Reviews

Boys of Alabama by Genevieve Hudson

noahhawthorne's review against another edition

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challenging dark emotional reflective sad tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? It's complicated
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.75

Absolutely cannot stop thinking about this book, it gutted me in so many ways. But I wish it wasn't so ambiguous, and there was so much left undone.

hazel_oat's review

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3.0

what the fuck?

sam_presents's review

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dark emotional mysterious tense slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.5

jcgrenn_reads's review

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Original, vastly creative, kept me turning pages nonstop until the end

aliena_jackson's review

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4.0

I’m very confused, but I liked it.

mkw's review

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challenging tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.0

I liked the layout of the book, but not a fan of the actual story.

dreamgalaxies's review

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3.0

I have a booktube channel now! Subscribe here.

Content warnings are, as always, at the bottom to avoid spoilers.

So let me start this review with the caveat that this is NOT a YA novel. It is a coming of age novel, and one that spends a lot of time on the unique tragedies of being a teenager, but I would not recommend this book necessarily to young adults.

That being said, it's fascinating to see the divide in these reviews. I see a lot of people complaining about stereotypes, and a lot of folks praising the realistic characterization and Southern Gothic atmosphere. I think there's a little bit of both here; Hudson takes Southern stereotypes and peels back the layers, creating strong characterization and humanity within these stereotypes--the foreign exchange student, the 'witch,' the jocks, etc. I appreciated the nuance with which these characters' relationships were treated for the most part.

This was an incredibly difficult book to rate because there there was so much to like in this book: compulsive readability, beautiful prose, excellent creepy **vibes**/atmosphere, depiction of literally toxic masculinity, queer Southern teen loneliness and the hunger to fit in. I can tell a book creates an especially textured/effective atmosphere when it affects my mood after I finish it, and that was definitely the case here. The matter of fact tone contrasting with the horrifying events made the depiction of the Gothic all the more effective. Teenagers can absolutely be monstrous, and that was not treated with kid gloves here.

What didn't work so well:
- The pacing. I didn't mind the meandering plot at all; it felt very true to the teen experience of time and there was enough to keep me interested. But some of the most intense thematic material of the book--
SpoilerMax's rape, "bible camp"
and the shocking denouement--do not feel as if they are treated with the gravity and respect they deserve as the book hurtles to its conclusion.
-the central theme of "wrongness" in the South not including any analysis of race at all??? We get one sentence about how "their ancestors kept slaves" and two paper-thin Black characters. Honestly, I took a star off just for that. Having grown up in the South, I know there is so much to unpack here with an eye toward horror themes, but you just can't write a book about evangelism and prejudice in Alabama without meaningful inclusion of race.

Again, a difficult book to rate. Hudson writes beautifully and does a great job with a layered and complex narrative that seeks to unpack how 'normal' people buy into toxic cultural norms. While the characterization of Max as 'naive exchange student' may not be 100% successful, Hudson is smart to create this distance, which allows an uncertain queer outsider perspective into the hallowed halls of Southern masculinity. Despite its flaws, I enjoyed this book and I will certainly read their future work.


CWs for: homophobia, violence, rape, self harm, dead animals, Christian-based cult.

jadonm's review

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2.0

This book is as beautiful as it is not.

I loved the metaphor of belief running through this entire story. Each character worships something different - Max's mother worships science, his father worships hard work, and Pam worships Max, just as much as all the rest of Alabama worships the Judge's God. And then there's Max, the only one of the lot that's actually holy, that's actually deserving of belief. And he's not sure what side he's on. But the ending...
SpoilerThe ending leaves far too much to interpretation. I have no idea what happened at the end, or what was going on, or what to think next. Are we sure there's not another chapter in there somewhere that's missing? Come on. Seriously. Open-ended endings are one thing, but this is something else entirely.


The supporting cast was creepy and cliched, the relationship was more sad than not, and good gravy was there a lot of sexual themes (including an on-page sexual assault, so if you have ANY problem with that whatsoever, I'd recommend steering clear). I feel like a lot of this story was allegory for the sake of allegory, or the first half of a metaphor that's never properly explained. It's like it's trying too hard to impart a life lesson that it never gets around to sharing. I am very confused.

I don't know. I need a few more days to think about it. But right now, this book feels like a 2 star read.

alocalarchivist's review

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dark tense fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.75

eekayj's review

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1.0

This felt like an unfinished draft - no quotation marks, a meandering narrative that never quite landed for me, and such an abrupt ending (right when I was getting interested!). There were a lot of interesting ideas, mysteries, and characters at play, but they were either tossed aside without further examination or rushed to an unsatisfactory conclusion. I understood that the narrator struggled with English, which would explain his awkwardness in social interactions, but I was confused by how painfully naive and gullible he was.