cover image Brutes


Dizz Tate. Catapult, $26 (304p) ISBN 978-1-64622-167-7

Tate’s uneven debut tracks an ensemble cast of teenage girls who long to escape their suffocating hometown of Falls Landing, Fla. After cool older girl Sammy disappears, a group of 13-year-olds who’d obsessed over her wonder what happened. Chapters alternate perspectives, including that of chorus-like entries from the girls’ collective point of view as well as individual narrators such as Isabel, one of the girls’ mothers, who describes the nightmarish landscape defined by toxic lakes, alligators, and hurricanes (“The light fades and the whole place just looks like something about to die”). Hazel, one of the girls, delivers alarming lines inflected by philosophy: “If I’ve learned anything, it’s that even movement becomes another kind of stillness if you force it to last too long.” While the language has mesmerizing moments, the repetitiveness of the first-person plural passages blunt the impact: “We shook our bangled wrists... we didn’t know what it meant... we were in the mood where nothing was going to make us happy.” As the girls look for Sammy, they also dream about appearing on a talent show and finding fame in Los Angeles. The finale’s murky, and the author leans a bit too much on the missing-girl trope. It’s an often beautiful work, but it’s also exhausting. (Feb.)