It's possible that I'm not ready to write this review yet. But I'm going to do it anyway because what is the point of getting an ARC if you don't review the book?
So I'm not one of those people who usually start a review by saying how I came to own the book. What made me decide to buy it? Did I order it online? Did I go to a bookstore and hear it call out my name? No. Nobody cares. But for this one, I feel like I have to tell you the story. Because I was not expecting it. I had resigned myself to waiting another 15 days before I could get my hands on this book, and while I was anxious, I was fine with that. I mean, Michelle Hodkin is following me on Tumblr, so I already felt kind of awesome and important, you know? So why not just wait like everybody else?
And then on Monday I got home and there were three packages on the table. One, I was expecting. The other two were mysterious. They were both from Simon & Schuester, so I did the math in my head. Simon & Schuester... publishing... hey, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is from Simon & Schuester... oh hey, what if this is The Evolution of Mara Dyer?! No, it can't be. It must be something else. So I opened the first package, and there, in my hands, was this glorious unexpected book that I've been looking forward to for eight months now. I jumped around and yelled "WHAT!" at least 8 times. And then I opened the other package, having no clue what to expect because why in the world would they send me two?! Well, I don't know, but they sent me two. More jumping and yelling.
I was so excited I completely forgot about my dentist appointment (the hygienist called me 3 minutes after I was supposed to be there and asked if I was on my way). I flew out the door, went to the dentist, came back, and read.
Suffice it to say I was hooked. Well, we saw that coming, right? Considering my review of the first book?
The next day I woke up and read. Then I went to school. Then I came home and read until I finished it. And then I was sad.
Anyway. Review. That's what this is.
Everything I loved about The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, I also loved about The Evolution of Mara Dyer. Mara is still the deliciously unreliable narrator-- you feel like you can trust her, but there are moments of doubt. At least for me, there were times when I was like, "What if everyone else is right? What if I only believe Mara because she's the one telling the story?" Which is, like, the BEST question to ask yourself while you're reading a book or watching a movie or, heck, even listening to one person's side of a story. Do you trust the narrator just because they're the narrator? Or do you trust her because she's the only one who can tell this story correctly?
Also, I love that Mara comes a little more unhinged in this book. I'm really going to try to avoid spoilers in this review because the book isn't even out yet, so I'll just say that, well, she kind of had a right to go a little bit nuts. When there's only one person in the world who believes a word that comes out of your mouth, and you're doing things you don't remember, and you can KILL PEOPLE WITH YOUR MIND, a little bit of insanity probably comes with the territory. I say "a little" because it's not like Mara is completely off her rocker; she does have that one person who believes her. Who's going through all of it right there with her. And that's all she really needs to keep her from completely losing it.
So, Noah Shaw, you've done it again.
Thank you for not changing in this book. You're still the bad boy who smokes and swears and fights and denies no incriminating factoid. Thank you for having more layers than anyone but Mara would give you credit for. Thank you for being good at being bad, but also for being good at being good. Thank you for getting along with Mara's brothers, even when she's not around. Thank you for your arrogant, devilish grin. And thank you for hiding your fear, for never doubting Mara no matter how much the two of you doubt yourselves, for always showing up when she needs you, and for helping her be the tiger that bites when you rattle its cage.
Seriously, guys. Their relationship in this book is SO GOOD. And every time it gets to the point where Mara feels like she can't do something without Noah, and I groan a little bit, she makes herself do it without him, and I sigh with relief. She doesn't let herself be that girl, and he doesn't let her be that girl. Which is perfect. They support each other and they're better as a team, but they aren't the kind of team that falls apart when they're not together. Mara constantly feels like he doesn't need her as much as she needs him, but he shows her that it's not true, and that gives her strength. Their relationship gives her strength, hardens up her edges a little-- while it gives his edges a much-needed softening. That's called BALANCE, people!
One relationship that is worse in this book than in the first book: Mara's relationship with her older brother, Daniel. I loved how close they were in the first book, and they're still pretty close, but they're kind of keeping each other at a distance in this one. Daniel because he's worried about Mara (understandably), and Mara because Daniel doesn't believe the truth, so she can't tell him the truth. They're still always on each other's sides, but I just wish he could've been one more person who doesn't doubt her. I understand why he does, but that doesn't mean I like it. Their relationship isn't as easy and relaxed as it was in the first book.
Oh, and then there's Jamie. Yes, Jamie's back! The same old banter between him and Mara. The same sense of humor and slight anger issues, but with all new depth to his character as a fatal flaw in his worldview is exposed and we get to learn more about who he really is. My blog needs some kind of bell for !!!character development!!! so I can ring it every time something like this comes up in one of my reviews. *happydancing*
Anyway. The plot this time around is much more intricate and requires a lot more dot-connecting than the first book, which is always fun. The scenes in Mara's new "school" were a little slow for me, but not so slow that I even thought about putting the book down. Ever.
I love the new developments in this book and I can't wait to see where they lead in the next one. And THE ENDING, WHAT THE HECK. No spoilers, but I didn't see it coming. I had to reread a certain part and then I felt like it was some kind of optical illusion or mind trick, because I definitely missed the most important thing the first time I read it. Just ONE WORD changed everything. I can't even. My stomach dropped, my eyes watered, and my mouth could not form words for the rest of the night. I'm in denial (no really, I don't believe it. I'm not intentionally refusing to believe it, I just don't). And the best part is that the same exact thing happened to Mara. She had to read it again. Her eyes watered and I'm guessing her stomach dropped. And, if I know Mara, she doesn't believe it either.
Which is another thing I love about this book. Maybe I'm more like Mara than I thought, but it is so easy to go through things with her, to understand her, even considering how much you wonder about her reliability as a narrator. One second you're like "Mara, that can't really be what happened, you're telling tales," and the next second you're like, "MARA, WE NEED TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS."
Overall rating: ★★★★½
I deducted half of a star because 1) Certain chapters threw me off a bit (I won't say more than that because spoilers), and 2) Daniel. But otherwise I'M SQUEALING WITH DELIGHT AND ANGST. And wondering what changed between the ARC and the final version?