Saturday, January 9, 2010
Review: The Mark by Jen Nadol
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
16-year-old Cassie Renfield has always been able to see the Mark—a glow around a person that indicates that he or she will die that very day. Cassie doesn’t understand what good there is in seeing the Mark when she can’t do anything to prevent their deaths, including her grandmother’s. When her grandmother’s will sends her off to a summer living with a long-lost relative in Cassie’s parents’ hometown, Cassie learns more about herself, her family history, and the Mark when she expects.
THE MARK is an unusual and interesting debut that discusses questions of loss, philosophy, and destiny. It falls short of reaching its potential, however, due mostly to plotting issues.
When reading this book, it was unclear to me what the main conflict was, and when the exposition ended and the meaty middle section began. The first third or so of the novel deals with Cassie’s life in Asheville, PA, but the story only seems to begin to fully manifest itself once Cassie goes to live with her long-lost aunt. I also thought that the book’s overarching goal was a bit confusing and multidirectional. The synopsis and the first half of the book made it feel as if the point of the book was to unravel the potential of the Mark—but then suddenly we begin to delve into Cassie’s mysterious family history, and toss in a bit of seemingly random, albeit interesting, Greek mythology (and I won’t say more than that to avoid spoilers). The result was rather disoriented reader.
However, the strength of THE MARK really lies in the writing and characterization. Jen Nadol avoids melodrama in what could have easily been a very melodramatic story idea (people dying! Nothing you can do to stop it! Ahhh!). All of the characters are strong despite the inconsistency of their presence in the novel (and let me give you an example of what I mean by “inconsistency”: Cassie’s grandmother, who dies early on—and it is no spoiler to tell you that—is much stronger and has a far greater influence than Drea, Cassie’s appointed guardian, whose strategic workaholism give off a distinct air of “plot device”). Nadol also successfully weaves in impressive philosophical arguments that will make anyone think hard, and then nod and grin in agreement.
THE MARK is certainly not without its flaws, but overall it is still an interesting read, perfect for the budding philosopher. For anyone who’s ever wondered about fate, destiny, and determinism, THE MARK is a good book to make you think even more.
Gabrielle Zevin (Elsewhere)
Alice Sebold (The Lovely Bones)
Amy Huntley (The Everafter)
Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Cover discussion: 3 out of 5 - I think the purple is pretty, and it's certainly a neat photograph. But... maybe I'm alone in prefering the old cover, which actually provides a concept as to what the Mark looks like?
Bloomsbury / Jan. 19, 2010 / Hardcover / $16.99
Thank you, Caroline, for providing me with a copy for review!