Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Evolution of Mara Dyer Book Review

Author: Michelle Hodkin. Release date: 2012. Publisher:  Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 9781442421790.

Annotation: After the events of the first novel, Mara Dyer finds herself in a mental institution, locked up for claiming that she killed her teacher and that her presumed dead ex-boyfriend, Jude, is still alive. Everyone thinks she’s crazy except for her boyfriend, Noah Shaw. Mara must find out how Jude survived, and why he seems determined to punish her for the accident that took the life of his sister and Mara’s best friend.

Personal thoughts: I really enjoyed the first book in this series and found it to be very unique, so I was hoping that The Evolution of Mara Dyer would be similar in its creativity. I was happy to find it just as intriguing as its predecessor! The tone of this novel is dark (as was the first), especially because the reader is never really sure if the horrible things Mara is experiencing are actually happening. I found these dark moments to be creepy but also a large component in why the novel is so enjoyable. I’m really looking forward to seeing how Michelle Hodkin concludes this trilogy and wraps up the complicated web she has woven in the character of Mara Dyer. I highly recommend this series to both teen and adult readers alike!

Plot summary: Shortly after the events of the first novel, Mara Dyer finds herself in a mental institution. The doctors tell her that she was uncontrollably raving about having killed her teacher and that Jude, her ex-boyfriend who was thought to have died in the tragic accident that brought Mara to Miami, is still alive. Everyone thinks Mara is crazy: her parents, her brothers, the doctors, the police. Everyone but Noah Shaw, Mara’s boyfriend, who seems to have supernatural abilities like her. In an effort escape the confines of the mental institution, Mara pretends to be normal: not mentioning that she sees evidence that Jude is very much alive and stalking her. Jude seems determined to punish Mara for the accident that killed Claire, Jude’s sister and Mara’s best friend. Mara can rely only on Noah, the sole person who believes the Jude is still alive. As Mara begins to uncover more about the truth of the accident that changed her life forever and Jude’s sudden reappearance, however, she discovers a much larger, centuries-old secret, showing that everything that has happened to her was no accident.

Review: Following up her best-selling debut novel, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, this second installment in the Mara Dyer trilogy picks up briskly right where the previous book left off, plunging the reader again head first into Mara’s confusing but fascinating world. One of the most enjoyable parts of both the first and second novels in this series is that, like Mara, the reader isn’t sure what is real and what is imaginary. Clearly Mara herself has difficulty distinguishing between reality and fantasy, making her an unreliable narrator in the sense that the reader doesn’t know the truth either. Is Jude really alive? Is he truly stalking her? These are questions that the author does a good job of raising throughout the story, making this book a lot more complex than other paranormal titles available for the young adult audience. The Evolution of Mara Dyer also begins to unravel some of the mystery surrounding Mara, Noah and their apparent supernatural abilities, explaining some things to the reader while creating even larger questions as well. Like the first novel, the story ends of a large cliffhanger that will undoubtedly leave readers clambering for the third and final book in the series, The Retribution of Mara Dyer, which is set to be released in the fall of 2013. Overall, a successful sequel in a very intriguing trilogy.

Genre:  Mystery

Reading level: Grade 8+

Similar titles: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin, After Obsession by Carrie Jones and Steven E. Wedel, The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman, The Carrier of the Mark by Leigh Fallon, Damage by Anya Parrish, Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, and Ultraviolet by R.J. Anderson.

Themes:  Post-traumatic stress disorder, hallucinations, insanity, mental institutions, paranormal abilities, conspiracy.      

Awards/Reviews:  Sequel to best-selling novel.

Series Information: Second novel in Mara Dyer trilogy. First novel, Unbecoming of Mara Dyer (2011), third novel, The Retribution of Mara Dyer set to be released Fall 2013.

Discussion questions:

-        Do you think Mara is sane or insane? Why?

-         Why do you think no one but Noah believes that Jude is alive?

-        Describe the significance of the flashbacks in the story. What do you think they explain about Mara?

-         Do you think that Noah truly loves Mara? Why or why not?

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