Review: Brutes

Dizz Tate, 304 pgs, Catapult Books,, $27

Amidst a summery Floridian haze, a strange girl has gone missing. A girl who cut her hair short, who wasn’t particularly alluring or approachable or feminine. A brute, according to the conglomerate of mothers now on high alert. To their daughters, Sammy was a friend they felt belonged to them and could never be taken away.

With sharpness and ephemerality that could only have been harnessed via cliquey 13-year-olds, Dizz Tate writes a class-act debut about the divine knowledge of girlhood, the claustrophobia of adolescence, secrecy and the curious need we have to observe and be observed.

“Weird, but in a way we under-stood,” is how one person describes the missing girl. I would say the same of the often-hazy chronology of the novel. It alternates between the past fateful summer of Sammy’s disappearance and reflective chapters for each member of the friend group in their adulthood. The “we” is so immersive, you are easily convinced you’re one of the lucky few kids with someone willing to listen to them. Kids who can see through the performative facade of adulthood. Who are cripplingly self aware of their insecurities, and intuit what could be hidden from them. They smoke, drink and don’t care about men, and yet, need to be loved best. There is solidarity for the chosen, and Tate welcomes us into their world with open arms. If not for her, we may have been cast out.

One might assume that in Tate’s youth and inexperience, she wouldn’t know how to weave a narrative with so many voices so expertly. But she remembers what we do not: that so much of being young is talking over each other. Making yourself small, yet powerful. The only issue with Brutes is that in its charming opacity, it starts to lose control of its own mystery toward the finish line. This book worked hard to surprise me, reel me in, and it was well earned, even if I occasionally misunderstood.


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