The Evolution of Mara Dyer is Aptly Titled
The Evolution of Mara Dyer
Review copy from Simon and Schuster
The most important thing to know about The Evolution of Mara Dyer is that it is a sequel. Although this story sketches in and alludes to the events of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, you definitely need to read that before you read this.
The second most important thing you will want to know is that this book, The Evolution of Mara Dyer, is heading towards a sequel of its own. Trilogy? Maybe. You have been warned. It may be that you will turn the last page, stare at it and yowl “whaaat?” in outrage.
It may also be that you will be on a subway heading into midtown when this occurs. Or perhaps, that was just me.
The Evolution of Mara Dyer is an excellently vicious, scary psychological thriller. Mara wakes up in a hospital after the events of the previous book, where her parents and her doctors are telling her she has a mental illness, sounding relieved at having such a normal explanation for what Mara had gone through in the previous book. Her problems are all in her head, and she can, with treatment, lead a normal life. So there’s a collective sense from the adults in her life that she’s fragile, but that things will be restored to normal.
Which puts Mara in an absolutely maddening bind. She’s being terrorized by someone whose very existence is supposed to be a delusion. Nobody believes the crazy girl. Paranoia is one of the symptoms of her disease, of course! But they all want to help her get the help she needs. Except for clinging to her boyfriend Noah, she’s utterly alone. But… does he believe her entirely? Or is he just one of the ones humoring her? Is the danger real, or all in her head?
How can she protect her family if she needs to convince them she’s sane first? Is going to a treatment center a place to get help, or a convenient way to keep her out of the picture while madness and manipulation happen?
I loved the way this book worked as a conspiracy of people and their psychological manipulations. Most of the terrifying things Mara endures have perfectly rational (if vindictive and malicious) explanations. And yet, the pervading atmosphere is one of the nearly Gothic creepy supernatural YA. I feel like this book gives a few nods to the supernatural thematic elements, while doing excellent work on a story that could be constructed out of entirely real-world ingredients. Bad people being where they shouldn’t be. Wanting revenge. Knowing things people shouldn’t know. Loved ones feeling helpless. The lines between crazy and sane.
The most terrifying things that make Mara think she’s crazy have perfectly rational, scientific or psychological explanations. The ways her family tries to talk to her, treating her mental fragility with caution and firmly believing it’s all in her head… maddening and frustrating and really interesting to watch play out.
As a reader of genre fiction, I found it extremely refreshing to encounter a story that had the dual possibility of working as a supernatural and psychological suspense, pushing at expectations. It may be that I’m reading this differently than the author intended, or differently than ardent fans of the series might. I felt it was a treat to have that versatility.
As mentioned above, this is a sequel (second volume in a trilogy?) I’ll be curious about how the supernatural and the psychological balance out in the next installment.