Michelle Hodkin’s trilogy, The Mara Dyer Trilogy, is off to an absolutely fantastic, compelling start. Dark, intoxicating and haunting, these first two books will have you glued to each page, hanging on the curve of each word. The story follows the life of Mara Dyer, a young 17-year-old girl who has relatively recently survived through a freak accident that killed off two of her best friends and her boyfriend. Her family relocated to Florida to give her a fresh, new start – but that isn’t the only new thing in Mara’s life. While attending her new school, Croyden Academy, she meets and befriends Jamie Roth, a hilariously pessimistic ‘delinquent’, as viewed by the rest of the school, and starts at trying to build a life for herself. That is, until she meets Noah Shaw. Incredibly handsome, arrogant, and with a killer British accent, she finds herself both attracted and infuriated by him. But she soon discovers that she has bigger problems in her hands, after she fleetingly wishes the deaths of two undesirable characters – and it happens.
The plotline was unbelievably original, unlike any story that I personally have ever read before. Written in dream-like haze, the story is dark, nightmarish and almost psychotic – yet utterly compelling and intoxicating. The storyline evolves gradually yet at a clean, consistent pace – at the beginning of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, it’s focused on Mara’s past struggles and moving past them to start a new life, however by the end of The Evolution of Mara Dyer, it warps into something completely new – something unknown, something dark, something terrifying. It leaves the reader unsure of what is real and what is not, questioning the borders of dreams and reality. Climaxes in the story comes at strange, unexpected intervals, which cause you to jump out of your seat in both terror and exhilaration, making the overall read climatic, ambiguous and thrilling.
In The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, the good first portion of the story evolves around her relocation and fitting in to the new town – however, do not feel discouraged by this. During this portion all the characters, especially the main, are established as well as the setting and style of writing. It also focuses heavily on the relationship between Mara and Noah – and you will constantly find yourself amused by their light-hearted yet competitive banter. In between this seemingly mundane situation, however, dark flashbacks, nightmares, strange thoughts and happenings are splashed between the lines. Mara begins to question if she really is going insane, but as the first book begins to draw to a close, she discovers things about both herself and Noah – powers – that aren’t normal, yet seem to link them in a way that not even fate could determine.
In The Evolution of Mara Dyer, things definitely take a turn down the dark end. After the extreme climatic cliff-hanger left by the first book, events start to evolve into one big heap of shadows, secrecy and insanity. Mara and Noah desperately search for the answers to what has been happening to them, seeking out medical help, spiritual advice and even help including drinking chicken blood. This journey to discovery is mostly unsuccessful – however, do unlock a new series of events and memories for Mara that shouldn’t even be hers – memories from a different person, from a different time. Mara and Noah now are completely unsure of what is happening, and it doesn’t help when she is locked up into a mental institution 87% of the time. Events flurry in a whirlwind of mystery as they are thrown into a pool of history that seem to have a link to the present day, and Mara is thrown into a life of terror as she finds herself being watched, stalked and taunted by someone, someone that she thought was dead but now knows certainly isn’t.
The characterisation was certainly one of the strongest points of these novels – especially in terms of the protagonist, Mara. Written in a first-person tense, readers could clearly see an established sense of character. Mara, being strong-willed, bluntly honest and not afraid to admit that sometimes she gets terrified made for the perfect protagonist and love interest. She was able to, no matter how afraid she was, bite her tongue and pull through all the terrible ordeals, proving her incredible strength of will and mind. She had a profound sense of street-smarts, and knew when and what to say, which made her smart and an incredibly realistic character. As readers looked at things from her perspective you could really understand her, her emotions and her reasoning behind her actions. When you read, you weren’t reading from Mara – you were Mara.
“You’re the girl who called me an asshole the first time we spoke. The girl who tried to pay for lunch even after you learned I have more money than God. You’re the girl who risked her ass to save a dying dog, who makes my chest ache whether you’re wearing green silk or ripped jeans.”
And then there was Noah. Beautiful, arrogant, indescribably loyal Noah, with his lilting British accent and always messily attractive dark hair. His humour, recklessness and cockiness mixed in with his infinite devotion, loyalty, and his hidden compassionate heart made him for the perfect love interest for Mara, and a swoon-worthy character for readers. Never doubting Mara, he gives her all his trust when they discover their mysterious, paranormal connection, and provides her with the much-needed firm foundation for her to lean against.
“Noah – sarcastic, distant, untouchable Noah – cared. And that made him real.”
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer and The Evolution of Mara Dyer are both absolutely superb reads, leaving you in a dream-like trance and clinging to each word. The unique, dark, almost psychotic storyline leaves you gripping each page tightly and utterly intoxicated with the story and the characters, shadowy nightmares, flashbacks and taunts written in blood will keep you up all night with no regard for the time, drunk on each word and pining for more. Michelle Hodkin has truly written the work of a genius, and I, for one, am holding on to the edge of my seat in wait for the next release.
The Retribution of Mara Dyer is scheduled to be released on June 10th, 2014.