Mara is more gritty, badass, and intense than many other YA novels in this genre, and I’m surprised by how much energy and violence is in this story despite its short length. This is a fast-paced and exciting story, but I wish that it was longer so that parts of the story can be fleshed out even more. On a side note, if Mara was a movie it’d be like Kick-Ass (but probably not like Kick-Ass 2, since I heard that that one was pretty bad…)
Mara Tucker faked her own death and moved in with her Uncle Taylor in Jericho when she was only ten. Now, at seventeen, she discovers that she’s not the only Unusual in town – much like how she can set things on fire with a flick of her fingers, Miyuki, Alex, and other teens also have their own powers. One by one, the Unusuals are being targeted by an unknown enemy, and Mara is forced to break out of her one-woman team and confront nightmares from her past in order to protect her new friends.
Mara is composed of alternating third-person narratives from many characters, although Mara and Miyuki take up majority of the page time. I definitely liked Mara and Miyuki the best out of all the characters – I mean, I think it’s set up that way on purpose! – because of their clash in personalities and powers; Mara is all awkward gangsta lone wolf, and Miyuki is one cool glasses-wearing chick. Their backstories have just the right amount of past struggles to show how they’ve developed and why they’ve become who they are. Also, despite the emphasis on the two latter characters, all the characters had strong (if not memorable) personalities and played a role in the story progression. The character interactions are uncomfortable and funny, but eventually a sense of comradery is developed.
Friends? Friends and fire didn’t go well together.
“I’ll look for one,” she said. “A friend, I mean.”
“I’m serious,” she insisted. “I mean it. I’ll, er, go out of my comfort zone. There’s bound to be other freaks like me, right?
Because this is a novella, many aspects – such as relationship development, backstories, plots – are not as fleshed out as I would have liked them to be. Bane hints at the details in Mara’s past through flashbacks and also introduces the potential relationships that may develop, but more explanations would have created a better flow throughout the story. But the advantage of such a short read is the fast pacing, which adds intensity and excitement into each situation.
And I definitely didn’t expect Mara to be so dark and violent! I think the highlight of Mara is the action; I’ve never read a YA book with so much punching and blood and cuts, wow. And even boys hurting girls? Usually a big no-no, so kudos to Bane for trying something different. Instead of smoldering stares and typical YA instalove, we get this:
At once, he was on her, and Miyuki crumbled into clay that took the full force of each of Alex’s blows. His lips curved as he struck her jaw, her cheek, and her shoulder. Blood spurted from her nose, dashing his smooth chest with red.
There are also allusions to rape, incest, abuse, and other touchy subjects, and discrimination is also a big theme in the story. Maybe having all of these elements in a novella is a bit too much, but it does prevent the story from ever becoming boring or tedious. It does get kind of depressing though because so many bad things and bad people keep popping up…
If any of you have seen Kick-Ass, that’s what Mara reminds me of: unexpectedly violent, somewhat sadistic, great sense of comradery, lots of energy and suspense, and possibly an R rating for all the gory action if Mara ever gets turned into a movie. Seriously, Mara makes other YA paranormal books look like fluffy unicorns.