by Mattox Roesch
Roesch's offbeat debut is set in Unalakleet, Alaska, population 700, a destination that seems like the end of the world for teenage L.A. gang member Cesar Stone, uprooted by his mother after his older brother catches a murder conviction and a life sentence. Navigating without his brother or father, Cesar dwells on regrets while attempting to find himself in the refuge of his mom's native Alaska. Aggrieved at leaving L.A., but also relieved to be free from the gang's demands, Cesar bonds with his older cousin Go-boy, a Native with an optimistic outlook that belies personal tragedies. Go-boy bets a homemade tattoo of Eskimo Jesus that Cesar will stay in Alaska for a year, where he believes Cesar truly belongs. After becoming accustomed to Go-Boy's peculiar dependability, Cesar begins to see troubling changes in his cousin; as he charts Go-boy's drift, he begins to see himself changing as well. Roesch's compelling story, exotic setting and eccentric characters make this coming-of-age tale a fresh, welcome read.
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