Note: NO SPOILERS for EITHER book!
The reason I am reviewing these together is that I refuse to accept that they aren’t actually one big book. When the first one ends (in a great big cliffhanger), readers still don’t know what is going on. In no way would I consider it an “ending” of any sort. It is only in the second that we start to get some answers. (However, I should add we aren’t done yet. There is a third book, not out yet at the time of this review.) Thus, it is almost inevitable (and yet unusual) that the second book is, in my opinion, better than the first, because only in the second does the story finally start making sense, and at the end we get a bit more of a wrap-up than in the first book.
Mara Dyer, 17, thinks she has been causing her friends to die. But maybe she is crazy. Or maybe they haven’t actually died. Maybe she has PTSD, but maybe she is psychotic. It’s not at all clear, and she’s barely holding together. Her parents decide to move from Rhode Island to Florida to give her a new start and she begins school at a private academy, Croyden. But there’s definitely something weird afoot. The hallucinations, or actual provocations (neither she nor the reader knows!) continue.
She grows more scared, but has two new allies. One is Jamie, a male friend she makes at Croyden. Unfortunately, she doesn’t make any female friends because she is also the immediate object of interest of the Beyond-Hot Guy, Noah Shaw. Noah is rich and gorgeous and bored with all the vapid girls of Croyden. Mara is sardonic and sassy and seemingly immune to his charms (but self-confident Noah knows better). Noah pursues Mara, and so she is hated by the rest of the girls, led by the jealous and popular Anna, who tried to win over Noah but failed.
Meanwhile, Mara’s life becomes more and more of a nightmare – both in terms of what happens when she sleeps AND when she is awake. No one in her otherwise exceedingly loving and supportive family finds her stories credible. Noah, however, is different. But he believes her because he knows more about Mara than she knows about herself. And the two of them are about to find out they aren’t the only ones who know what is really going on.
Evaluation: The author does a good job of combining a bunch of very overused YA tropes and mixing them into something a bit more unusual and nicely scary. You’ve got some “Blair Witch Project,” some “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” some standard scary tropes like “creepy locale,” “foreshadowing event,” “freaky doll” and “shocking secret villain” along with the usual teen triangle tropes like “hot sexy guy,” “insouciant girl,” “mean jealous girl,” “crazy jealous guy, and “repressed adolescent passion.” Taken together and mashed up with a few more oddball tropes it would be spoilery to mention, Hodkin delivers a fairly frightening Halloween read.
Note: If you read these books and think the story doesn’t seem very realistic, check out “The Story Behind the Story” on the publisher’s website, telling about what inspired the author to write this. It’s almost scarier than the book!
Note 2: No sex, although it is often discussed (or as we used to say in my high school, “all yack and no sack.”) There is hardly even any kissing! No drugs; some rock and roll. But plenty of Halloween-story-type violence!
Published by Simon & Schuster FBYR, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, 2011 and 2012