Brutes is a novel about teenage friendship and its strange wildness, as a group of thirteen-year-olds obsess over a missing girl. In swampy, theme-park-filled Florida, a group of friends—all girls, with Christian an honorary girl—are obsessed with Sammy, a preacher’s daughter. They watch her, but then she suddenly goes missing, and the group watch the town instead, with a sinister sense of hunger underneath.
Most of the chapters are told from a first person plural perspective, with the group of thirteen year olds the ‘we’ telling the story, and this really sets up the conceit of the book, the weird friendship group, the ‘brutes’ as their mothers call them, watching and wishing. The narration is very effective, showing the strange bonds and the ways in which this breaks down, as well as a dark story of trying to get more than a run-down Florida life. Some of the chapters are told from the perspective of one of the group as adults, and this works less well because they’re very fragmented and don’t quite come together with the rest, although some of these chapters work better than others.
An ambiguous book that dives into a vivid Florida and a specific group mindset, Brutes is likely to divide between people who like the style and ambiguity, and people who wanted more definitive answers about what is going on.