Book Review: The Retribution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

Written by: Michelle Hodkin
Release November 4, 2014
Pages: 470, hardcover
Series: Mara Dyer #3
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Mara Dyer wants to believe there’s more to the lies she’s been told.
There is.

She doesn’t stop to think about where her quest for the truth might lead.
She should.

She never had to imagine how far she would go for vengeance.
She will now.

Loyalties are betrayed, guilt and innocence tangle, and fate and chance collide in this shocking conclusion to Mara Dyer’s story.

Retribution has arrived.

 

LetsTalk

This will be a difficult review to write, because even two weeks after finishing it, I’m honestly not sure how I felt about this book, or, for that matter, this series. To me, the Mara Dyer trilogy is like a collected of really cool puzzle pieces that don’t quite fit together to form a complete picture.

I have a lot of respect for Michelle Hodkin as a writer; reading this book, I could see she a had a very clear sense of the story she wanted to tell, and she followed through with it. I appreciated her originality, her characterization of a very morally ambiguous heroine, and the fact that I was finally able to make sense of most of the previous two books.

But as much as I wanted to love this book, I always felt as though something was missing. The plot felt really strange and disjointed and looking back at it now, I don’t think I can remember any specific events. It felt like a lot was happening when I was reading the book, but looking back on it, I’m not sure all that much happened until the last 150 pages, and even then, I wasn’t entirely sold.

I don’t know. To be honest, I never loved the Mara Dyer series as much as everyone else from the beginning, and I probably shouldn’t have read this when all I wanted to do was read a completely different book. Like I said, Michelle Hodkin’s ideas were extremely good. The Mara Dyer series just isn’t for me.

Didn'tWork

You know when you’re dreaming, and one moment you’re in your room, and the next you’re in class, and the next you’re, I don’t know, at the beach, with no explanation for how you got there? That’s how I felt when I was reading The Retribution of Mara Dyer. There were all these Big Dramatic Things happening that came seemingly out of nowhere, and half the time I felt like it was for the purpose of shock value more than anything else, you know? As a result, I had a lot of trouble getting grounded in the story. To be fair, this feeling has always been an element of the series, but it made more sense in the first two books, when half the time Mara had no idea whether what was happening to her was real. While this book contained some reality-questioning moments, there weren’t nearly as many, so the atmosphere created by the writing didn’t work as well.

As I pointed out previously, nothing really happened! The first three quarters of the book was basically a montage of (1) exposition, (2) Mara killing people, and (3) Mara thinking about Noah. Of these, (2) is the only one that’s really interesting, and it eventually gets old (and when “protagonist kills people” can get old, you know there’s a problem). I can handle a weak plot if there’s a lot of good character material, but that wasn’t present here either. Mara got a little bit of development as she came to terms with who she was, but I felt like a lot more could have been done with her. The other characters were just…there. I especially would have liked more Daniel, since his relationship with Mara was the first thing that really drew me into the series.

This is only a minor complaint, but…was the split-POV in the middle really necessary? I did appreciate that Mara and Noah’s voices sounded different–even once you factor out the different tense, there are certain phrases in Noah’s sections that feel so completely Noah. I was never confused about who was narrating. However, I found the new POV jarring in a way I don’t think it was meant to be, and I thought it slowed the climax of the story down a little. (It also made me worried that Michelle Hodkin would pull an Allegiant.)

DidWork

Jamie was a delight here! He was a wonderful friend to Mara, and he had so many pop culture references and lines that made me laugh out loud. I especially love that his ‘subverted tropes’ t-shirt turned out to be foreshadowing of sorts.

I’m also a fan of the way Mara’s continually-graying morality is explored. So many of her actions in this book made me shudder, but I could always see the reasoning behind them. I loved the different ways the other characters reacted to Mara, the way Mara reacted to herself. She knows exactly how messed up she is, but she also knows she doesn’t regret some of the things she’s done. She finally knows who she is–powerful and terrible, half-hero and half-villain–and she accepts it. Honestly, give me all the dark lady antiheroes.

I was actually pretty happy with the ending. I know a lot of people found it anticlimactic, or think the characters shouldn’t have chosen what they did, and I agree to an extent, but [SPOILERS] I just LOVE the idea of two characters who are destined to be enemies saying screw destiny and deciding to be together anyway, that instead of being the hero and the villain that everyone thought they would be, Mara and Noah meet in the middle as two flawed, messed-up teenagers who decide to love each other for as long as they can. Plus, Michelle Hodkin wrapped up a series built on confusion and questions impressively well; there were a few loose ends, a few things I would have liked to know more about, but overall I was satisfied. The final chapter brings the story full circle with Mara deciding to write down her story under a nom de plume, just as she said she was doing in the first book. [END SPOILERS] The series feels very complete, and in spite of myself I’m curious to see what Michelle Hodkin does next.

Pickup

If you’ve read the first two books, you’ll probably pick this up regardless of what I say because you want ANSWERS. If you haven’t started the series yet, I would still suggest giving it a try. It wasn’t my thing (and I had issues with the first two books that I didn’t bring up here) but I understand why a lot of people like it.

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