We the Animals by Justin Torres
Set in upstate New York, We the Animals is a novella that tells the coming-of-age story of three brothers of mixed race as they struggle with an often volatile up-bringing. The protagonist and narrator of the story is the youngest brother, who eventually breaks away from his family and their chaotic world.
Reviewer: Rigoberto Gonzalez
"This brief but extraordinary novel defies easy categorization, but in it Torres demonstrates a mastery of prose seldom encountered in first books. It's an exhilarating beginning for a young writer."
Reviewer: Andrew Palmer
"Here's a first novel that reads like one, not because it's amateurish or unsure of itself - it's neither - but because it's urgent....Urgent not to tell us anything or to make a particular point, but, like a living thing, to be what it mysteriously needs to be, to fulfill the promises it makes to itself."
Reviewer: Jeff Turrentine
"“We the Animals” isn’t perfect....Still, none of this can take away from the fact that Justin Torres is a tremendously gifted writer whose highly personal voice should excite us in much the same way that Raymond Carver’s or Jeffrey Eugenides’s voice did when we first heard it."
Reviewer: Matilda Bernstein Sycamore
"Each chapter is a tiny, carefully crafted vignette, a story both elegant and raw, vibrant and incomplete. Rarely has a writer developed the child's-eye view with such intimate vulnerability and emphatic restraint."
Reviewer: Kevin McFarland
"Using sparse language and brutal imagery, Torres achieves a brutal kind of lyricism, stitching together scenes of domestic violence, vandalism, and vacation into a patchwork of family misery....Torres has crafted a fine debut that lives up to his credentials, pointed in all the right places and ending just at the right time."
Reviewer: Charles Isherwood
"From the patchwork emerges a narrative of emotional maturing and sexual awakening that is in many ways familiar...but is freshened by the ethnicity of the characters and their background, and the blunt economy of Mr. Torres’s writing, lit up by sudden flashes of pained insight."
Reviewer: Joseph Salvatore
"Revealing secrets and changing lives at the end of a story serves an author — and reader — best when we get a little more setup than Torres has offered. But this critique actually speaks to my own hunger and want. I want more of Torres’s haunting, word-torn world — not less."
Reviewer: Andrew Martin
"The book's only serious stylistic flaw is a tendency towards occasional "lyrical" overwriting and overstatement that makes certain themes more obvious than is necessary. The trope of the boys as animals—stated in the title, and referenced repeatedly throughout—is particularly tiring. They're animals; we get it. But this is a small annoyance."
Reviewer: Alex Preston
"Torres's prose style is unctuous, dense with metaphor and surprising imagery....The novel loses some of its edge as the story coalesces into a more traditional narrative and a rather predictable ending."
Reviewer: Patrick Ness
"He mostly eschews plot in lieu of a series of captured moments to build a mosaic of their lives, and the world-building is deft, the scenes sharply drawn. But this is also a very heavy-handed book, far too self-consciously serious in its style, and it lays on its symbolism with unnecessary thickness."