Welcome to my thoughts on The Evolution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin! It’s book 2 in the trilogy and for some reason, I thought I wrote a review for the first one already. Looking back at my Goodreads, it appears I just did a little blurb in the comments section. So let’s get a little housekeeping out of the way for those that have never heard of this series…
Book 1: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer
Book Synopsis: Mara Dyer believes life can’t get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there. It can. She believes there must be more to the accident she can’t remember that killed her friends and left her strangely unharmed. There is. She doesn’t believe that after everything she’s been through, she can fall in love. She’s wrong.
My Take: A good start to a mystery / sci-fi ya series. As with most beginning books, we’re introduced to Mara Dyer, Noah Shaw, and a whole host of other minor and major characters. The story opens with Mara waking up in a hospital bed, not quite remembering what happened. The official diagnosis is Amnesia with PTSD. As the story progresses, we get snippets as her memory returns… Her and her friends were checking out an abandoned asylum and it collapsed, killing everyone but her. Ultimately, the family packs it up and tries to make a new start in Miami, Fl. But as they’re settling in to their new lives, strange things start happening. People are mysteriously dying around Mara and in ways that she envisions well before it happens. She starts loosing time and hallucinating. In the midst of all this, she drawn to the school’s “bad boy”, Noah Shaw. Them dancing around each other is fun to watch play out. I didn’t particularly care for Shaw in the beginning – I thought he was a jerk and he’s hiding some secrets of his own – but by the end, he had grown on me. All in all, I gave it 4 stars (lost a star because it was a very slow start).
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s delve into the Evolution! Because the book descriptions are so vague, I might have a hard time giving this review without there being any spoilers. But I’ll try! Here’s from the back cover:
Mara Dyer once believed she could run from her past.
She used to think her problems were all in her head.
She couldn’t imagine that after everything she’s been through, the boy she loves would still be keeping secrets.
In this gripping sequel to The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, the truth evolves and choices prove deadly. What will become of Mara Dyer next?
One thing to note with this book is that it starts right where the first one left off. So if you’re thinking of taking a break between the two, don’t wait too long. There’s no hefty chunk of pages devoted to reminding us what went down. Personally, I’m okay with that. I hate when authors repeat themselves incessantly. It’s like, “Okay! We got it already!!” So yes, Ms. Hodkin uses all 500+ pages to weave her tale!
Gosh! I really don’t know what to say that doesn’t give away too much! One of the biggest plot points and drivers could spoil it for those that haven’t read the first one yet. Deep breath… Okay. I suppose I can just say this – It has to do with Jude. His character arc is at least a HUGE piece. Alright? That’s doesn’t give away too much, I don’t think?
Anyway, when Unbecoming ended, we were left wondering what happened in that police station. Evolution shows us the consequences of Mara’s decision to turn herself in and her reaction to what she saw. After waking up in a hospital room (again), Mara is pulled from school and placed in an out patient center for continued psychological therapy. Words like delusional and schizophrenic are added to her profile. While there, she discovers that Jaime was also expelled and is going to the same treatment facility. Until the end of this book, I couldn’t figure out the significance of his presence. Was it just as a friendly face? Someone to break up the monotony and heaviness with humor? But we discover a glimmer of what makes Jaime important and I’m hoping we learn more in the next one, Retribution of Mara Dyer.
Another thing I really enjoyed was getting to know more about Noah. We learn a bit about his past and why he acts the way he does towards Mara and the situations they encounter. I’m loving that both Noah and Mara are shaping up to be deep, well thought out, and highly developed characters. They make sense together. They balance each others. I’ve read so many YA books where I wonder what the author was thinking having the two main characters hook up. It’s like the romance trope is thrown in there just because it’s a box that needs to be ticked and not because it makes sense to the story line. Like I mentioned earlier, I honestly didn’t care for Noah in the beginning. I thought he was a self absorbed guy looking for a notch on his bedpost. He rarely went to school, didn’t have any friends, and was a known womanizer.
Now that I know more about him, I’m kind of falling for him. What we saw in Unbecoming was just a carefully crafted facade he uses to keep people from getting too close. An honestly damaged soul, Noah tread down a dark path of depression, drugs, alcohol, and sex after discovering his abilities in the wake of his mother’s death. He’s absolutely dealing with demons from his past. But he’s also got a soft heart a mile wide. The stuff about music? The things he’s willing to do for Mara to keep her safe? The fun, flirty banter. Swoon! I haven’t read a good tete-a-tete in a while and I’m enjoying it! Seriously, just Google some of the quotes. They’re great! I also want to praise Ms. Hodkin on keeping their interactions just this side of steamy without them being complete smut. I could’ve died reading the part where Noah was talking her through her “safe space”!
They’re relationship isn’t perfect either. Mara is still terrified that she’s going to kill Noah and the prediction she gets from a fortune teller doesn’t help – “You will love him to ruins.” However, her reaction to this and her fears is a real one. It’s one I can picture any flesh and blood person making. When you love someone as much as they do, when your very existence is inescapably entwined with theirs, when your heart only beats in response to theirs, then doing the noble thing most romance stories have you believable (artfully breaking up and running into the night) is a fairy tale. The truth of the matter is that real love is completely ride or die, damn the outcome. Ones like Bonnie and Clyde and Romeo and Juliet are a truer love story. “I’m too selfish to leave you,” I said. Noah pulled back so I could see his smile. “I’m too selfish to let you.” I’d like to think Ms. Hodkin recognizes this truth so Noah and Mara’s relationship is very much a realistic portrayal.
Okay, enough gushing. Back to the rest of the book. The whole out patient facility Mara is initially sent to (and really, the inpatient one too) is filled with a cast of additional characters that truly bring home the creep factor vibe. We’ve got everything from anger management to germaphobe and anxiety disorders. Each action, from the dead cat to the photos of Mara sleeping to the note in her backpack and more, ups the ante and makes the reader question what is real. Add to this Mara’s increasing blackouts, memories of a life she’s never lived, and sleep walking… You get a great suspense novel. Everything is a question! Is this real? Did Mara do it or did someone else? Is she over reacting? You just don’t know because you don’t know what’s important or not and what will tie in so you scrutinize everything. It’s genius. The ending blew my mind! Some questions were answered while new light was shed on those that are still outstanding. I have some seriously high hopes for Retribution.
Speaking of memories, we sort of see the grandmother tie-in. I’m not sure I understand the direction it’s pointing or why it seems to be a big factor but her backstory is brought more into the forefront than in Unbecoming. It’s because of this confusing, seemingly miss-placed additional chapters, that I couldn’t give it 5 stars. 4.5 was my final verdict. Maybe after I read the last one, it’ll make sense. It was just that while intriguing, it didn’t feel like it fit.
If you’re looking for a great read that sucks you in with equal parts *Aww!* and *Gasp!*, then this a series you want to check out! I have a few other books that I’ve borrowed from the library that I need to finish before getting into Retribution but I’m excited for the finale!