Out of all the new releases in 2018, The Becoming of Noah Shaw by Michelle Hodkin and Renegades by Marissa Meyer were two of my most anticipated. I loved the Mara Dyer trilogy, so I was really excited for new adventures from Noah’s point of view. I’ve adored all of Marissa’s previous releases (The Lunar Chronicles and Heartless), so I was eager for her latest duology. And, while I liked both books, they both seemed to be missing something. Today, I’d like to lay out just why, in both release date and reading order:
The Becoming of Noah Shaw by Michelle Hodkin
Official Summary: Everyone thinks seventeen-year-old Noah Shaw has the world on a string. They’re wrong. Mara Dyer is the only one he trusts with his secrets and his future. He shouldn’t. And both are scared that uncovering the truth about themselves will force them apart. They’re right.
My Thoughts: While this book was good, it didn’t pack quite the same punch its predecessor did. What really made the Mara Dyer trilogy work was the dark atmosphere. You were never sure whether what was happening was real or just in Mara’s head. In this book, it is immediately easy to detect what is real and what isn’t. The mystery is a lot more straightforward and simplistic and the characterization is spotty. The mediocre storyline really makes you wonder whether Hodkin really had more story to tell, or just wanted to cash in on a good thing.
Most of the novel is just spent talking. The characters tell each other what they know and then they’ll debate about it. Nothing really happens until towards then end. And even that lacked the grandiosity and terror of the Mara Dyer series. But sometimes, even the dialogue felt weird. Hodkin made a conscious effort to make sure Noah’s narration was authentic to an English person. This effort is doubled with the inclusion of Noah’s childhood friend, Goose. They use a lot of British lingo when they talk to each other. But my problem is when Noah offhand calls Goose a cunt. I know the Brits use that word far more often than Americans, so that’s not what bothers me. What bothers me is that none of the American characters called him out on it. I know most of the characters swear all the time, but I don’t think Daniel or Jamie would just let that slide without a conversation. I know it’s a small thing, but it really bothered me.
Additionally, the Mara and Noah’s characterization didn’t feel as strong as in the original series. They often felt more like MaraAndNoah than Mara and Noah. Except. They also hid a lot of things from each other, which didn’t make sense. They were so open and honest during the Mara Dyer trilogy, so it’s weird to see them secretive and distant now. It was also incredibly difficult to read from Noah’s point of view, as he’s very depressed and often suicidal. As someone who’s been there, well, it hit a little too close to home.
And then there was the ending. For the most part, the plot twists were good. There were a couple things I didn’t understand, so I hope they’ll be clarified in the next book. One plot twist I liked when I read it, but started to question it more as time passed. So, overall, I have mixed feelings about the end.
However, there were things I liked. There is a page at the beginning of the book that gives trigger warnings, which I thought was excellent. The humor was on point and I loved seeing Mara be unapologetic about her gift. I liked learning more about Noah’s background. And I did like the mystery, even if I wish there had been more to it. It was good, but flawed.
Overall, I was let down by this book. It wasn’t all I’d hoped it would be and it took some turns I didn’t like. However, it had great humor and a fairly interesting plot. I still plan on continuing the series, but I’m not as excited for it as I once was.
My Rating: 3.5
Renegades by Marissa Meyer
Official Summary: The Renegades are a syndicate of prodigies―humans with extraordinary abilities―who emerged from the ruins of a crumbled society and established peace and order where chaos reigned. As champions of justice, they remain a symbol of hope and courage to everyone…except the villains they once overthrew.
Nova has a reason to hate the Renegades, and she is on a mission for vengeance. As she gets closer to her target, she meets Adrian, a Renegade boy who believes in justice―and in Nova. But Nova’s allegiance is to the villains who have the power to end them both.
My Thoughts: Up until this point, Marissa Meyer had never let me down. It’s not that I didn’t like this book, but it lacked the action expected in a superhero story and Nova’s characterization was inconsistent. On top of that, there was a forced heterosexual relationship between Nova and Adrian. So, as well-written as it was, it didn’t live up to the standards set by The Lunar Chronicles and Heartless.
The story can be split up into two main interconnecting plotlines: Nova joins the Renegades so she can tear them down from within and Adrian becomes the Sentinel so he can better fight crime and take down Nightmare (who just so happens to be Nova). The plot is interesting and works overall, but it’s not very action-packed. There are maybe three big action scenes throughout the novel, and the rest is talking and plotting. It made the book a drag to read at times. Even if Meyer didn’t want of add more action scenes, she should’ve made the overall pace of the book faster. The slow pace worked for Heartless because it fit the story, but it doesn’t work in a superhero story.
Nova is a great character, but sometimes her characterization is inconsistent. It makes sense that the camaraderie she finds among her Renegade team affects her, but sometimes it would almost seems like she is 100% Team Renegade and then suddenly she remembers why she’s there. And I guess, even though I knew it was coming, I wanted her to stay a villain, but that doesn’t seem to be where the story is going. Even with the shoehorned twist at the end that puts her firmly back on the side of the Anarchists, the narrative still suggests she’ll become a good guy. She probably still won’t side with the Renegades and has the potential to be a great antihero, but I still can’t shake that disappointment. Still, I can’t wait to see what she has planned in the concluding novel.
As for the other characters, they were fine. They weren’t great, but they were fine. The plus side is it has a very diverse cast of characters. Nova is half-Filipino, Adrian has two gay dads (and wears glasses, which at least somewhat subverts the Perfectly Handsome Hero trope), Oscar is Latinx and uses a cane for a condition he was born with, and Danna is black. There is also a lot of diversity among the prodigies as a whole, especially in regards to race. I just wish I liked the cast of characters better. But they were just okay.
I also hated the forced romance forming between Nova and Adrian. At the moment, it’s mostly just attraction, but it’s still so forced and cliché. They have no chemistry; they’re just being forced together because they’re the two main characters. It’s cheap and tropey, adding nothing to the story. I really hope Meyer defies expectations in the next book and doesn’t get them together, but I’m not holding my breath.
However, there were also things I liked. The world-building was excellent. I had no trouble understanding how this world worked or where things were. Meyer really knows how to paint a vivid picture and create a futuristic world that makes sense. And, despite my issues with her characterization, I love Nova. She stands by her convictions and isn’t afraid to fuck a bitch up. I also liked the unique abilities the prodigies have. I enjoyed the plotlines as well, even if they have been done before.
Overall, I liked this book but didn’t love it. Marissa Meyer has written better books before, and I urge you to read those if you haven’t. However, I am still going to continue the series and am even excited to see how this all plays out. She could still surprise me.
My Rating: 3.5
It was saddening to have two of my most anticipated books of the year let me down. But I didn’t hate them. They were good. They just weren’t great. I only hope the rest of these series turn things around, but I’m not counting on it. Sometimes stories just don’t work. And sometimes something is just missing.