I finished reading No Beauties or Monsters by Tara Goedjen last week, and it was a wild time!
This is a YA mystery about a girl whose desperate search for her missing friend unearths dark secrets, preternatural threats, and a truth that could ultimately tear her family, friends, and town apart. Am excite dto be part of the MTMC blog tour, so read on for my interview with the author, and there’s a chance to win the book below!
No Beauties Or Monsters is definitely a mind-twisty book, full of puzzles to crack and twists to explore. It’s the kind of spec fic book that lowers you in slowly…we’re introduced to Rylie’s family as they move back to Twentynine Springs. The pages are stuffed with tension and questions from the get-go. Something bad happened last time Rylie was in this town — and she has questions about her late grandfather and the secrets kept locked under his cabin. There are missing people and peculiar bees and some amnesia plotlines as well as unreliable narrating. So the whole books truly keeps you guessing until the end.
I also liked the characters and their dynamics (everyone was really mysterious and they were all hiding things). Rylie is easy to admire, and Owen (her 8year old legally blind brother) is super cute and sweet. Then there’s their half brother Kai who is secretive and yet kind, and the return of old friends like Nathan and Sara.
If you like stories like Stranger Things, give this book a try! It’s out November 7th from Delacorte Press.
Welcome to Twentynine Palms, where nothing is what it seems.
Rylie hasn’t been back to Twentynine Palms since her dad 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 means their family has to move, and now Rylie’s in the one place she never wanted to return to, living in the house of a grandfather she barely knew.
At least her old friends are happy to welcome her home. Well, some of them, anyway. Lily is gone, vanished into the desert. And Twentynine Palms is so much stranger than Rylie remembers. There are whispers around town of a mysterious killer on the loose, but it isn’t just Twentynine Palms that feels off—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?
Tara Goedjen adores anything mysterious. She is the author of THE BREATHLESS (Delacorte Press, Random House Children’s Books) and NO BEAUTIES OR MONSTERS, forthcoming Fall 2021. Tara wrote her first story at age ten about children who disappeared at midnight, and she’s been writing fiction ever since. Mostly raised in Alabama, she played college tennis in Iowa and then moved to Alaska and Australia before heading back to the continental US. While completing grad school, Tara worked as a tennis coach, a yoga instructor, a university writing teacher, and as an editor for a publishing house. These days, when she’s not making up stories, she’s probably chasing after two small monsters or hiking through an enchanted wood while dreaming up her next book. Website | Instagram | Twitter
Hi Tara! Thanks for chatting with me today about your novel, No Beauties Or Monsters! Can you tell us a little about your publishing journey and how your book went from idea to finished novel?
Like all of my books, I’m inspired by place first: in this case, it was the rugged Mojave Desert in California, which seemed like the perfect setting for an atmospheric mystery with a survival story at its heart. The Mojave is also full of legends and lore: from stories of missing hikers, to secret occult rituals, to the last hideout of Charles Manson—and all of that was at the back of my mind as I was writing the story.
And I wanted to be an author since I was a kid, but in college I thought that the best way to do that was through being a creative writing professor, so I went into a PhD program at the University of Wollongong. While there, I was lucky enough to get an editorial job at a publishing house in Sydney—and that’s where I rediscovered my love for genre fiction and for writing novels.
Within the Mojave Desert in California is an isolated town called Twentynine Palms—it’s actually known as the gateway to Joshua Tree National Park—and it’s also home to a US Marines Corps base. NO BEAUTIES OR MONSTERS is all about Rylie, the teenaged daughter of a Marine, and how her family has just moved back to Twentynine Palms for work. Rylie likes rock climbing, so on one hand she’s looking forward to the promise of the outdoors, but on the other hand, she has lived in Twentynine Palms before, and it wasn’t exactly a happy place for her. It turns out that she’s right to be hesitant: plenty of strangeness ensues once she arrives!
I loved writing Rylie’s story not only because of the desert location, but also because it’s the sort of situation that’s close to my own experience: my husband is in the military so we move around a lot, and growing up I moved around a lot too: I lived in six different states before I was twelve years old. And sometimes moving was easy, and sometimes there were reasons to be cautious… and not just because of the landscape!
I think my favourite part of the process, besides typing “the end,” is when uncanny things start to happen as you write. I’m talking about the little coincidences that pop up; like, maybe you’re writing about how your character always listens to a certain song, and then you turn on the radio and that very song is playing. I think that’s why I love stories that start to blur reality—that really make the character question what they’ve just experienced—just like what happens to Rylie in No Beauties or Monsters.
Oh NBOM definitely blurred reality quite excellently 👀👌🏻 Tell us 2 random facts about your book!
I wrote most of No Beauties while living on the island of Guam! And even though Guam is a tropical island surrounded by the Pacific, it can feel very isolating, just like the way Rylie feels in the Mojave Desert.
Oh and the first draft of the book included small sections that were essentially “campfire stories”—creepy stories about the Mojave Desert. Just Google “Jack Parsons” or “the Yucca Man” and you’ll see what I mean. Some of my favorite stories are still intertwined within the narrative of No Beauties or Monsters, but they don’t have their own sections anymore.
How did you come up with your book’s epic title? Did it go through many changes?
I’m so glad you like the title! It’s actually a line I found in a journal written by a teenaged female sniper who fought in World War II (she is referenced in my acknowledgements). The historical element was originally a small subplot, but it didn’t make the final cut. The title stayed because my editor thought it got to the essence of the story: no one in the world is all beauty or all a monster.
The title definitely captures the story so well. And lastly! Was any chocolate harmed in the making of this novel? 😉
Ha! Plenty! And there’s chocolate inside the pages too: some scenes take place at an Italian bakery; I felt like it was sort of a delicious “palette cleanser” in between all the strangeness of my fictionalized Twentynine Palms.
I LOVED the sound of that bakery!! I would love to share a pastry with Rylie and Owen there 😩🙌🏻 Thanks so much for this amazing interview, Tara, and congrats on your upcoming release!
– 1 winner will receive a signed copy of NO BEAUTIES OR MONSTERS (open US)
– 1 winner will receive a $10 gift card to Book Depository (open internationally)
This ends on November 5th, 2021 at 11:59pm EST.
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