Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Evolution of Mara Dyer

Mara Dyer believes her ex-boyfriend Jude, who supposedly died in a building collapse, is alive, well, and stalking her. She wakes up in a mental hospital after having gone to the police station to confess all her crazy sounding crimes, including causing the building to collapse with her thoughts. Her doctors and her parents think she's delusional, paranoid, and a danger to herself and possibly others. Her goal is to lie and appear normal to everyone in order to stay home and protect her family from Jude's attacks. Her boyfriend Noah struggles to help her, but can't be everywhere at once. As the harassment from Jude escalates, Mara is under more and more stress. She sleepwalks, loses time, and doesn't remember events. Is she really crazy or is her dead ex-boyfriend really after her?

I loved the first Mara Dyer book and I'm happy to report that the second book is just as good. It has a lot of elements I liked from the first book: the unreliable narrator and the mix of reality and fantasy. Mara doesn't have the PTSD hallucinations that she did in the last book, but she has a host of other problems now. She sleepwalks, doing things she doesn't remember. It throws her whole world into chaos. She has no idea if she actually did something or if it was Jude's harassment. It could be that she really is crazy since there is no hard evidence of Jude's existence and almost everyone in her life continually telling her she's overreacting and nothing is wrong. I like that uncertainty and the feeling that Michelle Hodkin can just pull out the rug on everything we think we know about the story. The mix of reality and fantasy works very well. Mara does have some psychological problems and has to go to outpatient therapy for most of the day, five days a week. She has do deal with real world things like not getting permanently committed to an institution, appeasing her parents, and appearing normal to those around her. So many other teen books remove the real world when things like supernatural powers come into play, but Mara desperately needs to conform to normal society in order to save herself and her loved ones.

Some things improved since the last book, mainly Noah and their love story. In the last book, he was tolerable, but I didn't like him because of his cliche bad boy image. In this book, much more is revealed about his character and why he acts like he does. His defense mechanism is to act like an asshole and push people away or act uncaring when he really does care. After this was revealed, it was easy to read who he really was behind that tough exterior. I grew to like him over the course of the book because he seemed much less mercurial and showed he was dedicated to Mara, even if he disagrees with some of her choices. Their scenes together were sweet and much less fraught with drama in the face of all their other problems. Their romance also wasn't the main focus of the novel as it was in the last book. I felt it was integrated into the rest of the plot well without overshadowing the main conflict.

My only problem with the book is that the pacing dragged a little in the middle and its similarity to the Jenny Pox series. I hope the big reveal goes in a different direction than that series, but the powers, the flashbacks into previous lives, and the relationships are quite similar. Overall, I loved The Evolution of Mara Dyer and the 500+ pages just flew by. I can't wait for the last book in the series.

My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins

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