Book Review: Brutes by Dizz Tate

Brutes – Dizz Tate (Catapult, 2023)

I received an Advance Reading Copy of this book. All opinions are my own. Pub date was February 7, 2023.

As readers, we all have certain tropes that we enjoy, that maybe we have a soft spot for, even if we’ve never fully thought about it. One of mine, I’ve come to realize, is the Teen Girl Chorus. Let me explain. Riffing off the classic Greek chorus – a sort of omniscient, plural narrator that sees more than they should and observes the true action of the story – the Teen Girl Chorus is composed of a group of (obviously) teenage girls. These girls may have individual characters in their midst but they move as one, they act as one. The individuals may carry their own personal opinions but the important thing is that these opinions never override the desire of the group as a whole.

The Teen Girl Chorus, inevitably, gets into trouble. They end up places they shouldn’t be. They witness things they shouldn’t see. They carry a certain power as a group and they often have a particular kind of cruelty – both to outsiders and to each other. They are vulnerable too, in the way that all young girls are.

The Teen Girl Chorus is in full effect here in Brutes, a debut novel by Dizz Tate. The setting of Florida – hot and swampy – adds much to the atmosphere too. A sort of stifling, both in the heat and in the relationships. A group of young teenagers is obsessed with the relationships of a few slightly older teens, especially Sammy, the daughter of a semi-celebrity preacher. They’ve watched Sammy for a while, watched her relationship with Eddy, with her best friend. When Sammy goes missing one day, the whole community turns out to search for her and to gossip over her behaviour. The Teen Girl Chorus is in full effect, narrating the events and what they witness as a group. But they have been witnesses to more than just Sammy’s disappearance and they know more than anyone else.

Interspersed in the present day setting of Sammy’s disappearance, we get sections following these teen girls years later, in their adulthood. They’ve each taken different paths and while they’re still in touch, they don’t have the blurred lines and connections of their youthful friendships. Indeed, they all seem a little off as adults, missing something, as if they haven’t been fully able to move into adulthood in a healthy way. It’s up to the reader to piece these sections together with the events of the day Sammy disappeared.

Overall, the novel has a surreal feeling to it and this is definitely true of the ending. How much of what the Teen Girl Chorus tells us is true? How much of what these girls see do they really understand? Readers looking for a thriller or a mystery will be disappointed here but I’m excited to see a new author trying something different and I’ll be watching for Tate’s next novel.

5 thoughts on “Book Review: Brutes by Dizz Tate”

  1. Ha, I love this idea of the teen girl chorus. Once you explained it, I knew exactly what you meant. I’m in love with “feral adolescent girl” books, meaning they have no parents to care for them, they run around sort of like animals, but they are sharp, interesting, vulnerable. I can’t really just write that and expect anyone to think of an example, because it’s pretty niche, but some of my favorites are Boogeywoman by Jaimy Gordon, Cruddy by Lynda Barry, The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson, and Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell.

    1. It’s niche but it’s recognizable once you start to think about it, right? They often have parents (like these girls do) but the parents are kind of scared of them too. These types of girls are so smart but there’s such an edge, even while they’re so vulnerable.

  2. Teen girl chorus – I enjoy those day, although they always seem a bit dangerous to me as well. Like, a group of teen girls are really scary actually, they can be so cruel to others, and even more so to each other, I always want to avoid them, but they make for great entertainment.

    1. There’s something we all recognize as dangerous about a group of teenage girls specifically and I think that’s an interesting feeling for an author to capitalize on. There was an awful case in Victoria years ago of a group of girls ganging up and killing another girl so that fear is not always without some grounding in possibility.

    2. yikes, yes that’s quite sad. Stories like that happen everywhere, but we don’t hear about them often. I suspect the affects of their bullying etc. are typically much worse, but fly under the radar as well…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s