In Falls Landing, Florida—a place built of theme parks, swampy lakes, and scorched bougainvillea flowers—something sinister lurks in the deep. A gang of thirteen-year-old girls obsessively orbit around the local preacher's daughter, Sammy. She is mesmerizing, older, and in love with Eddie. But suddenly, Sammy goes missing. Where is she? Watching from a distance, they edge ever closer to discovering a dark secret about their fame-hungry town and the cruel cost of a ticket out. What they see will continue to haunt them for the rest of their lives.
Elegant ... Tate’s work takes a sanctioned vision of suburbia and transforms it ... Tate uses these timeworn questions as a springboard for a larger examination of trauma and memory. But right when I thought I could predict this novel’s arc, it surprised me ... A creative leap with manifold payoffs, heightening the book’s ambition ... By the end, Brutes feels wonderfully untethered, wild and unpredictable. The novel is an exploration of adolescent trauma and its otherworldly manifestations rather than a retelling of a trope.
This isn't a book primarily concerned with finding Sammy. Instead, Tate sidesteps the missing girl trope and makes the far more compelling choice to focus her lens on a pack of 13-year-old girls who are used to blending into the background ... In plunging the reader into the girls' collective perspective, Brutes makes for an original and stylistically ambitious take on the well-trodden subject matter of girls in peril ... Tate perfectly captures the simultaneous impatience and mercurial swings of girlhood ... Fast-forwards ominously color the action of the novel's present ... Tate adds depth and welcome weirdness to what might have been a more ordinary nightmare.
In truth Brutes is not an easy read. But it is an impressive one, thanks to Tate’s almost frightening powers of description. It has been a long time since I read a novel that so viscerally evoked a feeling of place ... Brutes’s narrative structure is complex and often taxing: this is a novel that rewards rereading. The girls’ collective voice switches between before and after Sammy goes missing, and is interspersed with the girls’ grown-up individual narratives. Tate’s experience as a short-story writer comes out in full force here ... With its plot twists, grotesque horror and cartoonish villains, Brutes is a novel that refuses to be reasonable. That’s part of its unsettling charm. But as the shock of the ending wears off, it’s the humid atmosphere of Florida that will stay with you, the smell of rotting food and a contaminated lake. It’s an astonishing debut that will burrow under your skin.