Review: 'The Way We Bared Our Souls' by Willa Strayhorn

Saturday, May 23, 2015

 The Way We Bared Our Souls
Willa Strayhorn

If you could trade your biggest burden for someone else’s, would you do it?
Five teenagers sit around a bonfire in the middle of the New Mexico desert. They don’t know it yet, but they are about to make the biggest sacrifice of their lives.
Lo has a family history of MS, and is starting to come down with all the symptoms.
Thomas, a former child soldier from Liberia, is plagued by traumatic memories of his war-torn past.
Kaya would do anything to feel physical pain, but a rare condition called CIP keeps her numb.
Ellen can’t remember who she was before she started doing drugs. 
Kit lost his girlfriend in a car accident and now he just can’t shake his newfound fear of death.
When they trade totems as a symbol of shedding and adopting one another’s sorrows, they think it’s only an exercise.
But in the morning, they wake to find their burdens gone…and replaced with someone else’s.
As the reality of the ritual unfolds, this unlikely group of five embarks on a week of beautiful, terrifying experiences that all culminate in one perfect truth: In the end, your soul is stronger than your burdens.


Here Be the Players

The characters are more human. They have problems. They have pasts. They aren't two dimensional. 
I didn't particularly like Lo. She was caring, though. She cared for her friends. She was worried for them. (In her own special way.) She was just a bit...too annoying at first. A tad whiny. Just a tad. She grew into a new character, though. Someone entirely different. She saw the world differently. She wasn't whiny. She was brave. 
Kaya was interesting. Her analgesia was fascinating to read about. (Even though I hadn't heard of it before.)  She was interesting. But her personality wasn't set in stone before the ritual. And after? I don't know. She seemed to be jumping from out of it to hyper. It was confusing. She was supposed to have taken Thomas's burden. But it didn't seem that way. I still liked her, though. 
Kit...I'm not sure what to think. He doesn't seem that mopey in the beginning. Out of it, maybe. But mopey? And depressed? Not exactly. He seemed to think too much. But...I really liked hyper-Kit. Man. That was just amazing to read. I loved it. I wanted to laugh and smack him on the head at the same time. Kit was actually pretty well written. But a bit too flirty with Ellen. And a bit too reminiscent. Also, I felt like the brotherhood between Kit and Thomas was missing.
Thomas. Wow. Thomas. Great character. Absolutely fantastic. I adored his character. A haunting backstory. Aloof personality. He was fantastic. He had a dark past he was trying to hide. And it kept running at him. He couldn't hide his past. And when he took on Kit's fear? Wow. He turned into a new person. And while he had to be comforted, he was still brave. He is a brave and strong character. Anyone has to be when they go through the pain of war. I am mildly reminded of two people as I think of Thomas. One is my brave friend. (I won't name names.) But I also think of Shin from the nonfiction book 'Escape from Camp 14'. Stuck in real life, these two had to become someone else. Someone who didn't have compassion. (No offense to them, of course.) They had to turn off their minds and just fight. Some might even say they aren't human. (Even though they are. Emotionless or not.) This is what I look for in characters. A character you can care for. Someone who grows on you. Someone who makes you care and feel for them. 
Ellen. Ah. I don't know what to think of Ellen. She is like...a female Kit. If that makes any sense. I didn't exactly like her. She wasn't someone I would like. In general. She was a bit annoying. And a little whiny. And she didn't really shake that. But...people will like her. I just didn't.
These characters all changed. That was something amazing. They all became someone else. They found the path. That was truly amazing. 

The Adventure Begins (And Ends)


The Swoon-Gasp-Swoon Factor


Ka-Pow Power


Kiss Kiss Fall in Love

It wasn't too heavy with the romance. The romance was, actually, kind of cute. (Between Thomas and Lo, I mean.) They were two people who were struggling through life. They complemented each other. One was darker. Another breaking in the darkness. They were like two halves of the same whole. And, if you know me, I don't like romance. (Practically ever. There are only a handful of couples I don't mind. Only a few I like. or two I ship undoubtedly.) 
They weren't absolutely adorable. They were cute. Not bad. But not fantastic. There were things I didn't like. For example, how fast they moved things along. They were fast. They kissed. And barely did any talking before it. Wow. Physical attraction is a lot these days.
Other than that, I was fine with the romance. Between Lo and Thomas.
Ellen and Kit is a whole other story. I didn't like that. Where is the spark? The chemistry? When did they ever talk? I don't see it. 

Special Effects

It was diverse. We have Kaya who is the descendant of the Native Americans who came before the European settlers. We have Liberian child soldier Thomas. We have MS-riddled Lo. Drug-addicted Ellen. (I said there were two with health problems and three with psychological ones. Kaya and Lo had the health problems. Kit had depression. I think Thomas had PTSD. And Ellen had a drug addiction.) We had more than Caucasian males. We had a Native American girl. And an African. (If I got my geography right. Liberia is in Africa.) 
I liked the diversity. We had many different people. I like that. The world is diverse. We need diversity. We can't just accept the guidelines. We need to break free and become a new generation of writers and readers. This book is the epitome of diversity. (Well...for this year...) Thank you, Willa Strayhorn. Thank you for that. 

The End

The only thing I didn't like was the ending. I The action tumbling over your head in the last few chapters. Things were thrown at you. It was a surprise ending. And then...things rolled down the resolution. And it wasn't the best resolution. I wish there was something better. 
I didn't want Kaya to die. (Not a spoiler, guys. It's within the first chapter. I didn't ruin anything.) She wasn't a bad character. She was important to Lo. Lo had too much pain to begin with. (Aunt Karine. Hint hint.) There was so much happening. Goodness...
And how the story started at the end. I didn't like that. It was a bit odd for me. I prefer to have stories that start with the beginning. Chronological order is better for me. It's confusing when you just jump into the end, or the middle. It's just a nuisance, though. Not completely terrible. Only...meh. 


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