exist; Richard hypothesizes that this will make them smarter and less distracted. Three miles away sits a similar complex full of girls who have no knowledge of men. As the kids reach puberty, K, a Letter Girl, starts becoming more curious about the world around her. The inevitable end is sudden and bloody. The story is narrated by J, K, and Warren Bratt, a man hired to write all the leisure books the boys read. There are parts of this book that require near-impossible suspension of disbelief; no thought is given to what would happen if one of the kids turns out to be queer or transgender, for example, and some premises go unexplained, such as why Warren has suddenly developed a guilt complex 13 years in. Fans of bad horror movies might find the story fun, but if Malerman intends it to be a serious exploration of gender or parenting, it falls far short. Agent: Kristin Nelson, Nelson Literary. (Mar.)