This past week I read, and enjoyed, A Cactus in The Valley, written by the wonderfully talented Olivia Bennett. Here’s a wee summary:
Teenagers Terra and Wyatt are the only two survivors of a four-person plane crash. Stranded in the desert with little to no resources, they make their trek towards hopeful salvation. This story is artfully told through duo points of view and plot-deepening flashbacks peppered within from both Terra and Wyatt.
The integrity of this book is applaudable. Olivia Bennet’s writing is poetry, and the amount of figurative language she uses is astounding. Now, books like this may not be for everyone, but I enjoyed having to look back and actually think about what the author was trying to convey with her beautiful and twisting words. The compelling flashbacks and intertwined points of view made for two very different outlooks on the whole plot of the book. Olivia does a splendid job of building and developing her characters, with past experiences and memories that shape who they were throughout their trek.
Although I loved the book, I would’ve enjoyed seeing more chemistry between Terra and Wyatt. I felt like a lot of their relationship was up in the air. It would’ve been nice to have them talk more throughout the desert, only so that, as a reader, I could be given a better opportunity to learn how Terra and Wyatt fit together. I say this realizing that the amount of dialogue they did or didn’t have was strongly influenced by the character’s personalities. Speaking of personalities, these stick out in the book for their originality, free of the stench of stereotypes already worn through in most books in the YA genre.
The ending was short but sweet. It is only because the book was so enrapturing that I would’ve appreciated more at the end. I’m kind of curious to know how Terra and Wyatt’s families dealt with the accident. I felt like there was a lot of feelings that were just swept under the rug and not approached. For example, do Terra and her mother resume their old relationship? Or are there miles of guilt and unsaid words still between them? It would’ve been nice to have a few nagging questions answered about the search, too. Did authorities end up finding the crash site? If they had stayed at the airplane, would help have come? I realize this book centers around Wyatt and Terra, but getting to experience the outside world and how they fit into it after they had been rescued would’ve been a nice bonus.
I highly recommend this book and the fact that it’s written by an independent author makes it all the more incredible for how good it turned out. I’d give it 3.5 stars.