Reviewed by Samuel Redfearn, age 16

Boys of the Beast by Monica Zepeda

Monica Zepeda’s debut novel, Boys of the Beast, follows the story of three cousins on a road trip after the death of their grandmother. Matt is passionate about filmmaking, and wants to pursue this dream at USC, but doesn’t think he’ll be able to because his parents would prefer that he go to a more religious college. When he inherits his grandmother’s car, his parents tell him he should drive it to Albuquerque and meet them there. His cousin Oscar suggests that he and their cousin Ethan come along, and first drive to California to visit USC. Matt is hesitant at first, fearing his parents’ anger, but Ethan convinces him that just because his parents have a plan for him may not mean that it’s right for him, and the trio set off west to California. Previous to the start of the story, the trio had never gotten along very well, but as they continue their drive, they begin to learn to love one another’s company.

Boys of the Beast is full of banter, excitement, and emotionally investing journeys of character growth. The concept of a road trip is clever and allows for numerous, in-depth interactions between the characters, which the author certainly takes advantage of. However, this story fell somewhat short of my expectations for it. The book tended to shy away from direct conflicts, and only fully leaned into the potential it had for true tension and emotion at one or two places in the story. A good example of this is when Matt learns that Ethan is gay. Matt is very religious and tends to say somewhat out-of-pocket things, and while his reaction was somewhat character-appropriate, it was extremely mild and relatively non-confrontational. Especially considering the format and direction the book takes when it comes to other plot points, this moment could have been pivotal, one which sparks a discussion of identity and respect between the cousins, but which instead fizzles out. Overall, my main issues with the story come from loving the concept and a vast majority of the writing that takes place, and wanting more depth, drama, and emotional growth, which it is clear the author is capable of creating. While it may have been too tame for my liking, I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone who thinks they would enjoy such an excellent tapestry of fun, empathy, and bonding.

4 stars of 5 stars

Find this book in our catalog: Boys of the Beast 

Catalog Number: YA FIC ZEPEDA,M

328 pages