We the Animals

Justin Torres

Published: 1 March 2012
Hardback, Demy PB
135x216mm, 144 pages
ISBN: 9781847083951

Other Editions


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Published: 7 March 2013
Paperback, B Format
129x198mm, 144 pages
ISBN: 9781847083968

Image of

Published: 1 March 2012
ISBN: 9781847085511


Three brothers tear their way through childhood-smashing tomatoes all over each other, building kites from rubbish, hiding 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-barely out of childhood themselves, and their love is a serious, dangerous thing.

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 forge his own way in the world, this beautiful novel reinvents the coming-of-age story in a way that is sly and incredibly powerful.

About the author

Image of Justin Torres

Justin Torres was born in 1980 and grew up in upstate New York. His work has appeared in Granta, Tin House, and Glimmer Train. He is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, a recipient of the Rolón United States Artist Fellowship in Literature, and is currently a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. More about the author


‘A slender but affecting debut novel... We the Animals is the kind of sensitive, carefully wrought autobiographical first novel that may soon be extinct from the mainstream publishing world’



‘A strobe light of a story, its flash set on slow, producing before our eyes lurid and poetic snapshots... I want more of Torres's haunting, word-torn world...’

‘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's happened just now, with the publication of We the Animals, a slender, tightly wound debut novel by a remarkable young talent... Justin Torres is a tremendously gifted writer whose highly personal voice should excite us in much the same way that Raymond Carver's or Jeffrey Eugenides's voice did when we first heard it.’

‘We love Justin Torres debut ... we felt the same delicious pacing and dark sparkle that someone like JT Leroy evokes. It takes you to a place you wouldn't think of going to voluntarily, but you'll be glad for the ride’

‘His language has focus and clarity and the occasional wonderful surprise ... there is enormous potential evident in We the AnimalsPatrick Ness

‘The 19 short chapters, roughly chronological, are each like a round in a boxing match - intense, poised and pummelling ... This semi-autobiographical rhapsody, almost pitch-perfect in its nerve-exposed vulnerability, makes all those misery memoirs with their whingey horrors seem bland by comparison ... In a world of fiction publishing that seems to pump out flabby, wrist-aching tomes, We the Animals is an example of paired-down power. Less, in this instance, is most definitely more’ Helen Davies

‘Extraordinary ... We The Animals is, in the Granta edition, as beautiful a book physically as it is emotionally. There really is a great pleasure in holding it. It feels as individual as the story it tells’

‘Justin Torres' punch-packing debut wrestled its way into the US bestseller chart last year, earning him a string of accolades from critics and authors alike ... Torres crafts a narrative voice that's exciting and unique and his powerful, lyrical prose gives even the darkest of scenes a sheen of brilliance’

‘there are many moments which are intensely moving ... Tragically riveting’

‘Torres' slim debut is packed full of memorable images, scenes and moments that describe beautifully the unique trials of a family ... [it has] moments of truly brilliant writing that deserve all of the accolades this book has already earned and will go on to achieve’

‘It's not often that a novel, let alone a literary first novel, makes your heart stop, but at the denouement of We the Animals, mine did. This is a small book and so beautifully written it's like a miniature, brightly coloured tapestry. But the story, of the young narrator's life in a chaotic family, is incendiary. The book spits and hisses with pain and fury and determination. Once you begin, if you have to let it down, you want to put on asbestos gloves before you pick it up again ... Fact of fiction, it's an impressive debut, in its burning truthfulness, its broken poetry’ Cathy Dillon

‘A fierce, intimate and engrossing portrait of a close-knit family from American literary sensation Justin Torres ... Torres brilliantly, poignantly examines a spectrum of human experience’

‘Justin Torres's debut novel recalls his parents' violent arguments, and their tender reconciliations. He tells of adventures in the countryside with his older brothers - digging ditches, starting fights, making kites out of bin liners - in precise prose enlivened with earthy similes ...The book is divided into sections headed that function not as chronological chapters but, rather, as prose-poems exploring aspects of a single idea. The idea is family, and it can rarely have been more beautifully expressed'’ David Evans

We the Animals tells of the coming of age of the anonymous narrator and his two older brothers ... the chapters oscillate between violence and affection, pathos and humour, enriched by Torres's fresh and ornate prose’ Alex Preston

‘Justin Torres's lyrical treatment of transgression can be shocking ... the extended use of the first-person plural sets a defiant marker and at times his prose has the intensity of poetry ... this debut holds out the promise of further virtuoso writing’ Peter Carty

We The Animals epitomises, to me at least, the power that a short novel can have in the right hands. Torres greats this claustrophobic world where the reader sees more than meets the eye, and yet through the eyes of the narrator there is always an innocence sense of hope, only hitting us harder when we see that vision start to fall away or even worse are torn down. To describe something as short yet epic seems a contradiction, yet read this book and you will see what I mean, you will also see why the buzz around Torres is so justified’

‘The hero of We the Animals has been damaged by the experiences of his childhood ... he and his brothers Manny and Joel, run practically wild, like the beasts at which the title hints. We see snapshots of this strange life of his mother's mood swings, the beatings that his father dispenses, and his painful sexual awakening’ Jonathan Barnes

‘This is a devastating, heartbreaking, beautifully written debut, one that somehow, through its painful vignettes, still manages to shine with love’

‘Torres writes with an impressive control of language ... his bold use of the first-person plural succeeds in highlighting the closeness of the brothers growing up. And thus We the Animals, a short burst of concentrated and emotionally charged prose, grapples head on with love, violence, sexuality and childhood in a way that is as unusual as it is vivid’

‘This compelling story of three brothers growing up and growing apart is told in a series of snapshots. With each chapter the narrator, the youngest of the brothers, becomes more aware of himself and what his story means. The result is wildly chaotic, deeply emotional, and an absolute triumph’ Christopher Bryant

‘A gorgeous, deeply humane book. Every page sings and every scene starltes. I think we'll all be reading Justin Torres for years to come.’ Daniel Alarcon

‘Gay literature has got its great writer - James Baldwin, Alan Hollinghurst, Edmund White - but it's been a while since a fresh young voice has announced itself. With his first book, We the Animals, 31 year old US novelist Justin Torres has stepped up to the plate’

‘An intense, powerful debut about three bothers clawing their way through a chaotic childhood in upstate New York’

‘A heart-rending coming of age novel - intense, poised and pummelling. Almost pitch-perfect in its nerve-exposed vulnerability’ Helen Davies

‘Very effectively evokes the physicality of living together at close quarters through tears, laughter and terrible betrayal’ Alastair Mabbott

‘This debut is a searing and sparkling piece of writing that promises great things to come’

‘A heart-rending fiction debut, about an American boy who grows up and apart from his close-knit family’

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