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No Beauties or Monsters

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A mystery about a girl whose family secrets are as threatening as the desert that surrounds her—but whose quest to expose the truth may tear apart reality itself.

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?

368 pages, Hardcover

First published December 7, 2021

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About the author

Tara Goedjen

2 books97 followers
Tara Goedjen never stays in one place for long. She wrote NO BEAUTIES OR MONSTERS on the island of Guam and in the desert of New Mexico, and she now lives and writes in the Pacific Northwest. She is also the author of The Breathless.

To find out more about Tara and her books, find her on Instagram at @taragoedjen or say hello at taragoedjenauthor.com.

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5 stars
74 (20%)
4 stars
134 (36%)
3 stars
105 (28%)
2 stars
41 (11%)
1 star
9 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 137 reviews
Profile Image for Erin Craig.
Author 7 books3,573 followers
May 2, 2021
A desert full of mystery. A girl who sees things she shouldn’t. Desperate to unlock the secrets of Twentynine Palms, I raced through this book!
Profile Image for Kalena W.
575 reviews251 followers
December 15, 2021
4/5 stars, this was a lot more complex than I was anticipating but very creepy

Thank you Random House for the arc through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review!

I am not sure what I expected going into this book, certainly the dark and mysterious atmosphere that was created. But there was a lot more to this book than simply what was on the surface, and I had a lot of fun uncovering all of it. It was a slower read but it took it's time luring you farther and farther into this nightmare story in the desert.

Rylie hasn't been back to the military base Twentynine Palms since her dad died, but her mom's new work assignment means coming back. It also means facing all the memories buried in the sand, memories about her dad, old friends, and her grandfather who cut ties with her family before he recently passed. Rylie has to live in the one place she never wanted to return to, and not all of her old friends are around anymore either. Lily has vanished into the desert, and around town, there are whispers of a mysterious killer on the loose. When Rylie starts seeing visions of things she cannot explain she follows clues that hint it's all tied to her grandfather, and what he was really doing out there in the desert....if Rylie can trust the truth she sees.

For starters, this story is for fans of Stranger Things, completely. I have not even seen the full show, or particularly want to, but this just gives off those same vibes. It's very mysterious and doesn't reveal anything too quickly. When important plot twists are revealed it feels a bit crazy, and hard to wrap your head around, but it ends up being really interesting. I didn't love all the plot twists, but I honestly can't complain because the author did a really excellent job of putting them in at the right times. I felt that the end was just slightly jumbled and I would've liked to see a bit more of what actually happened before the book ended, but I still think the author did an excellent job overall.

The setting being in a desert, military basecamp no less, sounded really intriguing to me at the start. Being in a military base camp doesn't really have a ton to do with the plot, but being in the desert certainly does. Because of how isolated everyone is in this desert, even including the little town, it really makes each piece of the puzzle more shocking. It definitely feels like you are there with the characters and experiencing this loneliness and fear if you read it at night, which I recommend doing.

Rylie is a fine main character, she doesn't really have a lot going for her but there is nothing particularly bad about her either. She is back in the one place she never wanted to enter again, so it's obviously hard for her to be in the desert. Weird things start happening almost immediately to her and it's really interesting to see how she handles it. There's a lot going on surrounding her story, some of which barely gets tied up in the end, but it honestly felt like the story went the way it should with her plotline.

Her family is probably my favorite part of the whole story. Each of them has different quirks and it's obvious to see that they each care about her in their own way, besides her mom because we barely see her. Her stepdad is a goofy sort of guy and is really understanding of Rylie. He is also a psychologist and dabbles in hypnotizing. Her brother O is younger than her and really rather sweet. He experiences some things in the desert as well and at times it is hard to watch. He really loves Rylie and you can see it in how both of them interact. Kai is my favorite probably, he is her stepbrother and honestly the brains of the story, although it takes a while to realize that. He was really fun to see evolve little by little throughout the story and help Rylie.

Overall, it was a pretty fun story once I got into it. The story is laced with desperation, darkness, and mystery set on a backdrop of a desolate desert. It sets up for a really unique story that constantly throws twists and turns at the reader, until the very end. It might get a bit too twisty at times, but it was actually pretty fantastic.

[TW: death of a friend, death of a family member, murder, missing persons, injuries and blood, drugging, amateur hypnosis, PTSD (mentioned)]
Profile Image for Cassie.
327 reviews63 followers
July 7, 2022
3.5 stars.

I liked this story! This was compared to Stranger Things which immediately piqued my interest. Upon finishing this I totally get why it was compared to that show. It was weird and I enjoyed getting the know the characters a lot. The mystery surrounding it kept my attention. However, I wish it was just a bit weirder and creepier. I expected this to be skin crawling, just straight up strange. It definitely was at times for sure, but, idk, I wanted more out of it.

The family in this was precious though, I really loved seeing them together. The sibling relationships also have my entire heart. I feel like is more of a character driven story, but the plot is still there.

Overall, while I expected more from it I’m not mad that I read this. I’ve actually never heard of it before and this cover is beautiful! I recommend this if you’re in the mood for a quiet mystery, set in a desert, with strange things that happen throughout the story, while following some wonderful characters. ☺️
Profile Image for TrippyBooks.
484 reviews116 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
September 26, 2022
Dnf 30% i cannot bring myself to care about this plot or the characters . I kept coming back to try it & found it a chore. Its not horrible so i wont rate it
Profile Image for Demetra.
Author 2 books186 followers
November 12, 2021
From page one Goedjen was in full control of the twists and turns that kept coming page after page, building to the shocking ending. No Beauties Or Monsters is an eerie genre-bending novel teeming with speculative suspense and intrigue. The main character, Rylie, begrudgingly moves back to her hometown after her grandfather’s death and finds things aren’t exactly as they appear. Plagued by episodes of lost time, questionable memories, and nightmarish desert creatures that stalk the night, Rylie digs deeper into her past while disappearances continue to rock the small desert community. As the mystery builds and unfolds pulling in more and more characters from her past and present, Rylie is forced to question who, if anyone can be trusted, including herself, and what dark family secrets lay buried inside her grandfather’s home. You’ll find yourself reeling from the shocking revelations that split reality and force you to question everything you know about space and time. An absolute must-read. Tara Goedjen just planted herself firmly on my auto-buy author list.

I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher for an honest review.
Profile Image for Taya | littttttyliterature.
68 reviews2 followers
October 1, 2022
I’m honestly not sure what tf i just read!??? All that build up just for that ending? Boooo. Was it a good book? Yes? Was it worth the time? Ehhhh. 🤷🏽‍♀️
Profile Image for Hillary.
108 reviews13 followers
October 3, 2022
Or maybe this is the sort of thing that people have to figure out for themselves, or they'll never believe.

I feel like I took shrooms.

Twentynine Palms 🤯

Overall the story kept me very engaged, I truly for the life of me could not figure out what was going on. But the ending did leave me with so many more questions, and felt neatly tucked and packed away pretty quickly after a long anxious stretch. So initially, my rating would be 3-3.5

However knowing this book was written roughly for YA, ages 12-17ish I bumped my rating up to 4, channeling my younger selfs opinion and feeling confident that if I had read this book at that age, I probably would have loved it - and not thought so deeply about the ending plot.

So 3 star for adult me, 4 for younger me :)
Profile Image for Laura.
675 reviews53 followers
December 6, 2021
This book was so intense. There was a killer on the loose and memory lapses. Everyone seemed suspect as Rylie returned to the desert with her family. She hadn't been there since her Dad died. I enjoyed this fast paced mystery which also was a sci-fi. There was more going on out there than meets the eye!
Makes me want to go to Joshua Tree. 😉 
Also this cover is gorgeous. I just love purple covers if you can't tell from the picture! 

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐💫

Thank you net galley and delacorte press for the e-ARC for my honest and voluntary review.
Profile Image for says_books.
22 reviews5 followers
October 26, 2021
Thank you mtmc tours and Tara Goedjen for providing me with a free digital copy.

“It’s hard sometimes, right? Loving people...because deep down you’re afraid you could lose them.”

This book was SO GOOD. I blew through it so fast! It’s definitely the type of book you could read in one sitting. There are so many twists and turns, and I was constantly on the edge of my seat, unsure as to what was imagined and what was reality. The premise of this book is so creative, and I never would have guessed the ending!! The whole thing was like one big mind game, and I lived for it!

“Do you ever feel like no matter what you do, the life you want gets further and further away?”

One of the best things about this book was the way Goedjen slowly fed the reader just enough information at a time to ensure that they weren’t confused but were still kept in the dark. It was such a great feeling to slowly discover the secrets of the desert along with the main character Rylie, and every new piece of information was a shock. I like to think of myself as someone who is good at guessing endings, but I was so blown away by the ending to this book!! I don’t want to say much more because I don’t want to spoil anything, but I really hope there is a sequel. I feel like Rylie’s story is not finished, and I would love to read more about her and her family and friends!

Overall, if you love mysteries (especially ones with hints of the supernatural), you will love this book!
Profile Image for Heidi.
Author 12 books92 followers
August 4, 2021
What a twisty little gem of a book! The setting is half the fun - a small atmospheric town where strange things seem to happen and people often go missing. It felt a little like a desert-version of Twin Peaks, maybe because at first, it’s impossible to know what, exactly, is going on. That mystery kept me turning pages quickly, desperate to figure it all out. The main character, Rylie, manages to pull off that challenging combination of being a sympathetic-yet-unreliable narrator. As she struggles to uncover the mystery of what is really happening in her old hometown, she is hindered by the realization that she can’t trust her own memory, and the fear that she, herself, is dangerous.

Sprinkled in around the mystery are some really beautiful moments between Rylie and her younger brother, as well as several other well-portrayed (and often complicated) relationships: her reconnection with her former best friend/first love, and the slowly developing friendship with her new stepbrother, a boy who definitely has his own secrets and agenda.

If you like atmospheric mysteries with surprising twists and a hint of the supernatural, definitely pick this one up!
Profile Image for Kayla.
Author 15 books340 followers
May 26, 2021
It was my great joy to have an early read of this one—huge thanks to the publisher for sending it my way, and for asking me to blurb it. In short, my official quote for this one is: "Mind-bending and wholly engrossing—I couldn't read it fast enough!"

To elaborate a little more, though: I picked it up on a Friday night and could not. put. it. down. The voice! The mystery! The story! The characters! I've always loved mind-twisting stories like this one, and only wished I had *more* when I reached the end of the book.

I recommend going in without knowing too much about this one—it was a really fun experience to go in knowing absolutely nothing, and to make theories along the way. Can't wait to read whatever Tara writes next!

Profile Image for nihaarika.
354 reviews32 followers
October 28, 2021
No Beauties or Monsters really creeped me out, which I mean in a good way. I'm not someone who usually reads mysteries or thrillers because that's not a genre I usually enjoy, but this was such a fun read. The writing was chilling and atmospheric and as I mentioned, really creeped me out throughout the story. I was so creeped out that I had to stop reading for a few moments to gather my thoughts about what was going on. I think the small town setting of the story really just added to the suspense. My only problem with the story was that at the beginning, we are introduced to far too many characters in one go. It almost feels exposition-y in some way and made the start a little slow. But nevertheless, I think this was a fun thriller read and I am excited to have picked it up.

Thank you MTMC Tours, Netgalley and Delacorte Press for the e-ARC!
1 review1 follower
November 4, 2021
I was so happy to receive an advanced copy of No Beauties or Monsters from NetGalley. I loved it! With so many unique twists and turns in an intriguing desert setting, it kept my interest from start to finish. The family dynamics and friendship connections were also a highlight. As a former teacher, I would definitely recommend this book to students 12+ who enjoy mysteries with a hint of the supernatural, but it would also appeal to adults who like reading YA. I highly recommend!
Profile Image for Kimberly.
298 reviews11 followers
September 9, 2021
4.5 stars rounded to five.

Wow! What an incredible, mind blowing novel. This may not be the right book for the reader who wants to have it all figured out by the end. My advice for everyone is to stay away from spoilers, get comfy, turn to page one, and sit back and enjoy the ride. For the first 85% of this novel I kept saying to myself, “I have no clue what is going on,” and for the last 15% I kept saying “Wait, what is going on?!?!?!” I absolutely loved it! The way this was written immersed me completely into the story.

The writing was brilliant, the plot unique. The characters were believable and had depth. The relationships were well developed: Rylie’s relationship with Owen was so sweet and loving. Her developing relationships with her stepdad and stepbrother were realistic, complicated, but also showed heart. And Rylie’s rekindled relationship with her old best friend/something a little more was a good mix of new tension and old, undying feelings.

This is a book that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys a well written, haunting, fantasy story, no matter their age. It will appeal not teens and adults alike.

Thank you to Net Galley and Random House Children’s Books, Delacorte Press for this digital arc in exchange for my honest review.

#NetGalley #NoBeautiesorMonsters
Profile Image for Mark Harding.
3 reviews7 followers
April 14, 2022
I was fortunate to receive an ARC of this book. No Beauties or Monsters is the new novel from Tara Goedjen, who wrote the atmospheric gothic thriller The Breathless.

Immediately this book sets up an intriguing and tantalising mystery that has several layers to it. The main character, Riley, is returning with her family to TwentyNine Palms, to live in the home of her deceased grandfather. But strange things are happening in the desert, her friends aren't as she remembered them, people are going missing and there's something strange that connects it all.

Tara Goedjen really knocks it out of the park with this one. As with her previous novel, the setting
and atmosphere is really brought to life, creating vivid moments of imagery that really hook you in and stay with you. I loved the characters and the way that the mystery is slowly teased out and revealed - it's such an interesting concept (that I can't discuss because spoilers), and contains a surprisingly emotional punch. I really didn't know where this book was heading but was in for the ride and thoroughly enjoyed where it went.

There's a world here that could be explored in even more depth in future books if she ever wants to revisit - I'd definitely come along for another trip!
Profile Image for Katie Nelson.
Author 2 books52 followers
June 7, 2021
From the first words on the first page, it is clear that Goedjen is in control of this story. I was pulled in immediately by the atmospheric prose, but it was the twisty plot that kept me turning pages well into the night.

The novel opens with a mystery--something is happening in the town of Twentynine Palms--but it's the experience of the main character, Rylie, that carries the story. Forced to move back to the town she visited as a child, Rylie can no longer run from the friends she once knew and then abandoned, the grandfather she is estranged from, and the accident that left her brother blind and Rylie traumatized. I found myself constantly surprised as I read, and totally engrossed in Rylie's story. The characters are flawed and real, the setting is compelling, and the mystery was surprising but satisfying.

A compelling, twisty read that kept me breathlessly invested until the very last page!
Profile Image for Marit Weisenberg.
Author 0 books52 followers
March 27, 2021
When I read Tara Goedjen's debut YA novel, THE BREATHLESS, I was blown away by her beautiful writing and heart-pounding story. I was not disappointed when I read NO BEAUTIES OR MONSTERS. I couldn't put it down until I found out what was really going on. Once again, Goedjen brings something fresh to the table -- plotting that feels unexpected and original, characters who feel like real people and wow, atmosphere. I was immersed in the world and mystery of TwentyNine Palms. This is for readers who love stories where the main character can't put her finger on what is happening around her (in the vein of E. Lockhart's WE WERE LIARS) and where setting is like a character full of secrets (in the vein of STRANGER THINGS). Highly recommend.
Profile Image for Taiyeaba.
591 reviews42 followers
April 15, 2022
2.5⭐
Almost hodgepodged the whole story. The interdimensional part could be confusing. But I think I understood it..... But the flow was unengaging. I think I could count on my fingers everytime a important conversation started and it was finished. Whenever someone starts revealing something they get interrupted and it was never mentioned again. At one point it felt frustrating. Some character I thought was important but barely appeared.
And one question. If they knew how to close the line thn why didn't they?
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
1 review
July 29, 2021
Stranger Things meets Fringe set in the desert! I loved this atmospheric mystery with mind-bending twists. I did not guess where this was going at all-- all my theories wound up being totally wrong and the big twist was actually a really emotional gut punch. I think reluctant readers especially will gobble this one up.
Profile Image for Emily Murphy.
Author 3 books385 followers
December 9, 2021
Mind-bending, super atmospheric, and gorgeously written. I couldn’t put this one down, even when it was scaring me to death. Totally original and compulsively readable. Can’t wait to read what Goedjen writes next!
Profile Image for Breeana Shields.
Author 5 books417 followers
July 9, 2021
I couldn't turn the pages fast enough! No Beauties or Monsters is expertly paced and crackles with delicious tension from page one through to the end. Atmospheric and haunting.
Profile Image for Fny.
391 reviews8 followers
January 30, 2022
Well it was a long time since I read this kind of sci-fi mystery horror and it was right up my alley yes.
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I’ll begin to say that once again this is such a hard book to review. Because I really liked it but I have no words for it, basically.
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It’s the first book I read from the author and I went in totally blind. I didn’t know anything more than it had a dope cover and it’s was some kind of sci-fi mystery.
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It’s about this girl going back to a place she left four years earlier and nothing is what it seems to be. So yes, it was a mystery and it was sci-fi and it also had some themes of horror thrown in. And I loved it. It was right up my alley. Got me thinking of this really great tv show with J.K Simmons called Counterpart. I can’t say anymore about that though because reasons but if you’ve seen the tv series maybe you’ll know? Or maybe you’ll not haha. Anyway the mystery part hold the whole way and the sci-fi part blew my mind so yeah I’m glad I picked it up.
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And lo and behold I have a new favorite side character - oh Kai you were just perfect 🤩
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But still there were some question marks in the end that I feel I didn’t got the answers to(about a telephone call and what actually motivated a certain character) but oh well it’s just peanuts really.
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With that said, for me this book was totally my jam and I do recommend it for anyone who likes a good mystery of the more sci-fiy kind 🙃🤩,(4,5/5⭐️).
.
Profile Image for Renae.
1,013 reviews254 followers
February 22, 2022
I would imagine that over the past few years there have been a lot of novels out that get compared to Netflix’s Stranger Things (regardless of whether the author intended that vibe or not). Tara Goedjen’s No Beauties or Monsters certainly feels like a good comp to Stranger Things—and also to Netflix’s other “ominous sci-fi shenanigans in a small town” show, Dark (watch it if you haven’t!!!).

This young adult horror slash science fiction novel features a secretive military installation, unexplained memory loss, hallucinations, a murder cult, alternative dimensions, a rabies-like virus, a group of intrepid friends, and probably unethical hypnosis / memory regression. [*Stefon voice*]

No Beauties or Monsters is fast-paced and thrilling, with a tightly controlled flow of information that keeps you guessing but without frustrating the reader by the lack of answers. The writing is atmospheric, with spooky imagery that gestures towards the paranormal, and although the (rather too large) friend group who joins Rylie could have been given more depth of characterization, I still appreciated it. I think the Big Reveal came too late for there to be enough payoff, but it was a good and surprising reveal all the same. This would make a good TV show.

📌 . Blog | Review Database | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads
Profile Image for Jaslean.
61 reviews
September 26, 2022
I’m not sure if I’m just confused only to get a classic happy ending….I thought the plot line was intriguing but there were so many characters I felt very confused. I also really took my time with this book and that actually might have been my fault since I kind of got lost of what was happening and what I was reading 😂 I think this book would make a cool movie- I hope it becomes one so I can understand it better 😅
Profile Image for Ashley.
86 reviews
September 29, 2022
Ehh. I don’t have a real review for this book. I liked the characters, the story line was okay…

Profile Image for Emily.
1,264 reviews331 followers
July 12, 2022
I really enjoyed this! It was mysterious and spooky, and had so many elements that I enjoy. I just still have a lot of questions and am hoping that maybe there will be a second book.
Profile Image for Hannah Brown.
234 reviews27 followers
October 29, 2021
I haven't been glued to a book like No Beauties or Monsters for a long time! From page 1, I could not stop reading. Even my boyfriend commented that I couldn't put my Kindle down!

The intrigue and mystery made this novel so tense and gripping. The plot is based in a setting I've never been to - the Mojave Desert - but the author brought the area so vividly to life. The setting is integral to the plot, and it was great to "explore" the area through the pages. The plot had so many twists and turns, it kept me captivated the whole way through.

I really enjoyed the narrator of Rylie, too. Sometimes, a YA heroine does daft things, but Rylie makes many logical decisions and follows both her heart as well as her brain. She is also able to rely on her friends, who were great secondary characters. They gave her enough help as well as being able to have their own storylines which helped propel the plot along.

Overall, I loved it!

*ARC gifted from author & publisher via MTMC Tours. All thoughts are my own*
Profile Image for Liz Griffin.
Author 2 books27 followers
February 12, 2022
I received a gifted copy from Delacorte Press.

A fast-paced thriller for fans of X-Files and Stranger Things. I don’t want to share too much and risk spoilers. There were so many great twists. My one note is that I wish a few more of the weird goings on had gotten an explanation once Riley solves the case.

Content notes: hallucinations, memory loss/gaps, references to car accidents, death of a parent, brief medical content.
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