Reviews

Primal Animals by Julia Lynn Rubin

*Spoiler free*

Thank you so much to WednesdayBooks and Edelweiss for the e-ARC!

Arlee Gold is anxious about spending the summer at the college prep Camp Rockaway—the same camp her mother attended years ago, which her mother insists will help give Arlee a “fresh start” and will “change her life.” Little does Arlee know that, once she steps foot on the manicured grounds, this will prove to be true in horrifying ways. Even though the girls in her cabin are awesome—and she’s developing a major crush on the girl who sleeps in the bunk above her—the other campers seem to be wary of Arlee, unwilling to talk to her or be near her, which only ramps up her paranoia. When she’s tapped to join a strange secret society, Arlee thinks this will be her shot at fitting in…until her new “sisters” ask her to do the unthinkable, putting her life, and the life of her new crush, in perilous danger.

With a cover like that, for a book about a summer camp that turns out to be a lot more horrifying than it seems, with a secret society that requires the unthinkable, and it’s sapphic, I was very, very eager to read it. It sounded like it was good to be weird and disturbing, and I love those kinds of books. Trigger warnings: blood, insects, gore, mentions of sexual assault/harassment

This book feels like touching a live wire. Electrifying and terrifying. It is downright weird, and completely disturbing. And that’s what makes it very good.

Julia writes pain so well. The kind that digs under your skin and makes you uncomfortable, and honestly it’s a true testament to her talent. Her writing feels like the pierce of a needle, sharp and stinging. It also seems to grow, as things devolve and more is revealed. Really, it works so, so well with what this book is trying to do.

Things in this book get disturbing. Like, jaw dropping disturbing. You think it’s gone to edge, only for things to tip right over. It gets weirder and weirder, and I very much admire that it embraced everything disturbing about it.

I also really loved Arlee. She’s got this anger to her, this viciousness that she tries to hide but ekes out of her. I really, really loved how her emotions were portrayed. How some things are just so overwhelming and they’re so much. Arlee feels greatly, and she also cares. She wants friends, she wants to be included and loved. She also wants to protect the one she cares about.

The other campers were also fantastic. I loved how there was a whole cast of girls, some cool, some weird, and some mean. It made for incredibly dynamics.

The camp as a whole was freaking weird. There are parts of it that are so cool, but there’s also so much that’s just off about it. Something is lurking or something is coating this place with unease. So, it was written really, really well.

The one thing that I didn’t completely love was the ending. It felt a bit abrupt, but I think I understand what it was trying to do. I kind of wanted more out of it, and how it tied into the central theme. But I also understand why it did what it did. My feelings towards it are complicated.

This book also makes the fantastic point: Horses are terrifying.

Overall, this book was good. It’s completely disturbing and terrifying, and there’s a viciousness just waiting to be unleashed. There’s bugs and horses and blood and it’s very good.

Primal Animals comes out May 24, 2022! You can add it on Goodreads and pre-order a copy in the meantime!

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