Boys of Alabama

Liveright: Norton. May 2020. 272p. ISBN 9781631496295. $26.95. F
DEBUT Because of the need for fiction about queer love in the conservative evangelical South, this debut novel feels necessary. Unfortunately, it is not a good book. Positioned as a Southern gothic with a dash of magical realism, it relies on short, choppy sentences and overly descriptive passages exhibiting language that’s overwrought, florid, discordant, and distracting. Max, a gay German teenager with magical powers, moves with his atheist parents to Alabama, where he joins the football team at his new Christian school. There, he meets and falls in love with Pan, a goth genderqueer student. Still, Max appears to be more interested in the Judge, a local evangelical politician who looms over the town and is more trope than fully developed character, and Max’s Germanness seems to exist solely to allow stereotypes to stand in for character development. Max’s parents are also irrelevant, hastily sketched background characters.
VERDICT Because Max is unfamiliar with the U.S. South, his experiences are described using clichés meant to represent the town’s views on gays, god, football, and liberals, with results that are both unrevealing and off-putting. Not recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 11/4/19.]

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