When We Were Animals by Joshua Gaylord

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When We Were Animals by Joshua Gaylord

Category: Horror
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Olivia Tierney
Reviewed by Olivia Tierney
Summary: Chilling horror revolving around one girl's journey to adulthood in a cursed town. One of the most original coming of age stories you'll ever read.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 336 Date: March 2016
Publisher: Del Rey
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1785030956

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I had made a determination many years ago that I still clung to as though it were a fierce religion. I wouldn't go breach. I wouldn't do it.

For three nights every month when the moon is full, children living in a small isolated town who have reached puberty experience 'breaching'. On these nights, their actions are dictated by either passion or violence – they become feral and animalistic abandoning their human nature to run wild and naked in the streets. Beginning, typically at 15 the breach lasts for approximately a year and after, those children become adults. 'When We Were Animals' follows Lumen Fowler's life growing up in the town expressing her desire to be different and avoid the town's rite of passage into adulthood. Lumen is determined not to be overcome by the moon and control her own destiny, after all her mother didn't 'breach' so neither will she. But slowly one by one her peers breach and she's left behind struggling to grow up, becoming more and more aware of her dark wild side.

Joshua Gaylord has created a frightening world in which a young girl is finding her feet and looking to determine who she is and where she belongs in that world. Initially, for the first 50 pages or so, the story was quite slow and I couldn't really connect with the protagonist. However, from that point onwards everything happened very fast and I was desperate to turn the page and read the next one and the one after that.

The writing was beautiful, I was fully engrossed in the small town and Lumen's internal struggle between who she was and who she wanted to be. Lumen herself was intelligent and her character dramatically grew as the book progressed. It was wonderful to grow up with her and see her transform from a quiet timid girl into a more confident strong young adult. Throughout the novel she is confused and not entirely sure what she wants: at the same time she embraces her freedom completely happy in her own company, but also resents the growing distance between her and her peers because of her failure to 'breach'. Additionally, although she prides herself on a saint-like good girl reputation, she hates it and people's judgement of her as a consequence of it. The reader experiences Lumen's first close friendship, first school, first love and first heartbreak. I felt as if I was growing up in the small haunting town with Lumen and cannot overstate how magical that was.

I really liked the early teenage romance – it was realistic, it had promise and really opened up Lumen's personality. We got insight into how others felt about undergoing the breach through Peter, Polly, Roy and Rose. It was interesting to see how they reacted to the experience and how it affected them afterwards. While some embraced the experience and began to look forward to those nights, others hated themselves and wanted to be better.

I enjoyed this book however, at times it was difficult to read. It was graphic, dark, and very ugly at times. So be warned it's not a light read. When becoming animals, the characters were brutal and cruel. Despite the fact that it was fascinating to see how they changed, the animal instincts and desperation to breathe the night was horrifying and uncomfortable.

The book got darker and darker as the characters became more and more like animals and the ending highlighted the vast change in Lumen's character. It was heart-breaking but at the same time left the reader hopeful of change and for Lumen to finally come to terms with her extreme childhood.

Many thanks to the publishers for the copy and in terms of further reading suggestions: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggswhich detail children growing up with a paranormal element drawing parallels with the main theme of When We Were Animals.

Buy When We Were Animals by Joshua Gaylord at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy When We Were Animals by Joshua Gaylord at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy When We Were Animals by Joshua Gaylord at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy When We Were Animals by Joshua Gaylord at Amazon.com.


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