Enter your mobile number below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
Getting the download link through email is temporarily not available. Please check back later.

  • Apple
  • Android
  • Windows Phone
  • Android

To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.

FREE Shipping on orders with at least $25 of books.
Only 8 left in stock (more on the way).
Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. Gift-wrap available.
We the Animals has been added to your Cart
FREE Shipping on orders over $25.
Condition: Used: Good
Comment: Ex-library book. The item shows wear from consistent use, but it remains in good condition and works perfectly. All pages and cover are intact (including the dust cover, if applicable). Spine may show signs of wear. Pages may include limited notes and highlighting.
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See all 3 images

We the Animals Hardcover – August 30, 2011

3.8 out of 5 stars 259 customer reviews

See all 13 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
New from Used from
"Please retry"
"Please retry"
$1.78 $0.01

Intrusion: A Novel
A loving couple, grieving the loss of their son, finds their marriage in free fall when a beautiful, long-lost acquaintance inserts herself into their lives. Learn More
$18.00 FREE Shipping on orders with at least $25 of books. Only 8 left in stock (more on the way). Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. Gift-wrap available.
click to open popover

Frequently Bought Together

  • We the Animals
  • +
  • Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America
Total price: $31.01
Buy the selected items together

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, September 2011: We The Animals, Justin Torres's sparse debut novel, is brimming with delicate stories of family, of growing up, of facing reality, and of delaying it. Narrated by the youngest son of a Puerto Rican father and white mother from Brooklyn raising their three young sons in upstate New York, the novel is comprised of vignettes detailing moments spent in the eye of the ferocious bubble of home. Torres paints a large picture through diminutive strokes, evoking envy for the couple’s passion and fear for just how easily that passion turns to rage. The brothers wrestle, fight, cry, and laugh as their family is torn and repaired over and over again. Torres’s prose is fierce, grabbing hold of the reader and allowing him inside the wrenching, whirlwind of a life lived intensely. --Alexandra Foster


"We the Animals is a dark jewel of a book. It’s heartbreaking. It’s beautiful. It resembles no other book I’ve read. We should all be grateful for Justin Torres, a brilliant, ferocious new voice."
—Michael Cunningham

"Some books quicken your pulse. Some slow it. Some burn you inside and send you tearing off to find the author to see who made this thing that can so burn you and quicken you and slow you all at the same time. A miracle in concentrated pages, you are going to read it again and again, and know exactly what I mean."
—Dorothy Allison

"In language brilliant, poised and pure, We the Animals tells about family love as it is felt when it is frustrated or betrayed or made to stand in the place of too many other needed things, about how precious it becomes in these extremes, about the terrible sense of loss when it fails under duress, and the joy and dread of realizing that there really is no end to it."
—Marilynne Robinson

"We the Animals snatches the reader by the scruff of the heart, tight as teeth, and shakes back and forth—between the human and the animal, the housed and the feral, love and violence, mercy and wrath—and leaves him in the wilderness, ravished by its beauty. It is an indelible and essential work of art."
—Paul Harding, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Tinkers

"We the Animals marks the debut of an astonishing new voice in American Literature. In an intense coming-of-age story that brings to mind the early work of Jeffrey Eugenides and Sandra Cisneros, Torres's concentrated prose goes down hot like strong liquor. His beautifully flawed characters worked their way into my heart on the very first page and have been there ever since."
—Tayari Jones, author of Silver Sparrow

"We the Animals is a gorgeous, deeply humane book. Every page sings, and every scene startles. I think we'll all be reading Justin Torres for years to come."
—Daniel Alarcon, author of Lost City Radio and War by Candlelight

"A strobe light of a story...I wanted more of Torres's haunting word-torn world..."
New York Times Book Review

"Justin Torres' debut novel is a welterweight champ of a book. It's short but it's also taut, elegant, lean — and it delivers a knockout."
—NPR's Weekend Edition

"A slender but affecting debut novel by Justin Torres...[a] sensitive, carefully wrought autobiographical first novel...The scenes have the jumbled feel of homemade movies spliced together a little haphazardly, echoing the way memory works: moments of fear or excitement sting with bright clarity years later, while the long passages in between dissolve into nothingness. 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."
New York Times

"The communal howl of three young brothers sustains this sprint of a novel, which clocks in at a hundred and twenty-five pages. The boys, who imagine themselves the Musketeers, the Stooges, and the Holy Trinity all at once, are the wisecracking, lamenting chorus who bear witness to their parents’ wild-ride marriage. Ma got pregnant at fourteen—she tells her oldest son she could feel him growing inside her, ‘heart ticking like a bomb'—and now sleeps for days at a time and weeps whenever she tells her children she loves them; Paps, occasionally AWOL, surfaces to deliver meticulous, leisurely spankings. The collage of vignettes is elevated by Torres's twitchy prose, in which the pummel of hard consonants and slant rhymes becomes a kind of incantation: ‘They hunched and they skulked. They jittered. They scratched...They'll flunk. They'll roll one car after another into a ditch.'"
New Yorker

"The best book you'll read this fall...We the Animals, a slim novel—just 144 pages—about three brothers, half white, half Puerto Rican, scrambling their way through a dysfunctional childhood, is the kind of book that makes a career....Torres’s sentences are gymnastic, leaping and twirling, but never fancy for the sake of fancy, always justified by the ferocity and heartbreak and hunger and slap-happy euphoria of these three boys. It’s a coming-of-age novel set in upstate New York that rumbles with lyric dynamite. It’s a knock to the head that will leave your mouth agape. Torres is a savage new talent."

"First-time novelist Justin Torres unleashes We the Animals (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), a gorgeous, howling coming-of-age novel that will devour your heart."
Vanity Fair

"A novel so honest, poetic, and tough that it makes you reexamine what it means to love and to hurt. Written in the voice of the youngest of three boys, this partly autobiographical tale evokes the cacophony of a messy childhood—flying trash-bag kites, ransacking vegetable gardens, and smashing tomatoes until pulp runs down the kitchen walls. But despite the din the brothers create, the novel belongs to their mother, who alternates between gruff and matter-of-fact—'loving big boys is different from loving little boys—you’ve got to meet tough with tough.' In stark prose, Torres shows us how one family grapples with a dangerous and chaotic love for each other, as well as what it means to become a man."
O, the Oprah Magazine

"The imagistic power of Justin Torres’ debut, We the Animals (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), exists in inverse proportion to its slim 128 pages. Just try shaking off this novel about three upstate New York brothers whose knockabout childhoods with their Puerto Rican "Paps" and white "Ma" are the narrative equivalent of feral kitties being swung overhead in a burlap bag."
Elle magazine

"A kind of heart-stopping surge of emotion and language in this musical tornado of a novel."
—Pam Houston in More magazine

"Justin Torres’ debut novel, We the Animals, does a lot more than just get read. In a mere 124 pages, it shouts, beatboxes and flirts; it lulls only to shock awake; it haunts and creeps and surprises. If Torres’ book were an object, it would be a BB gun spray-painted jungle green. If it were a sound, it would be something like Kanye West circa "808s and Heartbreaks" reinterpreting Maurice Ravel’s "Bolero." Torres, a 31-year-old graduate from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a current Wallace Stegner Fellow, writes in a voice that combines urgency, brutality and huggable cuteness that creates a pungent new voice both endearingly frightening and difficult to categorize."

"[We the Animals] packs an outsized wallop; it's the skinny kid who surprises you with his intense, frenzied strength and sheer nerve. You pick up the book expecting it to occupy a couple hours of your time and find that its images and tactile prose linger with you days after...what stays with me are the terrible beauty and life force in Torres' primal tale."

"That such a young author writes so well in his debut novel seems miraculous. Few books can match the trifecta pulled off in We the Animals: simplicity married to artistry and candor. For this reason, along with others noted here, this book could not be more highly recommended."
New York Journal of Books

"Short sentences. Short chapters. Short book. But wow! What a powerful piece of fiction. Justin Torres’ We the Animals is a tough little novel about three brothers growing up as the neglected, beloved sons of a Puerto Rican father and a white mother who works the graveyard shift in a brewery and sometimes doesn't know what day it is. It's daring and funny and a little scary, and it nails the competitive bond among siblings better than any book in recent memory."
The Oregonian

"Telling the story of three mixedrace brothers growing up in New York state, Justin Torres’ debut novel, We the Animals, is a quick, raw, punchy read....memorable and vivid"
Dallas Morning News

"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. Urgency in fiction is easily faked—kill off the protagonist's parents in the first sentence, or do away with dependent clauses, or use the second person—but Justin Torres’ We the Animals is actually 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."
San Francisco Chronicle

"Filled with rich detail, tableau-like scenes, and true-to-life little boy adventures, We the Animals is a must-read novel. Torres’ evocative language grips the reader, each scene bringing the boys to life, reminding us of our own childhoods and our struggles to grow into strong men and women."
San Francisco Book Review

"It takes only a single paragraph of Justin Torres’ We the Animals to announce a powerful new voice in literary fiction....This short, sharp shock of a debut novel, based on the author's experiences growing up poor in upstate New York, is like a viscous liquor that both burns and braces."
Arizona Republic

"It’s rare to come across a young writer with a voice whose uniqueness, power and resonance are evident from the very first page, or even the very first paragraph. It does happen every once in a while, though. And it’s happened again, just now, with the publication of We the Animals, a slender, tightly wound debut novel by a remarkable young talent named Justin Torres."
Washington Post

"Justin Torres’s slim volume We the Animals comprises a series of seminal moments from a young boy’s life, which are revealed in brilliant, searing flashes; its relatively few pages contain the arc of an entire childhood...As a debut, We the Animals proves that Torres is not only a novelist of deep empathy, but one with the ability to compress this feeling into prose until only the truest and most essential kernels remain."
Time Out New York

"A slim book can hold volumes. We the Animals, the first novel from Justin Torres, is such a book. Not an ounce of fat on its slight frame, but the story is sinewy. Stong....We the Animals crafts beauty out of despair. From lives so fragmented they threaten to break off into oblivion at any moment, Torres builds a story that is burnished, complete. That takes talent, diligence and more than a little grace."
Houston Chronicle

"We the Animals is a book so meant to break your heart that it should lose its power just on the grounds of being obvious. That it pierces—with an arrow dipped in ache—signals that Justin Torres is a writer to embrace from the start. This is his first novel."
Newark Star Ledger

"Torres has spilled onto the scene, big beating heart in hand. The book is short because it must've been absolutely exhausting to write. But that doesn't matter because you'll read it three times. But most of all, We the Animals will enrapture the literary world, as it should, because of its lyricism. It feels like reading James Agee by lightning strike."
Arkansas Times

"We the Animals conveys the raw honesty of a child trying to figure everything out: hunger, love, loneliness, injustice, sex, the weather, desire, poverty, vulnerability, brutality, abandonment, loyalty, brokenness, yearning, fear, and, maybe, hope. 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."

"Justin Torres’ first novel, We the Animals (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 144 pages), carries all the balm and hazard of strong waves at high tide. Told through the eyes of the youngest of three brothers, the novel evokes the experience of youth and the struggles of a poor family from Brooklyn living in upstate New York. Through his enveloping and fast-paced prose, Torres bestows his story with a rare generosity and honesty, portraying the family’s jagged love—with all its cruelty, beauty, tenderness, and loyalty—and chronicling the events leading to the family’s calamitous fragmentation."
ZYZZYVA: The Last Word: West Coast Writers and Artists

"Three brothers and a dueling husband and wife are bound by poverty and love in this debut novel from Stegner Fellow Torres...The short tales that make up this novel are intriguing and beautifully written"
Publishers Weekly

"An exquisitely crafted debut novel—subtle, shimmering and emotionally devastating...the narrative voice is a marvel of control—one that reflects the perceptions and limitations of a 7-year-old in language that suggests someone older is channeling his younger perspective. In short chapters that stand alone yet ultimately achieve momentum, the narrator comes to terms with his brothers, his family and his sexuality, separating the "I" from the "we" and suffering the consequences. Ultimately, the novel has a redemptive resonance—for the narrator, for the rest of the fictional family and for the reader as well. Upon finishing, readers might be tempted to start again, not wanting to let it go."

"Fiercely gorgeous...In a style that reaches the level of poetry, We the Animals is a hymn for what is lost; for what we leave behind and what never leaves us. Belying brevity, Torres has crafted a beast of a book, stretching its paws and flexing its tail, a creature that is simultaneously elegant and ferocious."
Publishers Lunch

"Justin Torres's first-rate prose will leave you gut-socked and breathless, with a lump in your throat...the writing is exquisite, making the painful trip so worthwhile...A touching, frightening story of three boys who grow up amid neglect, poverty, violence and occasional moments of pure, radiant love."
Shelf Awareness Pro



New York Times best sellers
Browse the New York Times best sellers in popular categories like Fiction, Nonfiction, Picture Books and more. See more

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 126 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (August 30, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780547576725
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547576725
  • ASIN: 0547576722
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (259 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #601,221 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Related Media

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Rick Mitchell VINE VOICE on July 27, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book was well on its way to one of my year's best. It is a stirring and touching memoir novella of a family not so uncommon. The parents entered parenthood as teenagers. She gave birth at ages 14, 15 and 17. The mother works the graveyard shift at a brewery and the father works when he can. This is a saga of kids (ages 7, 9 and 10) growing up in poverty with parents who were probably never ready to be parents. The story has all the manic swings of emotion that comes with such a family. Mr. Torres captures the love, the fear and the violence in all their permutations in a unique and terrific style. The accounts of the family can be breath-taking, for good and for bad.

But then suddenly in the last 15 pages the gears shift to the adulthood of the youngest child. The shift is incongruous and does not fit. It seemed self-indulgent on the part of the author after he had kept an interesting distance as an adult writing about a seven year old. The ending was terribly disappointing to me. I went from loving this book and rushing to the next page while wishing it to go on for much longer to tremendous disappointment.

The first 90% of the book is so great that it overcomes the ending, so I still recommend it. I am quite sure that there will be some who will love the ending. For me, though, it just did not fit and detracted.
9 Comments 134 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
It's rare that I read a book without occasionally skipping a page or two of long-winded description. It's even more rare that I am able to finish a book--read it cover to cover--in a noisy waiting area while small children scream about ice cream and machinery whines in the background. We the Animals is the book that broke my mold.

This is not a light little romp, despite its brevity, so be prepared for a raging ride through a mess of a childhood. The three "animals" and their dysfunctional, impaired parents are not your average kids. But, then, Justin Torres is not your average writer. There is something in his words that digs into the reader's spirit, twists around and spits out a direct link to the mind of a child in bizarre circumstances. I felt the childish mind at the other end of the words, and it was an amazing experience. Autobiographies and memoirs try their best to accomplish, often in much longer strings of words, this feat, and most fail. There is something magical in the construction of this little book, and one can only hope that Torres has more like it growing on his hard drive. Painful, beautiful, touching, and funny, We the Animals deserves reading and Torres deserves fandom.
1 Comment 58 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Reading Justin Torres's WE THE ANIMALS, I couldn't help but think of Sandra Cisneros's THE HOUSE ON MANGO STREET. In fact, my hunch is that this is Torres's version of that book moved to Brooklyn and written from the point of view of a boy. From vignette to vignette, you piece together the picture, until finally, at 125 slim pages, your editors consider it enough to be coined a "novel." No, Torres does not surpass his mentor, but he has his poetic moments. Sometimes these moments fail and become "workshop" moments, wherein you sense the lineage (in this case, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, among others) of the author and how it makes the words smell of the writing workshop copying machine, but other times the writing actually comes alive.

In the beginning we are introduced to a dysfunctional family (de rigueur these days) consisting of a wife-beating Puerto Rican dad ("Paps"), an unpredictable white mother ("Ma") and the Three Musketeers (the boys -- at the book's beginning, ages 7 to 10). The ages are not insignificant. As the tone and voice of this book is often wise and clever, one begins to wonder how the young narrators manage it. I realize that authors often claim it is the "voice of wisdom looking back," but the dialogue portions were a bit advanced, too, and -- in the "narrative dream" -- what was said then was said then.

Early on, Torres utilizes the first-person plural "we" point of view, accenting just how close these brothers are and how they behave (well, mostly misbehave) almost as a single entity. They witness their parents engaging in activities and violence that most of us do not, then show the effects in their own behaviors, all as you'd expect. This is Torres's slant and what gives the book its charm.
Read more ›
7 Comments 77 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When I heard Justin Torres read from this book on "The Diane Rehm Show" (NPR), I knew I had to buy it and read it immediately. In fact I read it in a single sitting because I just could not put it down. By the way, it is a very short book, a small book, with a very big theme.
When Ms. Rehm interview the author, she asked about how much of it was autobiogrpahical. Mr. Torres didn't answer the question directly, but suggested that much of it is based upon the experiences of the author, the youngest of three boys brought up in up-state New York by their Irish-Italian-American mother, a young teenager when the first son was born, and a Brooklyn-raised Puerto Rican. Some is made in the book--call it a grouping of stories if you wish or a loose novel--about the skin tones: the white mother, the dark father with an afro, hinting that he has descended from slaves brought to that island.
I love that this is told from the point of view of the youngest child, the son who mixes it up with his older brothers but is also not quite like them, the one who is afraid to learn to swim, for example.
These people live not exactly in poverty, but you know the parents just don't have a chance of moving beyond where they are both emotionally and economically. "Ma" works in a brewery. "Paps," because of his emotional makeup, doesn't hold jobs any too long. This is, if you will, a story about light (white) and dark (black} with moments of a family with enough love for each other to keep themselves going and yet always the edge of the darkness emerging. In one story Ma refuses to answer the phone. She knows it is her husband. She has feed her sons all she can, all she has: each a bowl of soup and a plate of crackers to be shared. And the phone rings and rings and rings.
Read more ›
1 Comment 27 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse

Most Recent Customer Reviews

Set up an Amazon Giveaway

We the Animals
Amazon Giveaway allows you to run promotional giveaways in order to create buzz, reward your audience, and attract new followers and customers. Learn more about Amazon Giveaway
This item: We the Animals

What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?