We the Animals

We the Animals

by Justin Torres
4.0 68


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We the Animals by Justin Torres

An exquisite, blistering debut novel

Three brothers tear their way through childhood— smashing tomatoes all over each other, building kites from trash, hiding out when their parents do battle, tiptoeing around the house as their mother sleeps off her graveyard shift. Paps and Ma are from Brooklyn—he’s Puerto Rican, she’s white—and their love is a serious, dangerous thing that makes and unmakes a family many times.

Life in this family is fierce and absorbing, full of chaos and heartbreak and the euphoria of belonging completely to one another. From the intense familial unity felt by a child to the profound alienation he endures as he begins to see the world, this beautiful novel reinvents the coming-of-age story in a way that is sly and punch-in-the-stomach powerful.

Written in magical language with unforgettable images, this is a stunning exploration of the viscerally charged landscape of growing up, how deeply we are formed by our earliest bonds, and how we are ultimately propelled at escape velocity toward our futures.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780547576725
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 08/30/2011
Pages: 144
Product dimensions: 8.10(w) x 5.40(h) x 0.62(d)
Age Range: 14 Years

About the Author

Justin Torres grew up in upstate New York, where this novel is set. His work has appeared in Granta, Tin House, and Glimmer Train. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he is a recipient of the Rolón United States Artist Fellowship in Literature, and is now a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford. He has worked as a farmhand, a dog-walker, a creative writing teacher, and a bookseller.

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We the Animals 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 67 reviews.
beachlover20855 More than 1 year ago
I wasn't quite sure what to expect from the slim volume of We the Animals by Justin Torres. How was it going to live up to the high praise; how forceful and convincing can a story be that ends when other similar books are just getting started on their storytelling journey? But, as the saying goes - good things come in small packages and I was enthralled by this amazing debut novel. Torres wastes no time getting the reader engaged and committed to his tale. We the Animals tells the story through a series of vignettes of three brothers growing up in upstate New York. The story is narrated by the youngest brother as an adult looking back on his childhood. It is through his eyes we experience the brothers' adventures, the turbulent marriage of his parents - a white mother and Puerto-Rican father, and the eventual coming-of-age of the narrator as an "I" instead of a "We." Torres provides an intimate portrait of a family in crisis set against the restraints imposed by themselves and society. While reading I felt like I was looking through a family album with the narrator and at each picture he stopped and told me the story behind the snapshot. Each story portrays the pain and love in their lives, as they struggled to make sense of who they were in the world, how to they take what is dished out to them and what does survival look like. The most painful stories were those where a situation started out as a joyous event, but an ugly twist soon ends the happiness. The narrator patiently, in an aching yet lovely voice, takes you from how he was a full "we" with his brothers - all for one and one for all, to his budding realization that he just might not be the same as his brothers and informs us, "They smell my difference - my sharp, pansy scent." This keeps building until a single event at the end is in many ways the culmination of the trauma, hurt and love the family feels for each other, yet they each know their world will never be the same again. We the Animals is a forceful debut that will invade your thoughts long after you have read the last word, as the author's storytelling is spellbinding. The portrayal of the household that is intense, chaotic, and loud is set by the controlled tone of narrative, and this provides grace to the dark lyrical prose. I recommend this book to readers who enjoy the structure of language to tell a story. This book was provided by the publisher for review purposes. Reviewed by Beverly APOOO Literary Book Review
Hickgal More than 1 year ago
The story of three brothers as told from one brother's point of view. But what truly grabbed me was the writing. Justin Torres writes so beautifully. Not a single word is wasted. I would read paragraphs over again just because I loved the language so much. The story is so emotional and the ending will take your breath away.
Kee58 More than 1 year ago
Unusual and stunning. The usual descriptors don't apply. Read it. It's a quick, compelling evening of reading after which you'll look up amazed at what you've experienced.
TiBookChatter More than 1 year ago
I had mixed feelings with this one. I was impressed by its fierceness. It's brutal and honest and the images that Torres creates are unforgettable. He definitely has a way with words and it's obvious to me, that he poured a lot of himself into these boys when creating these characters. But, the format of the novel is not like traditional novels. It's really a collection of vignettes and one of the things that I noticed right off, is that as soon as I found myself fully absorbed, Torres moves on to the next scene which left me sitting there, wanting more. This is a debut novel for Torres and it was beautifully written and parts of it literally made my heart ache, but I feel as if he experimented a bit with what to include and what not to include and perhaps it was too lean. At just 144 pages, I think he had room to not only scratch the surface, but really give us a feel for his narrator as the story is told from the youngest brother's point of view. This is one of those instances where the writing won me over. Although the structure of it didn't work for me, I was taken with the prose and I had no trouble appreciating the amount of work that went into constructing each, and every sentence. Broken apart, each sentence could stand on its own, which made it almost like reading a poem, if that makes any sense at all. In the end, I would absolutely read another novel by Torres and I'm glad that I had a chance to experience his writing.
SheilaCE More than 1 year ago
We the Animals is a coming-of-age story like nothing I've ever read before. It is sometimes shocking, sometimes funny, heartwarming and maybe even a little scary because of how it affects you on such a personal level. Three boys, raising hell in Brooklyn, following in the footsteps of passionate parents, doing everything they can think of, making chaos, loving fiercely. It almost felt like I was a peeping-Tom into the window of someone's very private family life. Sometimes I wondered what motivated them, then that was answered in the next breath as they held tight to each other. The book is not very long. You can easily read it in a day. Don't think you can skim it though because it is too emotionally electrifying to be able to just skim over pages. Every page is important. Every word. Justin Torres seems charming and full of life and perhaps a little innocent. This book is for anyone who wants to be challenged to think about family ties and how our early years affect us.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an intense little book. After I read the last page and closed the cover, it felt like thunder had just gone off overhead.
CoCoVanAron More than 1 year ago
I was consummed by the pages and heartbroken after each event. I found myself cheering the "boys" on only to be let down by one of the parents. I wanted it to end. I did not want it to end. This book made me feel like a good parent by the time I finished.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Most books are a good story and the author drops the ball when writing the ending. This is not the case here. There is a weird twist I won't give away, but the book takes an unexpected turn that I still have not wrapped my brain around. I still haven't decided if I like the ending yet. Maybe that is a good thing because books rarely make you think anymore....
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was anticipating this book as I had heard a good review and an interview with the author. I found it to be trite and I read it to the last page waiting for something to draw me in, either with emotion or with craft but I found nothing to recommend it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I don't know what to think of this book. The one thing I am certain, is that it is similar to The Bluest Eye. It was an okay read with lots of events that kept the plot interesting and urged me to keep reading. The author does an amazing job in telling the story of this family
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Sbrant1 More than 1 year ago
Beautifully writing, like a poem. I savored the language and was swept up by the way it opened like a flower, revealing itself bit by bit. More, Mr. Torres, more!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The heading says it all.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What a terrible ending. And I don't mean in terms of a gripping ending. It was nonsensical; flat; ugly. The descriptions were not even human like. Just ugly words that told no story in the end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I would not have purchased had I known it was a short story! The description should have made that clear. The writing was choppy and the ending was horrible.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I hate it. if i could do 0/5 stars i would do that
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a beautifully written first novel. I loved every single word. Mr. Torres is a an excellent writer and this is going to be a hard act to follow.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Torres crafts beautiful prose that makes him an unforgettable author, and all on his first novella. Truly worth reading over and over again. Deserves 10/5 stars
livelifelow More than 1 year ago
The lyric simplicity of his diction, the intensity of his voice, and his ability to infuse an emotional response into every word astounds me.