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Playing With Fire Will Get You Burned

Veronica Bane’s Mara shows us that heroism does not always go hand and hand with superpowers.

Playing With Fire Will Get You Burned

BOOK REPORT for Mara by Veronica Bane

Cover Story: Graphic Novel Wallpaper
BFF Charm: Eventually
Swoonworthy Scale: 2
Talky Talk: And Now … The Weather
Bonus Factors: Superpowers, Diversity
Anti-bonus Factor: Cliffhanger
Relationship Status: Looking Glass

Cover Story: Graphic Novel Wallpaper

I love this cover. The hand-drawn people, the symmetry, the repeating flame pattern, the downplay of the title. Everything combined creates a really strong image.

The Deal:

Mara is insular, sullen and a tad bit broken. When she first moved to Jericho to live with her uncle after a fire destroyed her childhood home, Mara went a little wild, turning to alcohol and boys to take her mind off of things. When she realized it wasn’t working, she cut off ties and turned inward. Years later, at her uncle’s insistence, she goes to a party in an attempt to make friends, and instead finds herself protecting a boy she’s never met from bullies—by threatening them with fire she can conjure from thin air.

Miles soon takes to following Mara everywhere, and at first, she resents it. But soon, the two find out that Mara’s not the only one with a gift—and not everyone in their town wants the “unusuals” to keep living their normal lives.

BFF Charm: Eventually

Mara’s hard to like. She’s moody and rude and doesn’t much care for other people’s feelings. But she’s gone through some really horrible crap in her life, so I can understand the way she acts (to a certain extent). By the end of the novella, she’s opened up a little, and I can see that she could turn out pretty awesome, given time. Plus: Having a friend who can control fire would be awesome. (Although, yes, I would be quite jealous.)

Swoonworthy Scale: 2

Mara, like I said above, once turned to the company of the opposite sex as a means of escaping her past, but nothing about it is sexy, nor are the implications of near rape that come up when a certain additional character is introduced.

Miles is much more a grounding presence for Mara than any sort of love interest. He’s a sweet, geeky guy, who can hold his own in situations even without being an “unusual,” but being in the friendzone isn’t a bad place for him to be. (Mara’s currently way too messed up to be dating anyone.)

Talky Talk: And Now … The Weather

Mara is a strange, yet compelling, novella set in the near future. Or in an alternate reality. Or in the past, but in an alternate timeline. Or … You see, I’m not quite sure. People in Mara live in houses, go to school, party with their friends, and yet, there are certain things that differentiate these individuals from the people we have might call neighbors. For example, a large population of Jericho are “Natives.” It’s not clear whether these individuals are Native Americans, or just people who lived there “before.” These people are persecuted and treated like outcasts. And then there’s Mara and her fellow “unusuals.” As far as I know, people like her don’t exist. (But could?)

Author Veronica Bane has a unique voice; the story feels very real and gritty, and yet there’s a strange “unsaid” element about the world’s she’s created. (Specifically, it made me think of the Welcome to Night Vale podcast and the sinister feeling that comes with those seemingly innocent news stories.)

Bonus Factor: Superpowers

The “Unusuals” in Mara can control the elements; Mara controls fire and other characters control water, rocks, the earth, wind and lightning. Heck yes.

Bonus Factor: Diversity

In addition to the “Natives,” there are a variety of other POCs living in Jericho, including Miyuki, who is half-Japanese.

Anti-bonus Factor: Cliffhanger

Mara is a novella, so I knew that it would be short—but the story was left wide-open at the end. And not wide-open in a “happily ever after” kind of way, but in a “What do you mean that’s it? That’s not fair!” kind of way. I am left wanting more. (And as far as I know, there’s no sequel in the works.)

Casting Call:

Malese Jow as Mara

Mara is described as having dark hair streaked with red. Thank you, Internet, for providing such a perfect photo.

Liam Aiken as Miles

Gilmore Girls-era Keiko Agena as Miyuki

Ryan Cunningham as Chris

Gus Carr as Alex

Relationship Status: Looking Glass

You came into my life, Book, like a flash … and then you were gone. You gave me a glimpse into a world not unlike my own, but yet totally and intriguingly different. I wish we could have spent more time together, but I understand that you need to do go your own thing. I wish you well.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a free review copy from the author. I received neither candy corn nor money for this review (dammit!). Mara is available now.

Mandy Curtis's photo About the Author: Mandy is a small town girl living in a nerdy world, or—if you want to get literal—an editor/writer living in Austin, TX. In addition to yearning for YA books—the more dystopian or fantastical, the better—she can also be found swooning over superheroes, dreaming of The Doctor and grinning at GIFs.
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