The small town of Pale Miranda has a secret. Every full moon the teenagers go all call of the wild and riot naked through the town and the surrounding woods. Known as breaching, it’s seen as a rite of passage for all local young people. The awkward and isolated Lumen is sure she will never breach, nor experience the animalistic side of her peers.
No, this is nothing to do with werewolves. The story is written like a memoir, the adult Lumen jotting down moments from her teenage years to sort them in her mind, but instead of the series of vignettes developing into a coming of age narrative the scenes come across as disorganised, disjointed an undeveloped. The story also occasionally jumps to the present (where the prose jarringly shifts to the present tense) and relates brief passages of Lumen’s suburban life as a wife and mother where nothing of note actually happens.
Lumen perceives life in a clinical and detached manner, as though she were an outside observer of her own existence. For her, affection is a sequence predetermined movements, verbal interaction a series of required responses and human behaviour a collection of obligatory actions, but despite this she still wonders why people think of her as aloof and distant. It seems as though she feels nothing, both physically and emotionally, and as such is difficult to relate to or even care about. Anyway, so what if she thinks she’s indefinably different from everyone around her and out of place in the world; what teenager doesn’t?
Any possible reason for the teenagers’ breaching is unknown and barely even given lip service, and neither considered is why it only occurs in this one small town, appearing only to be something requiring unqualified acceptance. If the whole thing is supposed to be a visceral metaphor of puberty with the feral abandon a representation of the raging untamed desires of teenagers, it’s an overly lengthy and rather laborious one. With so little to actually say, it might have worked better as a short story rather than a full length novel, so that its central concept wouldn’t have been lost amidst the flowery prose.
WHEN WE WERE ANIMALS / AUTHOR: JOSHUA GAYLORD / PUBLISHER: DEL REY / RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER 3RD