Primal Animals

Primal Animals
Age Range
Release Date
May 24, 2022
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The Female of the Species meets Midsommar for fans of Yellowjackets
At an elite summer program,a teen girl gets sucked into a secret society, with deadly consequences.

Protect the girls.

Arlee Gold has always lived in the shadow of her successful mom; even after everything Arlee’s been through, her mother still expects nothing but the best. In an effort to get her daughter back on track after a less-than-stellar few school years, she’s enrolled Arlee as a legacy at Camp Rockaway, an elite college prep summer camp deep in the North Carolina wilderness. On her own for the first time and buzzing with anxiety, Arlee is intimidated by the camp’s shiny exterior, suffocated by the relentless, thick summer heat…and tormented by the ceaseless stream of crawling, slimy, flapping bugs that seem to come straight from her nightmares.

In the midst of her brewing dread, Arlee is relieved to find a queer sanctuary in her bunkmates, and is especially drawn to Winnie, the enigmatic girl who sleeps in the bunk above her. Except Arlee starts to notice whispers in her wake, and how so many others recoil from her as if she were as creepy as the insects that terrify her. Struggling in her prep classes and feeling increasingly paranoid, Arlee can no longer suppress her panicked glitches.” Winnie, too, seems to become wary, and Arlee’s worst fear is confirmed: even here, in the place her mother promised was “going to change everything,” she’s been found out as a freak.

Just as she’s facing a summer completely alone, another rising junior slips her a mysterious invitation, and Arlee finds herself caught up in a secret society that expects its sisterhood to protect each other from any and all who would harm them―by any means necessary. Here, finally, Arlee feels like a part of something bigger, something that matters. Guided by their cunning leader, Lisha, a rising senior with a smile sharp enough to cut bone, the sisterhood will stand against any threat, unquestioningly. But when Winnie is put in grave danger, Arlee is forced to confront just how far her sisters will go, and whether they truly protect the girls.

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1 review
intriguing YA contemporary/thriller
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PRIMAL ANIMALS is an intriguing YA contemporary thriller/horror about hazing, group mentality, and finding your place. Arlee is 16 years old and excited to go to the summer camp that shaped her mother's life. Starting at 16, she will be relatively old to begin going, as most teens begin when they are 14. Once she arrives, she finds that sharing her mother's last name provides her with a very specific reaction, and she begins to wonder what her mother's legacy was.

As she is beginning to find her place amongst the girls in her unit, she is also tapped for a secret society at the camp and curious to learn more about what it is they are/do. As she becomes entangled in this group, her experience at camp begins to evolve into something more frightening than she ever could have imagined.

What I loved: The summer camp atmosphere was really intriguing and set the stage for the isolation and fear that Arlee begins to experience. Themes around peer pressure, hazing and secret societies, and drug/alcohol abuse were really potent as the reader experiences the difficulties Arlee faces in the camp. These elements are likely faced by several teens and the darker sides of these can bring up some important discussions around trusting your gut and what true friends should look like.

Arlee is a character who is still finding herself and who she wants to be. She is beginning to come to terms with her parents and the things they have done in the past that hurt her. At the same time, she is coping with her anxiety and phobia of insects. She is hoping the camp will be transformative, and her journey once there is a search for belonging. Her budding romantic relationship was a great driver of the story for the first parts before things became darker.

What left me wanting more: There were a lot of things that did not seem to flow well, and the reader is left with a lot of questions. It was easy to feel lost in the story or like there was something we missed, and Arlee's motivations seemed to be switching a lot in different places. There are also a lot of characters, and it was a lot to keep track of. Arlee's motivations in getting to know different circles seemed tenuous at best, and I felt like she was inconsistent, but maybe some of that is just due to her age. I still overall found the story interesting, and some of these may be improved in later edits of the story if it becomes more focused.

Final verdict: An atmospheric read about summer camps, PRIMAL ANIMALS is a YA contemporary thriller about secret societies and the search for belonging.
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