Little Beasts by Matthew McGevna
Akashic Books: 7/7/2015
eBook review copy, 288 pages
Little Beasts by Matthew McGevna is a highly recommended novel loosely based on a real story.
Eight year olds James Illworth, Dallas Darwin, and Felix
Cassidy are doing what any kids would do in the summer of 1983 in
Turnbull, a working-class Long Island town. They watch an eviction. They
assign themselves characters to play Star Wars. They find a stray dog
as a mascot. They play in the woods by their houses. They plan to steal
fort building materials from another gang of kids (and get into a
fight). They try to appease the adults in their lives, answer if their
mothers yell for them, and avoid the sullen, angry teens that always
seem to be hanging out. They are busy children, serious about their
friendship and playing with each other.
David Westwood is hanging out with his friends, other 15 year old teens.
David is a budding artist, but finds himself at odds with others at his
high school. Other students have given him the nickname "Red" and have
accused him of hating America and being a Communist. David doesn't agree
with their assessment, but he plays the role. Although he has a group
of friends, he is really a loner, trying to fit in, looking for
acceptance. He pines for Julia, who may or may not be his girlfriend.
While our group of eight year olds has a horrible fight with other kids,
the teens are struggling with their own social issues. The next day the
two groups meet with fatal results.
McGevna does a great job describing the feelings of the kids out and
about, trying to stay out of the way of trouble and doing their own busy
work of being children in the summer. When the view switches to the
teens, he also manages to capture the bullying and teen angst David is
experiencing. Although it is well written and the inner workings and
pitfalls that must be avoided in both the lives of the kids and the
teens is clearly portrayed, I wasn't sure exactly where the novel was
heading. There is a lot of lead up to the tragedy, which doesn't happen
until you are well into the second half of the book.
In the end this is a fine summer novel or a great airplane book. It will
keep you reading, the writing and descriptions are great, and, although
you have to wait a bit too long for the horrible turn of events to
happen, McGevna skillfully handles the subsequent aftermath.
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy
of Akashic Books for review