I received this book free from a Giveaway in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.When We Were Animals by Joshua Gaylord
Published by Mulholland Books on April 21st 2015
Genres: Coming-of-Age, Gothic, Horror
Source: a Giveaway
Amazon | B&N | Book Depository
A small, quiet Midwestern town, which is unremarkable save for one fact: when the teenagers reach a certain age, they run wild.
When Lumen Fowler looks back on her childhood, she wouldn't have guessed she would become a kind suburban wife, a devoted mother. In fact, she never thought she would escape her small and peculiar hometown. When We Were Animals is Lumen's confessional: as a well-behaved and over-achieving teenager, she fell beneath the sway of her community's darkest, strangest secret. For one year, beginning at puberty, every resident "breaches" during the full moon. On these nights, adolescents run wild, destroying everything in their path.
Lumen resists. Promising her father she will never breach, she investigates the mystery of her community's traditions and the stories erased from the town record. But the more we learn about the town's past, the more we realize that Lumen's memories are harboring secrets of their own.
A gothic coming-of-age tale for modern times, When We Were Animals is a dark, provocative journey into the American heartland.
‘We live our lives by measures of weeks, months, years, but the creatures we truly are, those are exposed in fractions of moments.’
Lumen Fowler recounts her childhood growing up in a small town in the Midwest that is anything but ordinary. Children in this town, once they hit puberty, they go through what is called “breaching” where they let go of all social constraints and literally run wild and naked in the streets at night when the moon is full. Lumen is a bit of a late bloomer and believes herself to be different from the other children until she inevitably succumbs with the need to feel the night air on her skin.
First and foremost, this is not a werewolf story despite how the summary seems to allude to it. There is no physical transformation that these children undergo, only a surrendering to the madness that we’ve all felt stirring inside us at one time or another. The fact that this all occurs beneath the light of the full moon seems to be pure happenstance. When We Were Animals brought to life the horrors of coming of age and learning to navigate the trickiness betwixt childhood and adulthood.
‘…she was some nightmarish inversion of the person who had played in the sprinklers with me years before. This girl was raw, viperous, glutted on nature and night. They all were. Like coyotes, they made mockery, with their bleating voices, of those who needed light in order to feel safe.
And yet they were all too human.’
This was one of the most exquisitely written books I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. Vibrant and completely full of (animalistic) life. It’s not a traditional horror story, however, it is a very simplistic horror that we’ve all suffered through in life. It details a savageness; a rawness. It was incredible. The plot itself is quite meandering, just as growing up seems to take forever to get through. Also, like a typical teenager that can’t wait to grow up and for life to finally happen (of which it never seems to meet your expectations), this story never amounted to anything. I kept anticipating something monumental that never came. Still, this story of growing up is well worth the effort.
‘In the daylight you scoff at the shadows you cowered from the night before.’