Dogs of Summer
by Andrea Abreu
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Pub Date 02 Aug 2022 | Archive Date 26 Jul 2022
Astra Publishing House, Astra House
—The New York Times
My Brilliant Friend meets Blue is the Warmest Color in this lyrical debut novel set in a working-class neighborhood of the Canary Islands—a story about two girls coming of age in the early aughts and a friendship that simmers into erotic desire over the course of one hot summer.
High near the volcano of northern Tenerife, an endless ceiling of cloud cover traps the working class in an abject, oppressive heat. Far away from the island’s posh resorts, two girls dream of hitching a ride down to the beach and escaping their horizonless town.
It’s summer, 2005, and our ten-year-old narrator is consumed by thoughts of her best friend Isora. Isora is rude and bossy, but she’s also vivacious and brave; grownups prefer her, and boys do, too. That's why sometimes she gets jealous of Isora, who already has hair on her vagina and soft, round breasts. But she's definitely not jealous that Isora’s mother is dead, nor that Isora's fat, foul-mouthed grandmother has her on a diet, so that she is constantly sticking her fingers down her throat. Besides, she would do anything for Isora: gorge herself on cakes when her friend wants to watch, follow her to the bathroom when she takes a shit, log into chat rooms to swap dirty instant messages with strangers. But increasingly, our narrator finds it hard to keep up with Isora, who seems to be growing up at full tilt without her—and as her submissiveness veers into a painful sexual awakening, desire grows indistinguishable from intimate violence.
Braiding prose poetry with bachata lyrics and the gritty humor of Canary dialect, Dogs of Summer is a story of exquisite yearning, a brutal picture of girlhood and a love song written for the vital community it portrays.
"Bold, dazzling, hilarious. Andrea Abreu is a lively meteorite in the landscape of Hispanic literature."
—Fernanda Melchor, author of Hurricane Season
"Bold, dazzling, hilarious. Andrea Abreu is a lively meteorite in the landscape of Hispanic literature."
—Fernanda Melchor, author of Hurricane Season
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 23 members
Two of my favourite books I read last year (‘Reasons She Goes To The Woods’ and ‘The Discomfort of Evening’) were books with young female narrators coming of age and the struggle and oddities that come with it, and Dogs of Summer is a brilliant new addition to that kind of sub category of books.
Set in 2005 in a working class neighbourhood in the shadow of a volcano, it follows two young girls, Shit and Isora, and gives us insight into their complicated friendship as they deal with their bodies changing and growing up. This relationship is laced with intensity, jealousy, admiration, obsession, love, power and submission, and portrayed in a way that I found extremely realistic to many young girls experiences of these intense bonds we make and learn to navigate growing up.
The narrator Shit, a pet name given to her by her best friend Isora, lives in Isora’s shadow and is constantly seeking her approval and happiness above her own. We watch as she gorges herself on cakes so Isora can watch, logs into dirty chat rooms with her despite being uncomfortable and follows her every time she goes to the toilet. But despite being seemingly in control, Isora’s life isn’t perfect and she has struggles of her own, including her foul mouthed grandmother who constantly puts her on different diets and the death of her mother. As Shit begins to struggle to keep up with Isora and the girls begin to mature at different rates, the book builds to an act of violence that changes the relationship and the way Shit sees Isora.
The writing of this book was incredible and really compelling to the point I finished it in one sitting. Abreu’s style reminds me of authors like K Ming Chang, Ottessa Moshfegh, Marieke Lucas Rijneveld and Melissa Broder in the way it’s raw and unafraid to hone in on the weird and often gross female experience and bodily functions we all relate to while also centring female friendship and family relationships heavily in the narrative. She creates a vivid neighbourhood setting stifled by heat and endless cloud, and vivid, relatable characters that jump off the page.
Highly recommend this book for any fans of the authors mentioned above as well as anyone looking for a short, interesting read centred around intense female friendship. 4/5 ⭐️
“Isora was somewhere else, I realized, somewhere I couldn’t even see the beginning of, and for a second I felt scared. Scared she’d realize how innocent I was or that she’d get tired of me nodding my head and keeping my mouth shut.”
AHHHH i loved it… visceral, epic, sweaty, new. ❤️❤️❤️ + beautiful translation by julia sanches too. Longer review TK!
Set over the torridly hot summer of 2005 on Tenerife, “Dogs of Summer” shows a tale of female friendship and queer awakening, following the actions of the unnamed teenage narrator (though her friend nicknames her “shit”) and her friend Isora. The narrator’s admiration for Isora is clear throughout, swinging between fawning admiration, intense jealousy and obsession, which complicates and colours her navigation through bodily changes and growing up.
If I had to describe this book in one word, it would be “visceral”. Quite apart from the narrator being named for a bodily secretion, there are constant references to blood, dirt, sweat, vomit, all the unmentionable things of growing up. There are real issues displayed in this book, such as female relationships, class divisions, the effects of tourism on the island, eating disorders and psychological abuse – a lot is covered in a very short space of time, and the book has a great pace throughout, though it may be too intense for some.
I also think that the characters are excellently formed – both felt entirely real and relatable, and even their most unjustifiable actions seem to come with a veneer of intelligibility. Isora in particular clearly lacks the right models in life, giving off an air of maturity to the narrator whilst appearing incredibly naïve to the reader.
However, I have to say that I felt the ending was rushed and incomplete, and I also felt a bit distanced at times. How much of that is due to being a straight man reading it, I can’t say, but I think it will be LOVED by quite a lot of people out there who want a story of growing up with the warts of the narrative remaining. Worth seeking out when it comes out.
A captivating coming-of-age story that will captivate you with the entrancing dialog and eccentric flair of locals through the unfiltered lens of girlhood. I was transported by the vivid sense of place and rhythm of the poetic dialog.
Dogs of Summer is a quick story packed with emotion and vulnerability. I read the entire thing in a sitting and loved the expansive friendship that bloomed within the short novel. Our narrator, known only as "Shit" as she's affectionately called by her best friend Isora, takes us through her life in a mountain village. She's absolutely obsessed and entirely adoring of Isora--a feeling clearly conveyed to the reader, and one that hits hard. Their friendship is intense, passionate, loving, and toxic in the way that many young girls know, especially as it pushes past the boundaries of typical adolescent friends. I was completed enthralled by this aspect of the book but found the story itself to become a bit repetitive, which felt particularly tough due to the short length. I wanted to feel more impacted by the ending, and instead just found myself wanting more. However, I really enjoyed the actual reading experience of the story, and the friendship contained within it will stick with me for a long time.
A young girl comes of age on the island of Tenerife in the 90s, exploring her friendship, envy and sexuality. Clouds hang low overhead, at times obscuring the island’s volcano, or the fumbling of its young residents. The writing is part poetry, part prose, at times stream on consciousness full of bold, specific details.
The author ties together jealously and desire without shyness. Throughout the book the narrator repeats her hatred for her town’s summer festival. But when she sees the colorful paper flags aren’t going as far as her street, will only be strung in the central, affluent area, she’s disappointed. She has disdain for the tourists, but she seeks out one of their young daughters. Most importantly, she’s jealous of Isora, her best friend and obsession. The narrator wants to be like Isora, to be with Isora- grown up and brave and liked by people who matter. At times the narrator wants to hurt Isora, but more than anything she wants to be near her.
This was moving and at times funny. A great read for pride month and beyond.
DOGS OF SUMMER is, primarily, a tale of self-effacing obsession. It follows two ten-year-old girls, Isora and her admirer, the nameless narrator. Bearing only the affectionate moniker given to her by her friend, “Shit” makes it her aim to ripen into all other girl’s wants, limiting her actions to shadow the manipulations of her heart.
But as the “boiling” summer air aggravates both their lethargy and wrested passions, thoughts of cataclysms — physical and emotional — suffuse itching psyches.
From the start, we’re presented with a grove of fiery, smarting figures. With the girls’ world limited to their upsloping neighborhood in northern Tenerife, its inhabitants appear both spirited and ancient. The prose itself is written with a levity that only enhances the shock value of certain events, blending cheek with humor to mask the taint of calamity.
This agility undoubtedly points to Julia Sanches’ masterful translation. Between its lines, the island’s clouds and rampant wilderness converge to boil several tragedies, from depression to eating disorders.
Shit possesses a uniquely childlike voice, which comes across as both charming and earnest; a mixture that allows her obsession to crackle and fizz to the edge of ruination. In fact, every voice appears bodied, transfused with a unique blend of the Canary dialect and phonetically recorded English, in turn creating a strong sense of place.
Abreu’s use of bachata lyrics also introduces elements of absurdism that frame, and enhance, the local lingo. With these speech patterns fleshed out, prose and backchat seep into each other, allowing dialogue to both float and remain bitterly tethered to the page. Naturally, this calls for a more general lack of restraint. Shit’s thoughts seesaw, slip and slide with abandon, pile on top of each other.
And, in a thrilling show of nullifying taboos, Abreu allows the girls to act on their natural fixation with erotic self-exploration. The innocence spoiled with splotches of shame proves just as true-to-life. In fact, the text doesn’t twiddle its thumbs when it comes to seizing the smells and throbbing sensations of a pubescent body ablaze, with its needs unfazed by either time or place.
Likewise, Shit’s inability to process an unexpected penetration, and her consequent impulse to disassociate from the memory, is so accurate in its portrayal that the words reach inside, and unnerve, the body drinking them in. Doggedly, Shit puts Isora’s well-being above her own. She depends on the girl wholly, from the emotional plane to the practical; a way of being that aids and aggravates her mania.
Her affection incites violent thoughts because half of her lives inside Isora, and of that part she intuitively assumes ownership. Shit is similarly possessed by all things pertaining to the other’s existence. Her drawn-out, emotional daze provokes a certain obliteration of the adored object — or, in this case, subject. This roughness takes on even more grit by mixing with all the other forms of violence the kids have to contend with daily.
The most glaring example is the cultural oppression imposed on the young, from weight control to mauling beauty standards. In this respect, Isora’s abusive grandmother proves just as formidable as their friend’s grandfather, who flogs the young boy with a belt for the “faggoty” act of playing with dolls.
And so, with the mildest of touches, Abreu demonstrates the stunting acts of brutality that shape us, creating intimate strangers — corporal dichotomies. With much of the story immersed in tragedy, DOGS OF SUMMER doesn’t make for the lightest of reads. And yet, while Shit’s lack of control leads to the inevitable atrophy of volition, her devotion remains pure and uninvolved until the end.
Maintaining a certain passiveness, she experiences the world as any child would, having learned not to impose herself on it. Shit’s understanding of time draws on the position of the sun in the sky, people and objects gain their dimensions from her own diminutive stature. She indulges in games that mirror the elusive realm of adults, into which she has no access and in which her feelings and concerns are largely flouted.
The cataclysm of her emotional upheaval finds its echo in the island’s wilderness, fusing the prick of pine needles with the steamy belch of a volcano, giving birth to the kind of anguish that pushes at the seams of her slight body. The result is as crippling as Abreu’s talent proves understated.
This is actually a 3.5. I found this story to be extremely captivating, and I’m going to be thinking about the characters for a while. Isora was so intriguing to me, and I could definitely relate to having a friend like her in the past. She’s bossy and can be rude, but she also has to deal with constant negative talk about her body from her grandmother. Their friendship was ferocious, and I found it very interesting how the author explored their relationship. The prose was really beautiful, yet also funny at times. I also appreciated the exploration of wealth and class. Reading about the Canary Islands opened my eyes to a way of life that I have not previously read about. Finally, the way that female sexuality and discovering one’s body was written was intensely realistic and surreal. I am definitely going to be thinking about this one for a while.
A perfect queer book just in time for summer.
The language in DOGS OF SUMMER is so lovely; this is where the novel shines. Though thin in terms of plot, the central relationship between two girls coming into a sexual consciousness is so well rendered. A gem of a coming age.
Thanks so much to the publisher for the e-galley!
I really enjoyed this one. It captures the magic of intense female friendships in childhood and adolescence, and the magic and danger of summer independence.
Shit, our narrator, is both jealous and hopelessly enamored with Isora, a troubled girl who lost her parents and lives with her emotionally abusive grandmother. But Isora’s rebelliousness soon starts to spiral, and Shit’s infatuation causes her to go along with things she doesn’t really want to.
This really reminded me of my own friendships as a girl, though thankfully less violent than some of the scenes in this book. Those intense, all-encompassing relationships that felt they would never end, that you are uncovering something new to the human experience, that you will live together forever even after marrying other people… it’s a unique kind of madness, and Abreu captures it perfectly.
Endless thanks to Astra House for the eARC.
Dogs of Summer, translated from the original Spanish by Julia Sanches, Andrea Abreu writes a rapturous story about the obsessive friendship between Isora and Shit, a pet nickname given to the narrator at the tender stage of entering adolescence, in the process providing an authentically complex portrayal of the desire of girls. Left to their own devices, the two inseparable girls pass their days in the Canary Islands playing with Barbies, watching telenovelas, obsessing over pop lyrics, and exploring their growing sexuality.
Wow. Dogs of Summer was the perfect book to round out my July reading list! It was hot, sticky, gritty, gross, and authentic. While I did not have the same experiences as the characters in the novel, it reminded me of my own adolescent summer memories of having fun with friends, staying out until the sun went down, swimming in hot pools littered with bugs and leaves, and grass and sand sticking to wet legs and feet. Days seemed long, sweet, and full. The energy was welcoming and comforting. The themes in Dogs of Summer are darker, especially given that the girls are only ten years old. You can't help but feel nostalgic while reading this, while also cringing at the memories of being a young person growing up. The prose was incredible and captivating throughout, I can’t wait to see what else Andrea Abreu comes out with.
Many thanks to the Astra Publishing and Netgalley for an advanced reading in exchange for an honest review!
Thank you to Astra Publishing and NetGalley for the chance to read this title in advance. I picked this up expecting a sibling to My Brilliant Friend and I found something wholly different. It is a moving story about female friendship and love written in a raw, visceral and at times poetic way. A brutal read at times, it was also tender. It does a very good job of depicting the very complicated and sometimes grotesque world of young girls.
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