- Hardcover: 336 pages
- Publisher: Mulholland Books (April 21, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0316297933
- ISBN-13: 978-0316297936
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #933,644 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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When We Were Animals Hardcover – April 21, 2015
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"An excellent, disturbing premise [with] superb prose . . . Under [Lumen's] spell, even the most staid reader would feel the impulse to run wild."―Shelf Awareness
"A compelling read that will likely resonate-after all, what's scarier than growing up?"―The Maine Edge
"A brilliant setup . . . A patient, thoughtful portrait of a girl progressing into womanhood, disguised as a work of speculative fiction"―Strange Horizons
"A fascinating look at a time during which we think we know everything, only to realize that we don't even know ourselves . . . When We Were Animals takes us on a journey that is at once completely foreign and utterly relatable."―Brooke Wylie, Examiner.com
"In Lumen, Gaylord creates an unforgettable and, well, luminous narrative voice, and his language captures the lush, dangerous possibilities of teenage nights to perfection. . . . this book deserves a breakout success like that of Jeffrey Eugenides's first novel, The Virgin Suicides."―Library Journal (starred)
"When We Were Animals conjures the dreamy satisfaction of revisiting the cult horror movies of your youth -- things are familiar but they resound in new and unexpected ways, revealing subtle depths and poignancy. This is a dark, inventive and absorbing story, fittingly theatrical. It disturbs and entertains in equal measure."―Benjamin Wood, author of the Costa-shortlisted The Bellwether Revivals
"[A] coming-of-age tale with a gory twist . . . There's no stopping this bizarrely fascinating journey of dark self-discovery."―Kirkus Reviews
"Admit it: you remember an animal time in your own life. And if you think you don't, Joshua Gaylord and his book will lash you with it. When We Were Animals has the power to creep you out and, yes, turn you on."―John Griesemer, author of Signal & Noise
"Imagine if Twilight were well-written and grown up. Coming of age in this small town is less about braces, and more about street fights and lots of sex. Yes, it really is good."―TheSkimm
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Top Customer Reviews
As said, this is a coming of age tale mostly set in a small town. It's told from the point of view of the main character who narrates the story of her youth, growing up in a town with a very unusual rite of passage for it's teens entering adulthood. Basically, all the youth in this town go through a period called breaching where they become savage & feral during the full moon nights, running around throughout town doing everything that comes naturally to animals. The young children and adults stay behind their locked doors during full moons allowing the teens to do as they will until morning. During the day the teens are perfectly normal, everyone ignoring the various injuries they sustain during their full moon travails. The adults have gone through it and the children will, so for this town it's just normal life.
But for the main character Lumen it's not normal. Her's is a unique experience in that her mother did not breach & she, herself, is a late bloomer. She's convinced she will also not breach and this sets her apart. When she finally does go through her own version of this experience, it has a profound affect on her, solidifying who she is. While she's telling this story as an adult mother and wife looking back to her youth, you can clearly see how this transformation has altered the way she sees the world compared to every other person living in it. Her perspective carries brutal truths other people don't allow themselves to see. And you can see that she will never be able to fully escape this fact, just as the people she allows into her life will never be able to escape the affect her perspective will have on them.
This story and especially the style in which it’s told, won’t appeal to everyone; you’ll either love it or hate it, there won’t be any in-between. There are some very heavy and graphic subject matters depicted here that are done to and by teenagers yet I never once felt the author crossed the line, it was all described so purely and beautifully and I was honestly fascinated by it. I can only further describe this story as being a depiction of what would happen if you stripped away our humanity and returned us to our natural animalistic ways. The basic story-line has some similarities with the movie The Purge, the main differences being here we’re dealing with teen’s ages 13-16 instead of adults and rather than 1 night a year, this town experiences “breaching” for 3 days each month. If this isn’t enough to get you to sit up and take notice then there’s also an underlying mystery full of twists and turns, plus an ending I never would have predicted!
I adored Lumen’s character and saw so much of my teen self in her. All of her struggles, her longing, her feeling like there’s no “right” place in the world for her therefore she must be ”bad” or “wrong” in some way. I also loved that the story is told through Lumen’s POV as an adult while she looks back on her childhood and teen years leading up to her “breaching”. Young Lumen started out as such a docile girl who was often times overly willing and compliant. I was riveted by the transformation of her character from a young sweet girl into the woman who was narrating the story. Another big plus for me was the relationship between Lumen and her Dad. It was written so well and really captured what happens in a single parent/single child dynamic. For years you are each other’s whole universe, nothing else is needed nor does it matter because it’s the two of you against the world. But as children grow up that relationship is bound to alter and change, other people become important in a teenager’s life and the single parent finds they suddenly have a life again. It’s a natural process yet not an easy one to get through and I loved how the author chose to capture it here.
I would love to ask Joshua Gaylord how he came up with the idea for When We Were Animals and why he chose to write it from a girl’s POV, I’m rather curious because it’s done so well. He really captured the essence of teen girls and how they can be shockingly beautiful and cruel at the same time. At its heart this is a coming of age story but delivered in such a way that is so savage and unique. This is definitely a book I won’t soon forget, its story will stay with me for a very long time! I would have loved to read this with my book club, there are so many bits and points to dissect and discuss. Highly recommend but only for those not bothered by teens, sex and violence and who enjoy books that cross over into the weird and bizarre.