In this Southern Gothic tale, a German teenager with a supernatural power moves to Delilah, Alabama. Although Max outwardly fits in by joining the high school football team, his burgeoning feelings for his friend Pan, a goth outsider, puts him at odds with the homophobic culture in which he lives.
[Hudson] unravels her stories with a slow, measured pace; she is equally fascinated with the quotidian as she is with magic; and her plots and sentences twist in ways the reader rarely sees coming ... Hudson, originally from Alabama, paints the setting with absolute care and richness ... The setting is lush, and the protagonist is lived-in, but I had some trouble keeping track of the many boys in young Max’s orbit. The football team is made up of Boone, Lorne, Wes, and Knox—monosyllabic boys who feel mostly interchangeable. I wish they could have been shaded as deeply as Max’s artist mother ... Hudson writes about these boys with more than an anthropological interest; she writes about them with awe ... The conclusion might be anticlimactic, but I guess literary fiction doesn’t owe its readers the same resolution as a straightforward superhero story, and Hudson more than makes up for a lack of plot with a memorable main character and a unique spin on the coming-of-age story ... Watching Max come to terms with his differences, watching him yearn for understanding, meaning, and a place in the world is a joy, despite the heartbreak that is inevitable in adolescence.
... powerful, poetic ... a beautiful book that carries the reader along on a tide of rich, eloquent language. We experience Alabama through all of Max’s senses. It can be beautiful or ugly, fragrant or putrid, depending on his mood. He has the sensitivity of a poet or artist, and Alabama native Genevieve Hudson’s intense, rich imagery captures the light and dark, color and drabness of the Alabama Max experiences. Through his eyes and Hudson’s language we see the malignancy of a perverted Christianity and brutal masculinity festering in the deep South.
... [a] unique coming-of-age tale ... ension escalates, the novel’s tone becomes foreboding—but the ending is still a shocker. This is a little southern gothic, a little supernatural, and a little reminiscent of Wiley Cash’s suspensful A Land More Kind than Home (2012).