Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Series Review: The Mara Dyer Series. [AKA probably one of the funniest reviews I'll ever write.]


I have to admit that,

1. I was sort of late to the Mara Dyer party, and

2. I didn’t understand the phrase unreliable narrator prior to reading this series.

Overall I would say that I generally enjoyed this series, having picked up the first one just a few weeks ago for the annual attempt to ‘read creepy’ during the Halloween season. [Side note: I’m pretty terrible at reading to any kind of theme, the book puts me in the mind set, not the season. A creepy book, to me, will be just as creepy on a beach in July as it will be with the windows open in October. This is beside the point.] I have had “The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer” on my shelf for probably about two years, about a year ago I purchased “The Evolution of Mara Dyer” and placed it next to the first one, collecting dust on The Great Stack.



But then I saw that the final book, “The Retribution of Mara Dyer” FINALLY had a fixed release date. [Side note: for those of you who don’t know, this date got moved around quite a bit, and Goodreads and Amazon often had conflicting publications dates.] I added the first two books to my Halloween/October TBR, pre-ordered the third book to give myself incentive, and here we are.



After finishing all three books, I gave each one the following rating:

“The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer” – 3 STARS

“The Evolution of Mara Dyer” – 3 STARS

“The Retribution of Mara Dyer” – 2 ½ STARS

Therefore, I would say I gave the series as a whole: 3 STARS.

Overall, I felt that the concluding book really watered the entire rating down a bit. Had the book ended sooner or on a different note, my rating for the book and the overall series would have been at least a solid 4 stars. However, there were way too many open plot holes and lacking finalities. Also, I felt that the ending to the third book completely negated the entirety of the third book and more than half of the second book. It just made them worthless and they felt like a waste of time after finishing.

I enjoyed the characters, especially Mara. I really liked experiencing the unreliable narrator—which, as stated, was new territory for me. While parts of this book were predictable, the fact that Mara didn’t know herself whether she was crazy or if she was in a paranormal situation really kept me going. I agree with many other reviewers, who will tell you that there are some DEFINATE parallels to “Twilight” and “Fallen,” however, this doesn’t immediately destroy a book for me.

I also appreciated the defiance of the peripheral characters to the storyline. I don’t know if this goes along with how unreliable Mara was while sharing her story, but I loved that people legitimately doubted her in a realistic way. The genetics information was also good and added to the story for me, but I dislike science, so I don’t know how realistic that was.

This is where the SPOILERS start ya’ll, if you haven’t read any of the books, stop here. I’ll try to break it up by book, so you can read through what you already know and safely stop. J

UNBECOMING:

I got through the first book relatively quickly. As I said previously, I really liked Mara as a character, and a narrator, so I found the first book to be enjoyable. However, unlike most, I wasn’t immediately in love with Noah Shaw. I didn’t understand the attraction, and I would like to categorize this as Inta-Love. I mean, he literally walks up to her kicking a vending machine and suddenly they’re made for each other. Annoying.

I got a little ahead of myself, however. I was immediately drawn in by the idea that Mara was in this accident and didn’t know how she got there. The dynamic of Mara’s boyfriend’s sister (and best friend’s new bestie) was great to me, and relatable. I liked their banter and the entirety of the story at the asylum. I liked the Ouija board portion, and I liked Mara’s family. Her brother Daniel was a very Hermonie-esuqe character, there to bridge the gaps of both information and realism. I also liked Mara’s younger brother Joseph, but he was a little lost on me. He seemed to fit into several classic character types depending on what was convenient at the time. Both brothers being portrayed as perfect geniuses was especially interesting to me given that Mara is narrating the story (and is untrustworthy, as noted), so I like to think this was intentional to add some realistic notes of both jealousy and rose-colored glasses.

If you haven’t read this book, naughty you, looking at spoilers, the first part centers around Mara being in an accident with her best friend Rachel, her boyfriend Jude, and Jude’s sister (and Mara’s enemy) Claire. Rachel, Jude, and Claire all die in the accident, which you later learn was a building collapse in an abandoned asylum in their town surrounded by the usual small town legends. You learn this through Mara’s dreams/memories in bits and pieces, and not a lot of it makes sense until it all makes sense.

Because of the trauma of the accident and Mara’s amnesia following it, the Dyer family relocates from Rhode Island to Florida (because of course they do) and enrolls the kids at a private school there. During her first day at the school Mara makes an immediate enemy out of everyone (especially every female for some reason) and quickly befriends outsider Jamie. She also starts a flirt-mance and insta-love domino effect with the “resident hottie” Noah Shaw.

Noah is British, absolutely loaded, has slept with everyone, and is kind of an asshole (IMO). [Side note: why is everyone in a book series, especially the love interest, either absolutely loaded, richer than God style, ex. Noah, or absolutely poor, doesn’t have food at home? Where is the middle class YA authors? I know it’s disappearing, but still.] Starting this up with Noah makes everyone hate her more, he woos her, and on it goes. If you didn’t know the second that Noah’s first line came up that he was the love interest, then welcome to Young Adult fiction, my name is Jessica, and you’re obviously new here.

Throughout the first book we’re introduced to the idea that Mara isn’t just suffering from PTSD, hallucinating, etc. It is introduced that perhaps, Mara has the ability to kill people with her mind. There are a few instances of this, that are relatively unimportant, but mainly seek to identify that Mara loves animals and that Mara only really kills people who are awful. I liked the idea that maybe this wasn’t a paranormal book and Mara was just crazy. I like that psychological element; however, it started to become pretty evident that Mara wasn’t absolutely insane.

Overall, I was intrigued, but didn’t see a lot of growth or real action in this book. This was probably my favorite of the series because it had the most potential to go to that place, but it didn’t. I loved the ending.

So, three stars.

EVOLUTION:

So I’m a little over this whole “I love you but you are destroying me” trope. I used to love it. [Side note: my favorite love storylines are the “I hate you, you have me, but we have to work together and oops now I love you” ones, just FYI.] Mara and Noah are no exception. It’s just an excuse for Mara to be whiny, how about instead of thinking you might murder him with your mind, we talk about how disastrous is might be for him if you’re insane. Or what if he’s just a figment of your imagination? No? Ok, so Jude’s alive, maybe, and Noah instantly believed Mara. I wouldn’t. And I’m in her head, but again, whatever, suspension of reality, I get it.

Her family is more in my line of thinking, that is, realistic, and think that Mara may not be in touch with reality because the Jude she thinks she saw has hands (Jude’s hands were all that were found at the scene of the building collapse, GASP!). [Side note: “in touch with reality” “hands” lol, I am hilarious. I’m not changing it.] Mara mysteriously convinces her family she’s not crazy, and they send her back to school. [Side note: if Pretty Little Liars is any indication, I think I’d rather be in the asylum, you can just do art and eat pudding all day and every once in a while some teenager shows up to play amateur detective. I can dig it.]

Mara isn’t so slick, however, that she completely gets out of treatment, and so she agrees to quit school and do a day program for crazy people. Which is a thing, apparently. Not just any crazy people either, but her only friend Jamie, and then Noah shows up! Who’d a thunk it!? You would think that a highly regarded, apparently expensive day program for crazy teens, would at least be able to do two things: 1. Keep significant others from being in the same group. This is a domestic violence/control situation waiting to happen. And 2. At least separate them by level of insanity. I mean, Stella is an anorexic, Mara thinks she is killing people with her mind, and Adam might actually be killing people. Yay diversity?

My hatred of Noah continues, as he is magical and can do anything when necessary, but a weak little bird the next. I don’t like writing for convenience. If you write a character, you are stuck with them. They are a person that way. If you allow them to bend this reality, or step through that story hole, you’re setting yourself up for several eye rolls from me. Noah is a prime example of this.

The fact that Noah was allowed in the same group, and that the group was so varied is something I will continue in the third book’s area, because it comes up and I was capital P-I-S-S-E-D when it came out. Basically, now that Mara knows she’s not crazy, she and Noah spend this entire book not kissing each other, because Mara thinks she’ll kill Noah [Side note: It’s like a less exciting Rogue/Iceman thing.] and trying to find Jude. There are even less answers in this book than in the first one, and even less things to keep you interested. In the end, Jude shows up at Crazy Kid Campground and kills some people, I think, sometimes an unreliable narrator is annoying. And maybe kills Noah.

Overall, I hated the flashbacks, they were worthless without some kind of connecting thread. I didn’t care if Jude showed up, I really didn’t. It didn’t make any difference to me, because the author didn’t even try to be thrilling or exciting with it. And I was really, really exhausted of the “I can’t even kiss you thing”. Either have a romance or don’t, if you’re going to do forbidden love thing, but can’t do it right, stop.

I gave it three stars because I hope Noah is dead. Also I liked the family dynamic in this one a lot. I think that Mara’s family is my favorite part of the book, and I’d like to see this story written from Daniel’s perspective.

RETRIBUTION:

I spent the majority of this book hoping that Noah was, in fact, dead. Because I hated him. I hated Mara with him. Most of this book he’s not around, and I loved that Mara. Crazy, scalpel-wielding Mara! I love that we have no idea what’s going on. I love that this reeks of some kind of conspiracy. I love that Mara is just friggin’ killing people because she wants to get to New York to talk to an accountant. I love it.

But then it was ruined. Because the inner monologue wasn’t about any of this, it was about Noah. Noah this, Noah that, Noah, Noah, Noah, Noah, Noah, Noah, murder, Noah, food, Noah, Stella is mean, Noah. Terrible. Just terrible.

[Side note: Can we briefly discuss that Mara hates every single female on the planet? She even gets along better with her dad than her mom. Females are immediately slutty or mean to her, and she just works from there. She even bad mouths Rachel a few times in the series. It’s weird. But men are ALWAYS the savior for her. Stella is doing nothing but going on this crazy goose chase with her, accepting murder and weird shit, but let’s hate her and note every side eye. Hate it.]

The science stuff was poorly developed for me. I know that Hodkin briefly touched on it in other books, but it had generally been written off. So for every aspect of the book to suddenly rely on this genetic marker and everyone just accepts it, was too much for me. Especially since Mara’s grandmother’s letter at the end, which was literally one of the most infuriating things I have ever dealt with as a reader, suicide by a carrier might magically erase it all.

Also, are they immortal, what the hell? This new aspect was just weird and it made me mad.

Another thing that made me mad, as mentioned before, was Kells’ genius puberty psychosis group being what it was. And in this installment you find out that they weren’t even all genetic characters. There was no rhyme or reason for the way this group was made up except for Noah/Mara/Jamie to crack a joke at a specific time and then that person to die—or just plain disappear, like most of them did.

Kells was the worst-written part of this. I would have been happier if it had turned out that Jude was Kells in drag. Seriously, it would make more sense.

I liked Jude in this book, however, the conflict that he went through and the multiple personalities was interesting to me, and fitting for the way I think the genetic BS was supposed to be induced. But the idea that Claire was in on this the whole time and she and Jude knew about Mara’s magic powers is complete shit. Seriously, so they lured her and an innocent girl into a building and Jude tries to rape a girl he knows might be able to kill him with her mind? Nope.

Also, Hodkin needs to study the fundamentals of puberty. Puberty does not begin at seventeen, girls begin puberty around twelve. So that was…whatever.

I was insanely happy with the reintroduction of Daniel, however. I love him. He saved this book for me. That and the murder. I shipped Daniel and Stella and I’m not afraid to admit it. This OTP is what stopped this from being a one star review.

I’m getting angry all over again and this is going on five pages, so I’ll jump to the end.

What. The. Ever. Loving. Fuck.

Seriously.

There was no ending. Not only was I disappointed that Noah wasn’t dead, but Noah’s dad is the bad guy? No. I’m not buying it. It doesn’t add up. If his goal was to prevent Noah from being with Mara, why was Noah allowed to run away to the treatment facility? And that’s just one of the many, many, many things wrong with this.

I wish Mara had died when Noah injected her and that was the end. Romeo-and-Juliet me. It would have been better than them having sex and staying together without any further discussion of a single damn thing that happened in the last three books. About 1500 pages of my time was wasted and gone to hell for a terrible sex scene. I felt ripped off.

OVERALL (with spoilers):

Essentially this series was a waste of time, given the ending. I continued to read in the hopes that Mara actually was a psychopath and she was just killing people thinking she was the good guy. That would have made my day. [Side note: Someone write that book. I’ll give you all the dollarz.]

I can’t even say that I enjoyed Hodkin’s writing style, because I didn’t really. I felt that this entire series was written as it came, without forethought or full plot line. Everything seemed to be there when it was convenient. There was very little continuity.

I disliked the pop culture references. In fact, the Hunger Games one at the beginning of the third book almost made me put the book down and just stop.

Overall, three stars, barely.

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