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Little Beasts


In this evocative debut, the accidental murder of an eight-year-old forces a working-class community to face its demons.

$15.95 $11.96

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What people are saying…

Included in Library Journal‘s Books That Buzzed at BookExpo America Roundup, the first word on titles and trends from Barbara Hoffert, Editor

“McGevna’s debut novel captures the familiar rhythms of summertime, following young people on the edge of violence.”
Kirkus Reviews

“A serious, searing debut novel by a wonderful new writer.”
Book Riot

“The reader knows one of the three will be a victim, but not which one, and we read with our hearts in our throats as we grow closer to each boy. . . . In the aftermath of that day, McGevna shows us how the brutality and tragedy of that event affect the families . . . There will be justice, of some sort, and even redemption. But, as in real life, there is no happy ending.”
Reviewing the Evidence

“A gripping exploration of teenage alienation and temporary depravity.”
East Hampton Star

“All it takes is one or two characters to carry you through to the heartbreaking end—a finale that offers enough hope and redemption to equal the book’s climatic horror.”
The Chattanoogan

“Tremendously affecting . . . . A powerful story about redemption . . . . McGevna is tremendously talented, and created a vivid picture of place and time, populated by characters who are far more complex than you think.”
It’s Either Sadness or Euphoria

“Perhaps we could all use a moment to stop and breathe sometime, before we say or do something we regret. You might find yourself thinking back to this book, long after it’s done. And that is the mark of a good book.”
A New Day

“Here is Matthew McGevna’s Little Beasts, a story about growing up in the 1980s and making one’s way into the world. It’s all here: discovered ambition; poignant exasperation; abundant mistakes and triumphs and regrets. And what turns out to be the bitter downward path to wisdom. Matthew McGevna has given us a great gift. Superb.”
—Larry Heinemann, author of Paco’s Story

Little Beasts is a serious novel about lost teenagers with questionable futures and just about no adult guidance. Inevitably they take their confused and violent emotions out on each other, which leads to tragedy. A serious and compelling debut.”
—Robert Ward, author of Red Baker

“Mathew McGevna’s Little Beasts gives us the people of Turnbull, New York, as their own tragedy begins to envelop them. And in the sure hands of this gifted young novelist, we know them well enough to feel the history in our nerve-endings—we live it. This is a brave, beautiful book.”
—Richard Bausch, author of Before, During, After


The latest from Akashic’s Kaylie Jones Books imprint.

Turnbull is a working-class town full of weary people who struggle to make ends meet. Evictions, alcoholism, and random violence are commonplace. In the heat of July 1983, when eight-year-olds James Illworth, Dallas Darwin, and Felix Cassidy leave their homes to play in the woods, they have to navigate between the potentially violent world of angry adults and even angrier teens. Little do they know that by the end of the summer, one of them will lay dead, after a bit of playful bullying from older teens escalates to tragedy.

Loosely based on a real crime that took place on Long Island in 1979, Little Beasts is a panorama of a poor, mostly white neighborhood surrounded by the affluent communities of the East End. After the murder, the novel’s main characters must come to grips with the aftermath, face down the decisions they’ve made, and reestablish their faith in the possibility of a better world.

Kaylie Jones is the award-winning author of five novels and a memoir. She teaches writing at two MFA programs and lives in New York City.

Read interviews with Matthew McGevna at Newsday and the New York Daily News.

Read a guest post by Matthew McGevna on what he’s reading at Writers Read.

Listen to an interview with Matthew McGevna on Reading & Writing’s podcast.


Book Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Published: 7/7/15
  • IBSN: 9781617753473
  • e-IBSN: 9781617753701


MATTHEW McGEVNA was born and raised in Mastic Beach, Long Island. Born of Irish descent, he attended fiction and poetry workshops in Galway, Ireland, through the University of Arkansas Writing Program. He received his MFA in creative writing from Long Island University’s Southampton College in 2002. An award-winning poet, McGevna has also published numerous short stories in various publications, including Long Island Noir, Epiphany, and Confrontation. He currently lives in Center Moriches, New York, with his wife and two sons, Jackson and Dempsey. Little Beasts is his first novel.

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