family matters take on a whole new meaning in this stunning debut novel.

by liza darwin

There aren't many books that we finish in one sitting, but We the Animals, the new debut novel from 31-year-old Justin Torres is one of them. While part of this could be chalked up to the book's short length- it comes in at just 130 pages- we think it's mostly because this compelling compilation of vignettes drew us in immediately... and didn't spit us out until a couple of hours later.

Narrated by the youngest son of a Puerto Rican father and a white mother, this coming-of-age story follows the struggles of daily life in upstate New York- difficulty paying bills, keeping jobs, and typical routine drama. While this might not seem exciting on its own, Torres who keeps things interesting, detailing the dark underbelly of suburbia through the eyes of the kids. These three brothers might be tormented at school and pushed around at home, but they manage to survive it thanks to their fierce, almost primal loyalty to each other.

However, when the youngest begins to grow apart from the rest, that's when things take a turn for the worse. We won't tell you what happens, but Torres manages to showcase this conflict in a way that's sensitive, smart, and without any moral judgment. You might be able to finish this page-turner in one night, but if you're anything like us, the story will stay in your head for much longer.

Buy it at Amazon.