Review Detail

Young Adult Fiction 9651
Pleasantly Surprised
Overall rating 
 
4.0
Plot 
 
4.0
Characters 
 
4.0
Writing Style 
 
4.0
I had absolutely no idea what to expect from this, as the synopsis really doesn't give you much detail. I am thrilled to report that I was very pleasantly surprised. Mara wakes in the hospital with no memory of the accident that killed her friends and left her mostly untouched. In the hopes of putting the accident behind her (and not having to be committed to a psychiatric institution, her mother's suggestion), Mara asks her family to move to a new state. The past still haunts her however, and she experiences hallucinations (Claire replacing her reflection in the mirror; Jude standing just a few feet away outside her school) that lead her to believe she's going slightly crazy. She meets Noah, an infuriatingly charming and arrogant boy at her new school, who has quite the reputation of "using girls like condoms" - trashing them once he's used them once. A romance ensues, and we learn Noah is hiding secrets of his own.

I won't go in to too much more detail, plot-wise, as I don't want to spoil anything for anyone who hasn't read this yet. I will say that there is a touch of the paranormal, which combined with Mara's hallucinations, leaves your hair prickling and standing on end. There were so many scenes where I found myself looking around, expecting to see someone standing over my shoulder, or staring at me from a distance; this book thoroughly creeped me out in some parts. It was awesome.

The romance was refreshing for a YA novel, as it developed throughout the entire book. There was no love-at-first sight (Mara actually calls Noah an asshole after their first encounter), and we are actually allowed to experience their initial attraction blossom into something deeper as we seem them face different situations together. Some of the more steamy moments left me breathless, and I admit that I really enjoyed Hodkin's writing during those parts; she gives just enough to leave you wanting more, while allowing the sexual tension to build up between Mara and Noah so that you can see the electricity that must pass between them when they do touch. The moments where Noah tells Mara that he was made for her, and that he's happy as long as he can that say she belongs to him, were a little uncomfortable for me as I don't like that possessiveness quality, but those moments weren't overwhelmingly present, so I was able to (mostly) ignore them.

The only real issue I have with the book is the ending. The surprise revelation at the end was a welcome one, but Mara's uncharacteristic shift in attitude was not. Throughout the entire book Mara was able to recognize that her hallucinations were a result of her PTSD and she fought to control her mind, so they couldn't overwhelm her; she was strong. Towards the ending, as Mara starts to piece together what actually happened to her friends, she starts to unravel, and the strength she showed early on starts to waver, and then disappear. During the last couple chapters, I really didn't like Mara, her selfishness, or her complete lack of faith in Noah, but most importantly, in herself. I didn't feel like she gave trying to find a solution (or purpose for her...power? for lack of better word) an honest chance, and instead took the easy way out - running away. I'm also not a fan of books that purposely set themselves up for sequels, but I will be reading the next one in this series that Hodkin releases.
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