Desert Mystery

No Beauties Or Monsters by Tara Goedjen

Publication Date: December 7, 2021

Summary from NetGalley:

Welcome to Twentynine Palms, where nothing is what it seems.

Rylie hasn’t been back to the military base in Twentynine Palms since her father died. She left a lot of memories out there, buried in the sand of the Mojave Desert. Memories about her dad, her old friends Nathan and Lily, and most of all, her enigmatic grandfather, a man who cut ties with Rylie’s family before he passed away. But her mom’s new work assignment has sent their family to Twentynine Palms again, and now, Rylie’s in the one place she never wanted to return to.

At least her old friends are happy to welcome her home. Well, some of them, anyway. It turns out Lily is gone, vanished into the desert. To make matters worse, there are whispers around town of a mysterious killer on the loose.

But it isn’t just Twentynine Palms that feels frightening—there’s something wrong with Rylie, too. She’s seeing things she can’t explain. Visions of monstrous creatures that stalk the night.

Somehow, it all seems to be tied to her grandfather and the family cabin he left behind. Rylie wants the truth, but she doesn’t know if she can trust herself. Are the monsters in her head really out there? Or could it be that the deadliest thing in the desert . . . is Rylie herself?

ARC provided by Random House Children’s via NetGalley for an honest review.

Confession:

While I did mostly like and enjoyed this book, I didn’t find it to be the gripping, page turning thriller that I was hoping it would be. I mostly struggled with the characters and not finding any of them particularly noteworthy. The ending was also a bit of let down for me as there were lots of plot threads that were left vague and unresolved.

Rylie is the only narrator, and for the most part I found her to be a lost and confused person. She just didn’t strike me as being very reliable either. Some of this may have been intentional, as she was struggling with memory loss and grief for her father. But I also just never felt a connection to her either.

There were so many secondary characters as well. So many that I struggled at times to keep them straight. Rylie had many friends, but there were also all of the missing to keep track of and some of the quirky characters she met in her hunt for clues. I did like Kai, her step brother and her little brother Owen. There is also Nathan, a childhood friend who is now a love interest. The whole romance aspect of the story seemed unneccessary and just wasn’t fully developed enough to make me care. I did like Nathan though.

The setting and the world building were nicely done. I have spent some time in Joshua Tree and Twentynine Palms and remember it being much as the author describes it. The otherworldly feel to the desert was spot on, especially the scenes that took place at night.

The plot just never quite took off for me. I spent most of the book expecting something supernatural to happen, but then was hit with a science fiction explanation. Which in retrospect actually made more sense than what I was thinking. For me, the story actually was kind of slow and plodding and then there was a total rush at the end to explain it all and resolve the missing persons issue. The ending was also a little unsatisfactory to me as there seemed to be many plot points that were not fully resolved.

Many reviewers seemed to really enjoy this one, so don’t discount it just on my opinion. I can see why so many people did enjoy it, but it ultimately just didn’t work for me.

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