Narrator: Christy Romano
Series: Mara Dyer #1
Published by Audible Studios, Simon & Schuster on 2011
Genres: Horror, Mystery, Romance, Suspense, Thriller, YA
Source: Purchased from Audible.com, Purchased from Barnes and Noble
Mara Dyer doesn’t think life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.
She believes there must be more to the accident she can’t remember that killed her friends and left her mysteriously unharmed.
She doesn’t believe that after everything she’s been through, she can fall in love.
After many years of hearing about Mara Dyer, I finally broke down and read the book. I didn’t quite know what to expect. Was this going to be a paranormal book? A psychological thriller? A ghost story? A problem novel? The genre line is intentionally blurred in this, the first novel in the trilogy, because Mara herself does not quite know what is going on. There was a terrible accident, after which everything seemed to change for Mara. Strange happenings follow her.
BUT. Pause. There’s also a cute boy. Noah. Let’s talk about Noah. That kid was too perfect. Didn’t like him. Didn’t think he was a dreamboat. Found the whole relationship between Mara and Noah ridiculous. Did I get all of that in quickly enough? Good. Because that’s all I’m going to say about Noah. Noah aside, I did enjoy the psychological thrill of the book and really did not know where it was all going to go. It would be easy to say that I saw some of the plot coming, but, let’s be honest: I had more than one theory.
The romance elements did tend to overshadow the suspense at points, but I expected that based on the cover. The mystery is what hooked me. I kept reading because I just had to know if Mara was just crazy or if something more sinister was going down. For much of the novel, the reader’s confusion parallels Mara’s as Hodkin drops hints to slowly uncover the true evil at play. The biggest question of all was whether or not I could trust Mara. Is she an unreliable narrator? The mystery and the mysterious tone (and the frustration) were definitely done well and are clearly what has hooked other readers on this trilogy.
As for the audio, this is narrated by Christy Carlson Romano. Yes, Christy Carlson Romano like the the Christy Carlson Romano of early 2000’s Disney fame. It’s hard to take a suspense novel seriously when I’m thinking about Even Stevens and Cadet Kelly (and Kim Possible — call me, beep me!):
Does anyone else have this problem with audiobook narrators who are also actors on TV? I’ve experienced this before with Maria Semple reading Where’d You Go, Bernadette? and Sarah Drew’s irritating reading of the Delirium trilogy. Romano was pretty good with the voices, so my issue wasn’t her fault. I just found her…distracting. Plus, this was the first audiobook that I’ve listened to where I heard actual recorded mistakes. Someone dropped the ball on the editing, it seems.
FINAL GRADE: C+
Giving Mara Dyer a C just seems unfair, as much of my score comes from a genre bias rather than the merit of the book. But ratings are never purely objective, are they? I did find it to be average. Nothing remarkable, nothing that I personally will think about beyond listening to those final minutes of the story. I’m not inspired to continue the series, but it’s not like I regret spending an Audible credit on the book. I got what I wanted out of this: ten hours of a book that I’ve heard enough buzz about to warrant me giving it a go. In true librarian fashion, I never consider it wasted time to read something outside of my personal taste. Mara Dyer would be a great pick for readers who like romance in creepy novels, and I can totally picture my middle school students going nuts over it. This series is quite popular with the actual teen set (you should have seen the girls in Barnes and Noble who excitedly helped me find the book and enthusiastically recommended it to me), so do consider adding it a classroom or school library.
What are your feelings on romance in thriller/suspense novels? Distraction or welcomed tension relief?