Made For You by Melissa Marr
Eva wakes up in hospital after becoming the victim of a hit-and-run. After her release, she gets visions of her friends being murdered. And then, the visions play out and the body count rises in the sleepy town of Jessup. Nate, an old friend, offers to help but the killer will stop at nothing to get to Eva.
It has the makings of a page-turner, no?
Great idea but poor execution. The pivotal moments are drawn-out and the tension is undercut by a shoddy storytelling technique. The synopsis sets up a standard that the writing doesn’t live up to. Eva takes so many risks towards the conclusion that I wonder if they’re even plausible. Would the police – would her family – allow her to race after her murderer? Would they not be following her? Would her house not be monitored? Are Marr’s fictional police force so stereotypically incompetent that they allow another girl to be kidnapped? Minimum marks for (wasted) potential.
The narration is car-crash bad. The story is told by three narrators: Eva, her friend, Grace, and Judge, the one who wants her dead. Let me break it down:
- Eva is a bland narrator and without an infusion of personality, it’s hard to care either about the story or her, as a character.
- Grace reads exactly like Eva and I have no idea what she brings to the table. She doesn’t sound different from Eva’s voice and her narration doesn’t give us any vital insight that justifies her point of view in the story.
- I’m not quite sure why Judge’s voice is included. Filler, maybe? Including his point of view further undercuts the tension of the plot. His voice is weird and creepy although I’m not sure it’s in the way Marr intended. It’s plain difficult to read. And his motive, which drives the story, is a bit out there.
Some American YA authors have this really lazy attitude when it comes to characterization that the idea and the story will carry them through and Marr is no exception. I’m not going to go into too much detail here but finding character in Made For You is like trying to find Atlantis.
Quality of Writing: 2/20
It feels like Marr wrote the book in several parts and different stages of her life. There’s no sense of continuity in the words and the whole thing feels contrived. There’s no sense of transition in and out of Eva’s premonitions. They’re clunky and jarred me out of the story:
“She reaches out to brush my cheek, and that’s all it takes. I fall into what looks like a continuation of the same hallucination of Grace I had before.”
Marr’s attempts at humour and character are weak and cringe-worthy:
“He looks aghast, as if I’d just suggested his father was a closeted Democrat.”
When I read a YA book, I expect more from it than Adult Fiction. The word choice was monotonous, overused and dull. With every page, I wanted it to end. I fell asleep reading it because the language induces sleep. I wanted at least one memorable line that would stick with me (like Marie Lu’s Legend, Veronica Roth’s Divergent or E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars) but each word is like someone twisting a knife into my side:
“I feel a wash of happiness at her praise. I am doing well. I’ll be ready when I’m allowed to go home. My parents are here to be tomorrow, and they’ll see that I’m coping fine. I told them as much, and although I know I sounded connvincing, they still suggested we hire a temporary companion for me. I know that this is there way of trying to help, but I haven’t had a sitter since I was eleven. I’m almost eighteen now and I’m very accustomed to being on my own. They’ve never quite known what to do with me. They work hard and succeed, and when they think of it, they stop to say hello to me.”
Marr proves her writing ability to be as repetitious and dull as English weather:
“My mouth feels like it’s filled with something hot and sour.”
It was a painful read and undoubtedly one of the worst YA books I’ve ever read.
The locations – Eva’s bedroom, the hospital (etc.) – feel generic. Jessup is the sort of place I feel like I’ve read about in twenty other YA books. Nothing new. Nothing special. In direct contrast to Marr’s inability to create setting for her scenes, is Gayle Forman’s I Was Here. The dramatization of scene-setting is subtle and sharp but it gives you enough to ground you within Cody’s community.
Comparative Literature: 1/10
Where do I start?
If you’re going to try and experiment with narration, you need to push it. Judge could have been pushed further. If you cover the names, you should be able to tell from the writing who is speaking but that’s near impossible since Eva’s and Grace’s voices both sound as dull and devoid of personality as each other. E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars introduces the unreliable narrator and achieves a result that compels you to listen to Cadence’s story.
If you’re going to do a murder-mystery/thriller, then it really shouldn’t be obvious one hundred pages in, who the killer is. And there should be suspense but Judge’s voice sucks the tension out of the story. Alyxandra Harvey creates atmosphere, earths her story in a particular time and setting that’s easy to grasp and creates a mystery that isn’t so easy to uncover in Haunting Violet.
Though not in the same category per se (and leaning more towards dystopian fiction), James Dashner offers a master-class in suspense and mystery in The Maze Runner. He keeps you on your toes, page after page, right up until the end.
NOW, to Skip to the GOOD BIT:
- Stereotypical characters that have as much personality as a Big Mac has nutrition
- Narrators who sound the same and in no way relate to their audience
- A story would potential but one where the execution could put you to sleep
Overall Score: 15/100
Books You May Also Like:
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart – a narrator that will keep you on your toes, a story worth investing your time in and an ending that you won’t see coming
Haunting Violet by Alyxandra Harvey – a sharp and humorous narrator telling a murder mystery the way it should be told