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Summer Reads: The New Animals

Some things never go out of fashion. A good book written by one of NZ's finest authors to enjoy over summer is one of them.


People say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. 

Well, that’s near impossible with the cover of Pip Adam’s second novel The New Animals designed by Kerry Ann Lee. But as with all great traps, things are not quite as they seem. Just like the shiny red-lacquered soles of the Christian Louboutin’s high-end stiletto, this book is truly a clever mirage.   

Set in Auckland, year 2016, “New Zealand was making clothes, it was making films, it was making everything.” 

Carla is a hairdresser. She made “bad career choices. Bad money choices”. She lives in a studio apartment with a female pit bull called Doug. Doug is now in charge of Carla’s house, her anchor. 

Sharona, Carla and Deye are worn-out veterans of the fashion scene. Cutting hair, making clothes, they have seen it all, lived it all. The world no longer belongs to them. They are old. They are Generation X. They all want to walk away, walk out. But they can’t. They need to get paid. 

Cal, Tommy and Kurt are fashion designers. They own the workroom, they hold fundraisers, their parents have money. They decide the trends and tell people what to do, when to do it, how to do it. Most importantly, they pay the invoices. Auckland had arrived and they were doing it. Fixing what the previous generation ‘ruined’. 

“That was why Tommy’s generation looked back to the ’90s now – to inject some kind of joy into them. To cleanse them of all that sadness and doom and blame. The fashion was so fun. Look at Kurt Cobain. Look at him. It was fun and they just wore it down and down until it was serious and suicidal. They were children. That was the real problem.”

In what first appears a straightforward narrative, Adam reveals to us a different kind of creature. The most invisible and unimportant character is ready for transformation. Two thirds into the book, there is only one voice, and the story shifts into the fantastical dense descriptions, infused by focussed and sensual interest in the world of decay and survival. 

Pip Adam has written a book about modern-day natural selection.

How one feels about this book depends on how seriously one takes the pursuit of change and adaptation. Pip Adam has written a book about modern-day natural selection. This is a book of our time that portrays what we hate and love about fashion. It’s a reminder that we are all just “treading, strong and tossed in the oily swell” of our existence, with the uneasy relationship between fashion and waste.  

“No rest for the hungry”, it’s all just unstoppable and going out of fashion. 


The New Animals by Pip Adam (Victoria University Press) is available at Unity Books.

Written by

Dina Jezdic

19 Jan 2021