Review: Animals We Are

Review: Animals We Are

By Valerie Brandy

Genre: Feminist Thriller

Pages: 282

Publisher:  Little Leo Media, Inc.

Publication Date: Dec 18, 2019 

Zoe and her boyfriend, Mike head out for a week long winter horse tour of Yosemite’s back country when strange things start happening. A picture with a sinister message in their tent and then, Zoe is attacked. When she wakes, the camp is on fire and Mike is missing. She is forced into a deadly game with a mysterious killer where Mike’s life is forfeit if she loses.

Told in first person from Zoe’s point of view, Animals We Are digs its hooks in from the first page. Ms. Brandy’s screenwriting experience shows throughout the book where the action moves steadily along with many great moments and easily quotable lines. I imagine this would easily be adapted into a film from how this is written. But much to many other reviewers dismay, this is not a Werewolf novel. 

With a title referencing a bestial nature and an intriguing dark cover, some readers might get a werewolf first novel feel once they read the first page. But, nope, there are no werewolves to be seen. All of Zoe’s transformation is psychological vice physical, and that’s fine. Zoe describes herself as damaged, protecting inner herself from further trauma by building a wall of routines and distance between herself and the world. She frequently references her “inner wolf” as her call to emotional freedom and her will to survive.  

This sort of visualization is a coping technique that smacks of years of therapy and likely anger management. We don’t learn what happened in Zoe’s past to build up these walls and cage her more primal self behind a mask of polite interest. We get a small taste of Mike’s past which haunts them and leads them to certain conclusions once we reach the inciting incident. 

The narrative moves quickly as Zoe throws herself against the dangers of travelling through the winter wilderness with only her clothes, some granola bars, a canteen, a sleeping bag, and a fire starter to get her through it. Zoe has to scale mountains, brave an icy river, a brutal killer, and more strikingly, her own desire to survive. 

Without spoilers, the payoff and final confrontation was built up well. Zoe comes across sympathetic and her relationship with Mike feels realistic. As this is the first of a series, I am interesting in seeing how Zoe’s story progresses and I look forward to the next installment. 

Readers looking for werewolves will be disappointed but those looking for a strong female protagonist with depth will enjoy this quick thrilling read. 

I would like to thank Ms. Brandy for providing me with an ARC of Animals We Are in exchange for a review.

4 of 5