Review: The Evolution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

Wednesday, January 1, 2014
Why I chose this book:

I read The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer at the beginning of the year and was absolutely entranced. I waited until The Evolution of Mara Dyer came out on paperback in order to match the first book. Now, I can’t wait to read The Retribution of Mara Dyer; paperback be damned.

The Evolution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publish Date: October 23, 2012
Format: Paperback 
Genre: Young Adult, Mystery, Horror, Thriller, Paranormal
Buy: B&N || Amazon || Indiebound 

Mara Dyer once believed she could run from her past.
She can’t.

She used to think her problems were all in her head.
They aren’t.

She couldn’t imagine that after everything she’s been through, the boy she loves would still be keeping secrets.
She’s wrong.

In this gripping sequel to The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, the truth evolves and choices prove deadly. What will become of Mara Dyer next?
5 things you need to know about this book:

   1. POCs and varying cultures: Mara, Jamie, and Stella
   I didn’t notice this in the first book, but Mara is at least part Indian. This came out in full force in this book with some of her flashbacks. I loved that she made her a race other than white, because these kind of characters go unrecognized in popular Young Adult lit. It was a welcomed change, and it didn’t feel like Hodkin was doing it to put POCs (People of Color) in her story. It flowed well.
On that note, let’s talk about a couple of the secondary characters that were POCs: Jamie and Stella. These were also realistic. 
   Jamie was a minority in every way that mattered; he was black and gay, not to mention he was adopted by a white family, and his personality was quite a shock to people who were not used to sarcasm and morbid humor, all wrapped up in attitude. Although Jamie contains all of these characteristics, it is not overwhelming. Jamie is so lifelike and dynamic that he doesn't feel like a secondary character; he feels more like a primary character, which is important
   Stella was another secondary character who was a minority. She was Latina. This makes complete sense considering that they are in Florida. I’m glad she kept it realistic since Mara’s heritage was Indian. If they had added someone from Zimbabwe or Russia, I would have found that less believable —but not completely far-fetched. Anyways, it was another breath of fresh air to read a book that contained POCs. 

   2. Violence and self-harm
   Like most would expect from a book about a girl who may or may not be mentally ill, this story has a lot of violence and self-harm, including things like cutting, suicide, teen death, kidnapping, and having the intent to inflict harm and to kill someone. 
   Those are some pretty hefty themes to hold in a book, which makes me warn everyone that this is definitely YA lit and not for Middle Grades. Though these are heavy topics, Hodkin does an excellent job at presenting each one with concrete explanation and reasoning within characters. 
Even further, because this book has to do with Mara going in and out of the mental hospital, there is talk of drugs and medication, including anti-psychotics, sleeping pills, etc. 

   3. Commentary on bullies and bullying
   It could be argued that this book is a commentary on bullies and the act of bullying. Jamie is bullied by a few of the popular people in The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, and this book goes into more detail as the characters find out that a certain person has died. In the wake of discovering this, Jamie says something exceedingly thought provoking:
   “Someone always says, ‘Kids are mean.’ ‘Kids will be kids.’ Which implies that the kid bullies will grow out of it someday… I don’t think they do. I think kid bullies turn into adult bullies…” (Hodkin 359).
   That is a profound statement. So many adults today, including parents and teachers, would agree with the idea that kids evolve out of bullying, but that is quite the opposite; they become more heinous and the cause of more suffering to the point that suicide seems a more viable option to some people. 
   I think Hodkin did right by her readers for mentioning this. She showed her readers that the ones who are bullied are not alone in this fight. They are actually one of many. 

   4. Dynamic characters
   This book goes in depth on all characters. I was extremely impressed on how she fleshed out characters, especially minor ones. And by creating them this way, she made the story breathe. It was like you measured it’s liveliness by the number of characters that showed their colors. 

   5. Is she crazy? Is she sane? 
   Those are the questions constantly asked by the reader as this book is read. You never know if she is sane or mentally ill. And I love how well Hodkin has woven the story to make even the reader question this. Obviously, the reader roots for Mara without fail, and there are times that I found myself shouting at the book, ‘No! Don’t say that! People will think you’re paranoid!’ 
   Even I was jumping to the same conclusions as she —to the point you questioned your own sanity and even wonder what would happen if you were in a situation such as this. It’s a little unsettling but also equally amazing that Hodkin was able to do this so well.

   Final Notes:
   This was definitely one of the best books I read in the year 2013. It was so entrancing I could hardly put it down. As a person who has had experiences with friends who have had mental illnesses, this can be quite unsettling, but nonetheless engaging and thought provoking.

I gave this book 5 stars on my Goodreads.

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