*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*
Title: Each of Us a Desert
Author: Mark Oshiro
Publisher: Tor Teen
Publication Date: September 15, 2020
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Xochital is destined to wander the desert alone, speaking her troubled village’s stories into its arid winds. Her only companions are the blessed stars above and enimagic lines of poetry magically strewn across dusty dunes. Her one desire: to share her heart with a kindred spirit. One night, Xo’s wish is granted—in the form of Emilia, the cold and beautiful daughter of the town’s murderous mayor. But when the two set out on a magical journey across the desert, they find their hearts could be a match… if only they can survive the nightmare-like terrors that arise when the sun goes down.
Each of Us a Desert is a novel I’m feeling particularly torn about. Why? Well, I wanted to love it. I really did. It’s certainly a different kind of writing style than I’m used to. It’s unique and incredibly lyrical. Beautiful poetry is integrated throughout as the protagonist uncovers bits and pieces of poetry in the desert. The English text is also seemlessly integrated with untranslated Spanish, which I thought was both a wonderful addition, but also a great barrier to readers like me who have only the most basic understanding of this beautiful language. Then, I thought, perhaps I am not the intended reader for this particular book.
What I loved: This book is full of mystical elements and reads like oral lore passed down through generations. It has a very old-world feel to it that highlights the elements of fantasy throughout. There is a lot of light and darkness that compliment the narrator, Xochital’s own personal struggle to understand herself and her path in life. Her story is central to the plot. Each of Us a Desert is her story to finding out her purpose in life. It’s full of mistakes and her own ups and downs. Xo is not a perfect protagonist by any means. She is full of flaws that make her so very human. This is a tale of her quest of self-discovery.
What I didn’t love: I found it incredibly difficult to actually get a sense of Xochital’s character. This is her story, yet I finished without really understanding who she is as a character. Her role in this story is to be a cuentista, or a storyteller. She takes the stories of those in her village and gives them back to Solis, purging the villagers of their greatest sins and regrets. We really only get to know Xo through others’ stories, not really her own. While her tale of adventure is interesting, I found myself feeling untethered from the protagonist, not able to fully comprehend who she is. It is the same for secondary and minor characters as well. There is a sense of disconnect from them as well. This is a book more about the story–the adventure–rather than the characters. Anyone who’s been a reader of Worn Pages for any extended period of time will know that I have a preference for books that feature strong characterization and well-established character development. Alas, I didn’t feel like I got either with this book.
I rated this novel 3 out of 5 stars on Goodreads. It’s certainly an interesting book so I’d encourage anyone who thought the synopsis to be intriguing to give this one a read and judge for yourself. 🙂