Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Mara Dyer Trilogy, books 1 and 2 by Michelle Hodkin

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer – book one

Mara Dyer (not her real name) was the only survivor of a building collapse that killed her friends Rachel and Clare and her boyfriend Jude, who was Claire’s brother. She doesn’t remember how she got there or what happened, only waking up in the hospital. Upon her release, she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. Rachel had been her best friend since the first day of kindergarten. Claire and Jude were recent arrivals to their Rhode Island town. Mara psychologist suggested that she be placed in a long term care facility. Her mother, also a psychologist, agreed by her father the lawyer did not. Instead she asks her family to move away. Everything in her life, her house, her school reminds her of Rachel. The family moves to Florida to start over. No matter what, Mara’s mother hovers over her, always worrying and looking for signs that she isn’t coping.

Mara and her older brother Daniel transfer to the exclusive Croyden Academy for the Arts and Sciences mid-trimester, late for their first day, Mara retrieves their schedules while Daniel reassures their mother on the phone. The siblings go their separate ways after Mara reassures her brother that she will be fine. Lost on the sprawling campus, she finds the vending machines before she can locate her Algebra class. Having left the house without eating breakfast, Mare digs out her last two quarters to but a package of M&Ms. The package becomes stuck. Mara gets frustrated but she hears a voice with a British accent talking to her. She turns around and sees a gorgeous, disheveled boy smiling at her. Looking to see if there is someone else behind her, the boy is gone when she looks back. A girl and boy walk by her then and the girls tells her to “watch it.” Explaining that she is a new student, Mara heads off to class.

Dreading walking into class late and drawing attention to her, Mara experiences the first of several hallucinations that day when she walks in. completely unprepared for it, she ends up falling to the floor, busting her nose. Not the way she wanted to make a first impression, the teacher excuses her to the bathroom to clean up. Looking in the mirror, she sees Claire’s face instead of her own, rattling her even more. Pulling herself back together, she heads back to class where she is miserable until the bells rings. Alone at lunch, Mara sees and hears Jude. Distressed, she opens the first door she finds and by chance, it is her Spanish classroom. Her teacher proceeds to belittle her in front of everyone.

At the end of class, a quirky boy asks her how she is doing. He is also in her Algebra class and introduces himself as Jamie Roth. Fine really except the girl who made the rude comment earlier. Anna, Jamie says after Mara describes her. He then asks her if she went near Noah Shaw. Describing the boy with her, Jamie tells he that is Aiden Davis, Anna’s boyfriend before she dated Noah and Aiden came out of the closet. Supposedly, Noah dropped Anna after dating only a couple of weeks and he supposedly Croyden’s resident womanizer. Mara realizes that she has just made her first friend at Croyden.
When Mara’s mother picks her up after school, she sees the dried blood on Mara’s neck. She lies that it was just a nose bleed but her mother doesn’t buy it. Mara keeps the hallucinations to herself. Mother and daughter ride home in silence. Mara heads to her room and her mother leaves her home until dinner. On the evening news, there is a story about Jordana Palmer, a murdered tenth grader and the possibility of new evidence. Mara briefly hallucinates that the story is about her friends’ deaths in Rhode Island and asks to turn off the TV.

The next morning in AP English, Mara discovers that she has already covered the material her new teacher is about to go over. When the teacher asks a question, Mara is the only person to raise their hand. The teacher calls on Mara but a British accented voice calls out the answer instead. The teacher reprimands Noah and Mara realizes the voice belongs to the notorious Noah Shaw. To the teacher’s delight, Mara and Noah begin a spirited debate over the answer. When the teacher moves on, Mara pulls out her copy of Lolita to read rather than listen to the lecture.

Trying to get out of class when the bell rings, Mara inadvertently knocks over her chair. Noah quickly helps her. When she drops her books in the hallway, he stops to help again. He comments on her choice of reading material. Soon, Mara is hurling insults at Noah but he is amused. Heading towards Algebra class, Mara realizes that she is having a hard time getting Noah Shaw out of her head.

Mara begins to have the same reoccurring nightmare where she remembers how she ended up being with her friends the nigh they died. Arriving at school early one morning, she goes for a walk to clear her head. She hears whimpering and finds a severely abused dog cowering in a yard. Trying to help it, the owner finds her. They exchange words and he chases her off. Thinking bad thoughts about the owner, she runs back to school, making it just in time for English class. When class is over, she bumps into Anna. Anna makes a nasty comment to Mara and Noah quickly comes to her defense. He follows Mara to her next class, trying to make conversation the entire way. Noah sits next to her in Algebra class even though he isn’t a student in it. Noah stares at her though the entire class while Anna sits seething.

After reporting the abused dog to animal control, Mara goes after school to see if it has been picked up. When she reaches the house, she sees police cars and an ambulance. Mara scans the yard looking for the dog when she sees the owner dead. His death is exactly the same way she imagined it that morning. It should be impossible and she goes into shock. While being checked out by an EMT, she overhears the police talk about how the dog will be put down. Not wanting that to happen, Mara sneaks away with the dog while no one is watching. In bad shape, Mara knows that she must get the dog to the nearest vet. Carrying it back to her car, she runs into Noah in the parking lot. He is quite nasty to her until he realizes that she is trying to get the dog help. Noah takes the dog from her and says that there is a vet close by. Mara goes with him and is surprised to find out that his mother is the vet. She discovers that she really doesn’t know who Noah Shaw is.

What happened the night Mara’s friends died in Rhode Island? Why has she suppressed the memories from that night? Did Mara inadvertently have something to do with the do owner’s death? Who is Noah Shaw? Can finding love help Mara solve the mystery that is now her life before someone else gets hurt?

Twists and turns abound for Mara as she attempts to figure out what is real and what is imagined.

The Evolution of Mara Dyer – book two

SPOILER ALERT! Don’t read any further if you haven’t read The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer in its entirety. 

Mara has been temporarily committed to a hospital; psychiatric unit after her breakdown following the events of her father’s trial. Angry with her parents, she quickly realizes that if she convinces everyone that she only suffers from PTSD and knows her hallucinations aren’t real, she wouldn’t be committed to an inpatient facility. Only Noah believes her when she says that Jude is alive and behind some of the things happening to her. When her mother breaks down that she only wants Mara well and not to end up like her mother, she begins to realize that her abilities/curses are possibly genetic. Playing on her parents’ guilt, Noah helps convince them that the unit isn’t safe. Mara knows that she must go to an outpatient program instead.

Mara is pleasantly surprised to find her friend Jamie Roth in the same program as herself, but that seems to be the only upside. Never allowed alone, her father takes her to and from the program. Daniel must accompany her but Noah is allowed to stay in her life. On quite friendly terms with the Dyer family, Noah knows Mara’s mother approves of his presence in Mara’s life but her father does question his motives. Determined to help the girl he loves, Noah Shaw will stop at nothing to uncover the mysteries surrounding Mara and himself.

Is Jude really alive and terrorizing Mara or is he just a hallucination? Does Mara’s grandmother play a part in what she is going through? Where do Noah’s abilities come from? Can Mara ever earn her family’s trust again? And what happens when Mara discovers that Noah is still keeping secrets from her?

With suspense, mystery, surprising revelations and a killer cliffhanger, readers will be clamoring for the final book, The Retribution of Mara Dyer, due out October 22, 2013.

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