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Showing 11-20 of 159 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 281 reviews
TOP 500 REVIEWERon August 30, 2011
How to describe this book? A mere summary of the plot, revolving around a Puerto Rican father and a white woman who both love and hurt each other, is a part of the book. Then there are their three children, boys who have to navigate through the turbulence of their family. And yet no description conveys the powerful way the writing grips readers..or, at least, gripped me...and allowed me to enter a unique family's life.

Again, it is the writing, spare and yet intense, that makes this novel stellar. The boys who cherish silence, so rare, as their "secret game" and who want both more...and less, depending on the day and moment. More warmth on cold nights. Less work and noise. Peace from their mother's erratic behavior.

The words are so simple that most could be read by a child. This is fitting since the tale is portrayed primarily through descriptions of the boys' world. They do not lead conventional lives and often run wild. They reside in so much chaos. But there are beautiful moments although so many are poised on the knife edge of danger. Some moments slip into terror.

This is a short book but far from a simplistic one, in spite of its brevity. I thought of each chapter as a kind of short story, all interconnected by the family portrayed in the novel. It is a family well worth glimpsing and a rare chance to see beyond so- called conventional life to one that can leave you amazed. You will want to know how these wild boys face the outside world. I'll leave that up to you to discover.
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on August 7, 2014
When I first read this book I did not like it. It does not have conventional prose. Each chapter could stand alone as not really a story but as a sketch or an impression. It did not engage me and I moved on with a negative impression. Then I heard an interview with Justin Torres and he spoke of his inspiration from poetry and mentioned a specific poem by Emily Dickenson "after great pain, a formal feeling comes". His discussion, reading the poem, then reading the book again I now admire the book very much. It is original in form and content and very poetic. I really don't know how to rate the book because it is not comparable to other novels. Read it if you are interested in experimental fiction or literature that requires you to work a bit.
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on August 17, 2012
Grade: C+

L/C Ratio: 80/20
(This means I estimate the author devoted 80% of his effort to creating a literary work of art and 20% of his effort to creating a commercial bestseller.)

Thematic Breakdown:
40% - Dysfunctional family relationships
30% - Reality of poverty
20% - Coming of age
10% - Brotherhood bonding

I imagine there is an early draft of We The Animals that is a little more captivating and a little more accessible than the final version of Torres' debut novel. My guess is that either the author or his editor spent a great deal of time whittling down the plot to make it seem as subtle and nuanced as possible.

What that leaves us with is a short book (you can finish it in an hour) comprised of loosely connected sketches detailing what feels like fictionalized memories from Torres' own youth. Torres is purposefully unclear about the timeline of the scenes, and doing so prevents the tepid climax from making any kind of honest impact.

The writing - specifically the use of a child's perspective - is powerful enough to convey the depressing atmosphere of the characters' household, but after a while the lyrical nature of Torres' language feels forced and unnecessary instead of poetic.
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on July 29, 2013
The subject of the book is extremely simple: it is the story of a poor family, where the father is latino, and the mother apparently Caucasian. We follow the younger son's narration of how the three brothers grow up. That's it.

Almost. The book is extremely well written (that's the author first book), and despite the lack of real action, it is a page turner,
You'll be taken by the story, the time to open the few first pages.

I only gave four stars because I disliked the end, and wouldn't have made so much fuss around this book.
The book is fine, but in no way captivating, because nothing really happens.
I still recommend the book.
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on January 17, 2013
Torres has written very candidly about his childhood. A trio of brothers, animals in an unstable house, the boys beat each other, tease each other, and defend each other. Torres begins his memoir at the age of seven, when his mother begged him not to grow up and grow away from her as his older brothers had and ends with his staggered memories of being locked up in a mental hospital upon coming out to his family. It was very difficult for me to get into the short stories at first, but as it is a short book that I read in one day, by the end I was hooked. I think when I have read other memoirs of this style, they have been people I was familiar with and could easily picture, while I have no familiarity with Torres at all. All in all, I think it was a great, easy, and interesting read. I would be interested to read whatever Torres publishes in the future.
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on June 28, 2016
J. Torres has an amazing gift of verse. His story telling skills take you to a time when children played with carefree abandon and sometimes lived on the edge. Parenting was lax to today's standards but other areas were kept dark and secret. A wonderful read that takes you on a journey with a surprise at the end. You will feel the need to read this one again once done to figure it out.
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on March 20, 2016
I enjoyed the beginning of the book. It was a very quick easy read. But...there were many unanswered things/ episodes.
The end of the book was very disconnected, scattered and disturbing.
I can not recommend this book mainly due to the disturbing end.
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on July 10, 2012
It's always a pleasure finding a new author, especially one with this much trained and inate talent. From the first page, this book courses forward in an inescapable stream of vignettes that tie together into a beautiful coming-of-age story in a loving, dangerous, supportive, volatile and nuanced home. As one of three brothers myself this book sang at perfect pitch.

To mirror some of the other reviews, the ending seemed a bit patched in, as if the author didn't trust the story to end with affect without a big bang. It worked, mostly, but not nearly as well as the rest of the book. I'll leave this vague as to not steal the revelation from other potential readers.

I have flagged Justin Torres as an obvious first-week purchase for his next book. I only hope that his ability to close a novel catches up with his exquisite writing skill and character development.
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on November 19, 2011
And that is just what the author seems to have accomplished. Out of the raw, hard memories of childhood, the author has created a gem of a novel. In intimate detail, and with finely-crafted sentences like the one above, the author relates the story of a family of three boys: three very wild brothers who create havoc and chaos enough for several families. The author's gift is his ability to mine the true meaning behind the chaos. The father who disappears, the mother who struggles with having three children while still in her teens. Almost a novella in length, the story surpasses all expectations for a first novel. Daring, brilliant and filled with dazzling language and compelling characters. BEST SCENE: The boys perform their "Gallagher" routine.....
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on September 12, 2016
Thoughtful beginning ruined by an abrupt and bizarre ending.
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