cover image Little Beasts

Little Beasts

Matthew McGevna. Akashic/Kaylie Jones, $15.95 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-1-61775-347-3

A teenager’s frustrated crush and a squabble between schoolboys form the framework of this subdued debut novel. Playmates James, Dallas, and Felix scrap with a group of youthful foes in their working-class Long Island town; in a nearby garage, angry teenage artist David Westwood nurses his longing for the pretty Julia, with her “small, upturned nose.” The characters contend with the usual assortment of family demons and troubles—parents struggling with alcoholism, financial problems, burdensome religion—until at last David and the kids face off in a fight that has irreparable consequences. Despite the intriguing plot, it’s difficult to work up any feeling for the story’s hapless players. The point-of-view shifts are often confusing, and anachronisms dim the glow of the nostalgic 1980s setting. Loosely based on a true story, the novel piques curiosity about a long-ago crime, but doesn’t quite bring it to life on the page. (July)