We the Animals

Torres, Justin, 1980-

Book - 2011
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
We the Animals
"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"--Provided by publisher.

Publisher: Boston : Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011
ISBN: 9780547576725
Branch Call Number: FIC T
Characteristics: 128 p. ; 21 cm.


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Feb 03, 2015
  • madison382 rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

This book really takes you on a journey you will not likely forget for a long time.

May 13, 2014
  • multcolib_alisonk rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Let's face it - books that you remember long after you've read them, the ones that make you turn your clock to the wall so you won't know that dawn is approaching and you've stayed up all night reading - those books are few and far between. This is one of those books.

Having grown up with two brothers, I was sure the author was capturing the chaos, fearfulness and bravado of boyhood. And as a child surrounded by boys and living in a place where we had the autonomy to come up with haphazard schemes that often put us in real danger, I felt a real sense of returning to childhood, a world that many adults have forgotten or idealized into a safe, sweet and carefree world.

Nov 23, 2013

This short book is a good one to read for style, so all you aspiring writers out there, take note. The prose is so lyrical and spare that it often reads like poetry, yet there’s a strong narrative quality there, too, making it read like a “page turner.”

It’s telling that the author spent time at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. That place is famous for turning out great stylists. Just look at the list of graduates:


My one criticism of "We the Animals" would be that the “narrative arc” makes too much of a detour at the end of the story, and that the characters’ actions don’t synch with any reasonable expectation the reader might have had. They do things that are out of character and therefore, somewhat unbelievable. This often happens with younger writers who try to stuff a full novel between the covers of a novella: The book reaches the end before the story does, and when this happens, the author is forced to leap over chapters and chapters’ worth of plot and character development, just to get it all in there.

* * * * *

This book could be categorized under number of genres, including:

-Latino writers / Latino subjects (Torres is Puerto Rican)
-Young writers
-Gay Lit
-Coming of Age

It will appeal to people who also like Marilynne Robinson, Tobias Wolfe, J.D. Salinger . . .


P.S. It’s not about animals.

Oct 20, 2013
  • uncommonreader rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

This short (125 pages), autobiographic novel is about three brothers born to teenage parents, a white mother and Puerto Rican father. Their family life is intense and told in a mosaic of images, like memory. The youngest (unnamed) son breaks away from the family as an adolescent. Although there is some violence in their lifes, there is also tenderness and love. Torres writes well, although at times it verges on the precious. Nevertheless, recommended.

Jan 10, 2013
  • Pisinga rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

It is really sad. Why people have children if they cannot take adequate care of them?
There is no excuse for being cruel and neglected parents just because you are struggling to provide for you family and were born in a poor neighbourhood and your parents were also cruel to you. It is horrible but it is a reality that similar things from this book are happening right now around the world. what kind of humanity are we creating?

Dec 17, 2012
  • Michael Colford rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Highly personal and fierce fictional account of three brothers growing up with a slightly lost white mother, and a macho Puerto Rican father. Justin Torres creates some powerful imagery as the boys range, play, fight, and grow up trying to figure out their place in the world.

Jul 22, 2012
  • catpdx rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

A well written poetic book that is enjoyable but felt somewhat predictable.

Jun 22, 2012

Torres' writing is so visceral and vivid. You see every scene. The boys' POV feels almost absurdest at times. Brilliant. Read it!

Feb 10, 2012
  • ksoles rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Rarely do I read a book without skimming the odd paragraph of superfluous detail. Even less frequently do I read a book that keeps me so engaged in the doctor's office that the receptionist has to call my name twice before I can tear myself away from its pages. But "We The Animals" defies all trends and norms.

Justin Torres has not written a plotted novel per se; the book presents a series of vignettes, close-ups on moments in the lives of three brothers. These scenes contain heartbreaking violence, beauty, tenderness and wild, manic joy all at once. Written in spare, evocative language, "We The Animals" contains not a single superfluous word in its short 125 pages. Deeply poetic but free of frills, Torres' writing is an act of careful and exact construction that grabs hold of the reader and refuses to let go.


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