Review: The Retribution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

11:41 PM

The Retribution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin | Rating: ★★★★☆

“You are what happiness means to me. And I would rather have today with you than forever with anyone else.” 

I'll admit that this revision of my first review (posted originally sometime around the publication date) is a lot more positive. I had originally given the novel a 2.5-3 star rating but during my series reread, I found I enjoyed The Retribution of Mara Dyer far more than before. Even with this second, more positive experience with the conclusion to the original trilogy, it's--without a doubt--the weakest of the three book run.

First thing's first: Michelle Hodkin is a pro at penning a captivating romance. We knew that from the first moment tension sizzles between Mara Dyer and Noah Shaw in The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer. Up until now, in the startling conclusion to Mara's point of view, we see just how much of an impact this relationship has and to what manners their lives are forever entwined. 

Answers are revealed. There are new spine-tingling revelations. The past comes to play. And... well, RETRIBUTION is an accurate addition to the title because holy moly--BOOM. Let's just say boom. When the series hits you, it hits you hard and reminds you why Hodkin's work has become so beloved in its fanbase. We left Mara Dyer in pieces--she's been taken into the care of some very sketchy people, her "dead" ex-boyfriend really was alive and stalking her, and now it's all too possible that her current boyfriend is dead.

Except not really.

Basically, The Retribution of Mara Dyer takes on the steam of its previous cliffhanger. It asks the questions: where is Mara Dyer? Where is Noah Shaw? What is the truth? And most importantly... what comes next? How did it all begin?

Hodkin wraps up a great many plotlines seamlessly. We get answers on the organization "caring" for Mara and her friends (Noah, Jamie, Stella) and the ties to her Grandmother, Claire and Jude Lowe (yes, abusive not-really-dead-ex-boyfriend who is EXCEPTIONALLY confusing in this book) all the way to Noah's family. Basically, the conspiracy theory is LARGE and never ending and goes back decades. It's an episode of The X-Files wrapped in a pretty, appealing YA bow. Part horror, part romance, part coming of age.

The good news is--Mara kicks some serious ass and embraces the darker parts of herself. Her entire narration is always fun because it's utterly normal yet completely unreliable. In some ways, her traits are fashioned as a villain. Her powers are evil. Her actions aren't always so. Nothing is in black and white and that is one of the biggest parts of Mara's journey. It is why I love her--because just as she has such a profound love for Noah Shaw, for her family and her friends, there's this part of her that is downright scary.

We also get some action pretty quickly and thankfully the new squad is able to escape where they are being held. Not without a little murder, though. A lot of the book is told in two parts--one: Mara, Jamie and Stella on the run and trying to get some answers. Answers about who they are. What their lives mean. If Noah is really dead. The other part is told in the past from Mara's Grandmother's point of view, providing a much needed glimpse into the history of all of this.

I liked a lot about the book--the action and thrills, the romance, the answers, the friendships. I liked that we saw Mara's older brother Daniel again and that he sort of teams up with everyone, even if it means putting himself in danger. I always found his relationship with Mara to be quite wonderful and one of my favourite sibling pairs ever--his friendship with Noah is also great.

My favourite part was the reveals that are scattered out in the book. Who Jude and Claire really were, what Noah's father knows, how Mara's Grandmother lived and who she was connected to. I thought there were a lot of moments that made my heart thud out of my chest.

Just as easily, there were some parts I wasn't keen on. So let's just dive into a few of those before I finish this review:
  • I hate how open-ended things were towards the conclusion. While I enjoyed how everything was revealed, I wasn't terribly fond of a lot of things. What happened to Stella once she got back home? Is she okay? You don't just go on some massive journey and never get mentioned again. What about the Dyer family? We see Daniel, but what about her family? What do they know? What will they do next? #IHAVEQUESTIONS 
  • How long we had to go without Noah Shaw being prominent in the plot. 
  • A lot of things felt too convenient and rushed. Not the creepy bits, not the romance, but the way the novel ended. All of the "afters" that came around. I thought it could be done better. 
  • A lot of answers we got were kind of thrown at us so quickly, it was easy to forget some of it. While I liked the pace, it was a problem for me the first time I read it and this is something worth noting. I don't like being told vs. being shown and there are some shakier moments in the way it's revealed. 
  • It had some problematic elements that felt... well, not altogether appealing. I won't get into it because chances are you know what I am talking about. 
Overall, I love this trilogy and The Retribution of Mara Dyer is a high stakes adventure full of chills, sarcasm, atmosphere and so much more. It's a complete trip that is fully entertaining.

Michelle Hodkin knows how to keep a reader on the edge of their seat even in her weaker moments--while I would have changed/hoped for more from the conclusion, it was still a blast and I'm so excited to (finally!) dive into The Becoming of Noah Shaw--the next set of stories set in the same world.

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