I gave this book a 5 star rating, and here is why...
You know the part in Aladdin where the Genie says,
"PHEEEEEEEE - NOMEEEEEE - NALLLLLLL COOOOOOOOSMIC POWWWWWWWAHS!" ??
Well that's the only explanation that I could come up with as to how this book was that friggin good. lol He either laced the watering hole with the ceremonial kool-aid, or he was blessed by the gods with a ridiculously amazing talent for writing. I'm thinking both. haha ( I don't give out a five star rating lightly so it must have been hoodoo. lol)
I won't lie though, I was beyond hesitant to pick up this book. I dislike stories about pubescent young love. They do nothing for me because I have a hard time relating to the characters and everything seems rather perverse because it's an adult story that comes from the mouths of babes. I have a total disconnect and I just move on. However, a friend of mine read and reviewed the book and was falling all over her blog about it. And while I still had reservations, I scurried over and stalked out the author and decided it would be unfair of me, not to give it a shot. Now I can say that without a doubt, it was the best move I have made so far.
Right from the very first page I was intrigued. My fingers had a mind of their own and kept thumbing through the pages to absorb more. It felt as if I honestly couldn't get enough. Not only was I reading this twisted epic re telling of adolescence, but I was IN it. I wasn't in it in the traditional sense, but my whole reality was transformed into this world and I felt like part of it. It's an amazing feat for a writer to accomplish that level of intensity and he pulled it off. I applaud Jake Vander Ark for his abilities and his passion.
As I continued on with the book, I thought to myself, "What is it about Mara that makes her so desirable? Why is this girl so significant?". The only answer I could come up with, was that it felt like he was using Mara as a symbol of obsession to convey to the masses that there is always that one person/love that is our Achilles heel. The one we sacrifice everyone and everything for and we are too blinded with tunnel vision to realize how badly it's affecting the world around us.
I'm curious to know if when he was writing Mara, if he actually had a 12 yr old girl in mind. She was adolescent in the sense that she had whimsical female traits that are indicative to a young girl, but her mind was this cavernous hole of darkness and deceit. There were no bounds to her manipulation. Talk about chilling! She may have only been 12, but the experiences she had up to that point in her life were abusive and sick and when you experience things like that, you are forced to mature mentally. Your frontal lobe is drenched in steroids and your innocence is left struggling and weak. This turns you into a potentially lethal individual, and although Mara was sweet and adorable and fun, she was indeed what Vander Ark painted her as; a siren. At least that's my humble opinion anyway.
If Mara had a mantra, I believe this would be it. lol
"Bound in darkness you will hear my cry,
and long you shall till the day you die."
Those poor people didn't stand a chance!
The rest of the cast did amazing things for me. He nailed the bullies and the crazies. The jocks were typical. Whit, the best friend, was great! James - our leading man - was adorable and I just wanted to hug him. I could gush for hours about Livy, and Age, and the twins. but then it wouldn't be fun for you to discover them for yourself, so I digress. Vander Ark painted everyone so beautifully, that it felt like more than just his imagination. Almost as if they were actual memories and not fiction. I think the reason it felt so authentic and real, is because there was no holding back. A lot of people try to be politically correct in their writing so as not to offend anyone, but not him. He pulled out all the stops and it was as believable as an autobiography.
The scenes in the book were laid out perfectly too. I could see, hear, smell, and taste everything. I felt like I was in the middle of a movie. Literally. At one point, I was on set, in the middle of the creepiest action scene ever. I actually shivered and attempted to close my eyes because I didn't want to witness what I knew was coming. It was righteous! I like to think that I partook in the greatest movie never made. lol Think Carrie meets Final Destination meets The Pied Piper, and you have Mara wrapped in a beautifully horrific bow. Creepy, right?
I fell in love with this book because it achieved every goal that we as readers have for our beloved authors. I laughed, I cried, I contemplated, I cringed, and I questioned. Most importantly, I felt. I was an emotional roller coaster till the very end. No matter what page I was on, or what scene I was in, I felt everything. The lust and betrayal alone are enough to satiate your palate, but there is just so much more to experience. You can't read this book and tell me that you didn't feel something when you read it. It's highly improbable that anyone could.