Review: The Mark by Jen Nadol

The Mark by Jen Nadol
Jen Nadol's website here // $11.55 from {amazon}

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books (January 19, 2010)
Hardcover: 240 pages
Summary: from {goodreads}
Cassandra Renfield has always seen the mark—a glow around certain people reminiscent of candlelight. But the one time she mentioned it, it was dismissed as a trick of the light. Until the day she watches a man awash in the mark die. After searching her memories, Cassie realizes she can see a person’s imminent death. Not how or where, only when: today.

Armed with a vague understanding of the light, Cassie begins to explore her “gift,” seeking those marked for death and probing the line between decision and destiny. Though she’s careful to hide her secret—even from her new philosophy-obsessed boyfriend—with each impending death comes the temptation to test fate. But so many questions remain. How does the mark work? Why is she the only one who sees it? And finally, the most important of all: If you know today is someone’s last, should you tell them?

Rating: View my rating system.

My Thoughts: I really wanted to like this one more. Really. But though The Mark was enjoyable to some extent, it just didn't suck me in the way I was hoping it would. However, The Mark does pose a very interesting question: if you know someone's going to die within 24 hours, what do you do? And as a side note, don't go in expecting an action-filled or even a fast-paced read because you won't be able to appreciate The Mark for the gradually developing and thought-probing story it is.

I'm going to divert from the norm here and start off with the positive. I really liked Jen Nadol's concept, though I do find it a bit ironic that a death is foreshadowed by light. It's nothing extremely weird, and in fact, it sort of makes me feel happier about the idea of death - it's not darkness, it's light. I clearly saw Cassie's internal debate between tell and don't-tell, and though I had my own opinion from the very beginning, I could understand her struggle and cheered when she reached her "larger insight." Lucas definitely played devil's advocate for Cassie, and I groaned every time she succumbed to what I knew, knew!, wouldn't yield pleasant results. That being said, Cassie isn't an extremely weak character, she's just naive (which can get annoying, though not majorly so) and a teenage girl with some believable flaws.

I mentioned Lucas, and I never, ever liked him. *wants to bash him a few times with a rock pebble*
Okay, so maybe I had a minor crush on him the first time he was described as the intellectual-coffee-shop-cute type, but my mind was waving player alert; I swear! Once I started getting around that, I found Lucas had an annoyingly strong sense of morality and mistrust and that, to put it simply, made him a jerk. I think he was mainly placed as an obstacle for Cassie, though, ugh, he was just so predictable and unlikable. As for the other characters, with the exclusion of Cassie, I had neutral feelings for. Cassie was brought to the forefront in The Mark, and the secondary characters faded into the background. There were mentions here-and-there, but the other characters would basically come in for some time, play their part when convenient, then leave. Like Lucas, they were more like obstacles and aids rather than characters with clearly defined personalities and motivations. The brief appearances were bad in that I didn't feel like there was enough support, but good because it set-up for a sequel.

Overall, I think what really determines how much you'll like The Mark is how much you like the focus of the book, which is ALL on Cassie. On the plus side, I really got an in-depth view of her, and I liked the varying philosophies Jen Nadol brought up. On the other hand, there were some very predictable parts and the middle section got monotonous; there was the introduction, a lull, then multiple surprising revelations at the end. My final verdict: interesting, but nothing in particular stood out or really captured my attention.

Romance: PG with a bit of emotional exploration. Into an apartment at night... then it skips to the morning. There's more focus on what relationships mean to Cassie and relatively little in the romance area.
Cover: 4.0 -Love the cover, though the blurbs don't really come into play until much, much later in the book.
Writing: 3.5
Characters: 2.5
Plot: 3.0

Bottom Line: The Mark was an enjoyable book, though there was never an extremely exciting or loveable part that made me feel fully invested in the story. It wasn't extremely thought provoking, but it was definitely thought probing and had an interesting mix of depth and simple teenage issues. In general, a good start for debut author Jen Nadol, and I'll be looking forward to where she takes this unique premise that will hopefully only improve from here on out. If you're looking for something that's light yet will keep your mind on its figurative toes, I recommend trying out The Mark.

Source: Bloomsbury Chilren's Books