The Way We Bared Our Souls by Willa Strayhorn
4.5 / 5 Stars!!
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.
This was a beautifully written. I loved the ideas behind it and so much of it was based on spirituality and the soul while still tying it to modern lives. It was refreshing. And although I didn’t like the first chapter and thought it was completely unnecessary, I understood why she included it and the connection later on in the book.
I absolutely adored all of the main characters and thought they were relatable on different levels. The background characters (like Lo’s friends?) Eh, really didn’t care much for their personalities but they were tolerable. I absolutely did fall in love with Lo, Kit, Kaya, Thomas and Ellen however and loved all the storyline involving history and the background of Santa Fe and the people who lived there. So glad I picked this up and gave it a try when it was so new on the shelves.
I did give this a 5/5 star rating on Goodreads, but that is because half stars are not an option. That first chapter was really the loss of a half point. It really didn’t make much sense to have, and I felt like it gave away the ending and unfortunately made me prepared for what had happened in the end. But after all the shocking endings, I’m almost grateful she included it. Almost. My mental bookworm is disappointed in the lack of surprise.
Definitely recommend! This book had a lot of lessons to be learned and featured a part of the United States that really isn’t the setting for a lot of fictional, young adult books (at least that I’ve read). I loved the ‘everyone has their own battles’ and the ‘walk a mile in someone else’s shoes’ lessons that this book preached without sounding preachy and as though Strayhorn was forcing them down your throat. Absolutely fantastic first novel for her. Excited to see what else she delivers in the future!!
If you are going through a tough time and are having difficulty handling it, I absolutely recommend this book. It will help you immensely.
I wish I could say skip the first chapter. And realistically, you probably, very easily could. But now that I’ve read it WITH the first chapter and no one warned me, you might want to.
If anyone does happen to read this novel while skipping the first chapter, let me know! I’d love to hear your reaction to the ending!