Boys of the Beast

By Kirkus Reviews

Reunited following the death of their beloved Grandma Lupe, three estranged teen cousins—quick-witted, aloof stoner Oscar; aspiring Christian filmmaker Matt; and Jewish nerd-in-love Ethan—embark on a road trip from Portland to Albuquerque.

Lovingly dubbed Beast by the cousins, Grandma Lupe’s 1988 Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe proves mighty useful when Matt inherits it. On the road, the three cousins learn about and from each other, sharing their lives and secrets. For 18-year-old Matt, the voyage represents a path laid down for him by God even though an excursion to California—and USC, his dream film school—doesn’t exactly fit in with his strict father’s wishes. Meanwhile, 17-year-old Ethan can’t wait to arrive at Berkeley, where he hopes to elevate his text-heavy friendship with fellow nerdy boy Levi to his first real romantic relationship. Traumatized by the loss of his father in a school shooting, 18-year-old Oscar uses the road trip as an excuse to delay a reckoning with his knotty past as he self-medicates with weed (and other drugs). Starting off as mere character sketches, the three Latinx cousins (Matt has a White father) soon develop into fully endearing heroes thanks to Zepeda’s deft, potent writing. Alternating short chapters from each teen’s perspective packs nuance and depth in this quick read splashed with melodrama and humor. Though heavy-handed on occasion, overall this tale soars.

Like a missive from the soul.