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Extended Audio Sample We the Animals, by Justin Torres Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (5,661 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Justin Torres Narrator: Frankie J. Alvarez Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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An exquisite, blistering debut novel

Three brothers tear their way through childhood—smashing tomatoes all over each other, building kites from trash, hiding out 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—and their love is a serious, dangerous thing that makes and unmakes a family many times.

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 see the world, this beautiful novel reinvents the coming-of-age story in a way that is sly and punch-in-the-stomach powerful.

Written in magical language with unforgettable images, this is a stunning exploration of the viscerally charged landscape of growing up, how deeply we are formed by our earliest bonds, and how we are ultimately propelled at escape velocity toward our futures.

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Quotes & Awards

  • 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, Pulitzer Prize–winning author

  • “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, Pulitzer Prize–winning author

  • 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

  • “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, New York Times bestselling author

  • We the Animals, the kind of sensitive, carefully wrought autobiographical first novel that may soon be extinct from the mainstream publishing world…Mr. Torres’ novel relates such an affecting story of love, loss and the irreversible trauma that a single event can bring to a family.”

    New York Times

  • “Justin Torres’ We the Animals [is] 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

  • “First-time novelist Justin Torres unleashes We the Animals, a gorgeous, howling coming-of-age novel that will devour your heart.”

    Vanity Fair

  • “The best book you’ll read this fall…[It] rumbles with lyric dynamite. It’s a knock to the head that will leave your mouth agape. Torres is a savage new talent.”


  • “Three brothers and a dueling husband and wife are bound by poverty and love in this debut novel…Intriguing and beautifully written.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Justin Torres’ debut novel is coruscating, both violent and poetic, told by the youngest of three sons of a young, black Puerto Rican father and a white woman who was fourteen when she gave birth to the first of them. Frankie Alvarez fits himself invisibly inside this mess of a household so that you feel the confusion, appetites, passions, and disasters of these five people as they crash together and rip apart. At first the young narrator has the point of view of a small child. He experiences himself as part of a mass of brothers, a ‘we.’ Adolescent by the end, he knows that he is separate, and learns the devastating difference this makes. Alvarez unobtrusively and artfully serves a stunning text.”


  • “An exquisitely crafted debut novel—subtle, shimmering, and emotionally devastating. Those whose memories of contemporary literature extend a quarter century might be tempted to compare this with Susan Minot’s Monkeys, another short, elliptical debut novel about family dynamics that received rapturous reviews upon publication. Yet this is a different novel, and a better one, about a different sort of family and a narrator’s discovery of how he is both a part of them and apart from them…Exhilarating…The narrative voice is a marvel of control…Upon finishing, readers might be tempted to start again, not wanting to let it go.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • “In punchy, energized language, the narrator of this dark and affecting little book relates life with his two brothers and their too young, just-making-it parents…You applaud first novelist Torres’ genius ability to twist around and punch you in the gut. Highly recommended.”

    Library Journal

  • 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

  • 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’ 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

  • Amazon Best Books of the Year: Top 20 & Top 10 in Debut Fiction, 2011
  • One of the Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books for Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books: Debut Fiction
  • A Huffington Post Best Book of 2011
  • A 2012 RUSA Notable Book: Fiction
  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • 2012 Finalist for the Indies Choice Award Book of the Year: Adult Debut
  • Selected for the September 2011 Indie Next List
  • A Washington Post Notable Book of 2011
  • A San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of 2011

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Jane Dmochowski | 2/10/2014

    " This is an excellent, heartbreaking book. There were times I got lost in the story and missed the poetic beauty of the book and other times I got lost in the poetry and missed the story, but it kept me interested and moved the entire way through. So many scenes and lines will stay with me for a long, long time, perhaps especially as a mother of my own 6 1/2 year-old boy, "and then I was seven". "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Christy Sibila | 1/30/2014

    " Three boys battle through a poor and violent childhood together with their own brand of love and loyalty. We The Animals is unique and realistic, with a young narrator who is revealed as smart, gay, self-destructive, and crazy. Overall, however, the narrative style didn't really appeal to me. It felt too withdrawn from the insanity of the story, but perhaps that was the author's intent. The narrator stayed on the edges, looking in on his life, in an effort to protect himself from his own childhood, but in the end the effort became too much, and he just snapped. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Beth | 1/14/2014

    " This is a novella about the fierce love of one family in upstate New York. Although their is poverty, beatings, sadness, I haven't read such beautiful descriptions of familial love in a long time. There is nothing bitter in the author's tone. Reading about these three brothers grow up as I watch my own two sons tear around my house make me long for the sibling I never had. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Catherine Symanek | 1/12/2014

    " Not what I thought at all! Can't decide if I liked it or not. "

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About the Author
Author Justin Torres

Justin Torres  grew up in upstate New York. His work has appeared in Granta, Tin House, and Glimmer Train. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he is a recipient of the United States Artist Fellowship in Literature and is now a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford. He has worked as a farmhand, a dog-walker, a creative-writing teacher, and a bookseller.