Boys of the Beast

By Publishers Weekly

High school seniors Ethan, Oscar, and Matt share a Mexican American maternal grandmother, Grandma Lupe, and, at least initially, little else. Ethan, Jewish, gay, with a future neatly mapped out, is crushing on Levi, a boy he’s been texting for months but never met; Oscar, traumatized by his father’s death in a school shooting, is self-medicating with weed; Matt, raised evangelical Christian, dreams of film school while his father insists he attend a Christian university. The teens’ personal agendas converge at their grandmother’s funeral, and they embark on a road trip in her 1988 Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe, known as Beast, which takes them on a multi-stop journey from Portland, Ore., to Albuquerque. Zepeda’s sure-footed debut unfolds through alternating narrators and short chapters—some only a single sentence long—that include texts and snippets of screenplays. As the cousins go from mutual wariness to becoming a close-knit trio of co-conspirators and confidantes, their discussions, punctuated with fart jokes and f-bombs, are thoughtful explorations of identity; mental health issues, including self-harm; romance; and acceptance.