Initial reaction: This has to be the most peculiar dystopian novel I’ve read in a while. And I’ve had this for quite some time and am just getting around to reading it. If it were not for some of the repetition, I think this could’ve been better than it was, and I’ll admit the story itself is a bit convoluted. But at least it was a quick, easy read.
You know, it’s not often when I’m absolutely stumped in the aftermath of reading a work that I have no idea how to reflect upon my experiences with it. And I’m sort of having that same reaction now to reading Dan Boehl’s “Naomi and the Horse-Flavored T-Shirt.” It’s not that I thought it was a bad read, not at all. Just really…strange.
The story revolves around a girl named Naomi who owns a Horse-Flavored T-Shirt, which is supposed to be rare in a world where horses don’t exist and Paste is ubiquitous (I sincerely had no idea what Paste was starting out, and the narrative kinds of throws you into the loop of things saying that Paste – eating, consuming, making things from it – is the norm).
Naomi sets out on a journey to find horses in her world and gets introduced to a lot of colorful characters. I can’t say that they were all that developed, and the narrative plays very fast and loose on the journey aspects, so there was never a time I felt completely immersed or had a sense of the world. All I do know is that this is supposed to be a dystopian United States based on Texas being its own isolated state and there being a War with Oklahoma, and the fact that everyone’s been assimilated into living this Paste existence, and paste is described as being made from horse urine?
Yeah, it’s weird. I don’t say that in a bad way, it’s just that I’m more perplexed than anything else. I think it was going for some kind of Wizard of Oz or children’s fic environment with a bit of the absurd thrown in, but I don’t think the charm quite came off as well as it could’ve been.
I will say that I liked Sammy and Naomi enough to follow them, even if I didn’t really know what was going on. The aim of the journey, though a little hard to follow in retrospect, seemed to be escaping the Paste society, Naomi finding out what happened to her father, and seeing that there was more to life than the Paste existence, with Naomi at the helm to reshape the world.
It’s a quick, easy read, definitely rooted with YA dystopia, but rather light in both writing, tone, and focus. It wasn’t as immersive as I would’ve liked it to be, but not a bad way to pass the time. I just wish it could’ve been a little more.
Overall: 2.5/5 stars
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher.