Published by Harper Collins Children’s Books on March 26th 2015
Pages: 336 •Goodreads
Eva Tilling wakes up in the hospital to discover an attempt has been made on her life. But who in her sleepy town could have hit her with their car? And why? Before she can consider the question, she finds that she's awoken with a strange new skill: the ability to foresee people's deaths when they touch her.
While she is recovering from the hit-and-run, Nate, an old friend, reappears, and the two must traverse their rocky past as they figure out how to use Eva's power to keep her friends - and themselves – alive. But the killer is obsessed and will stop at nothing to get to Eva…
I’ve been really let down with thrillers lately. The Girl on the Train almost bored me to tears, and I felt like I kept waiting for the “thrill” to kick in with Dangerous Boys. I LOVE reading thrillers, especially in the fall, so I’ve been on the hunt for a quality thriller to kick off my fall reading. I thankfully found it in a book that’s been hanging out unread on my shelves for a while now, Made for You by Melissa Marr.
I’ll admit, I was a bit skeptical going in, because the only thing I had read by Ms. Marr before was the first few pages of the first book in the Wicked Lovely series, and I was less than impressed with it. What would someone who wrote such a well known series about faeries know about writing a contemporary YA thriller? Quite a bit, it seems! Made for You is a creepy, twisted tale set in the South about a very well known, popular girl in the community who has a very intense stalker. What sets this narrative apart, however, is that right from the beginning readers encounter a dual POV in the novel- Eva’s, and that of her stalker, who refers to himself as “Judge.” This really adds an ominous feel to the novel as we’re learning the stalkers’ twisted logic and motivations at the same time we’re getting to know Eva’s character, and the reader knows that the stalker is someone somewhat close to Eva, so every character she interacts with bears the burden of potentially being her stalker. I loved this anxiety-inducing effect because it put me on hyper-alert while I was reading, looking for clues or red-herrings, which is one of the thrills of reading a thriller (pun intended).
Another element of Marr’s novel that surprised me is that she didn’t shy away from incorporating disturbing elements into her thriller, even though it’s a YA book. There is some seriously messed up stuff that happens, and “Judge’s” justifications for it through his narrative are horrifying enough to really convince the reader that he is truly a psychopath with a genuinely distorted view of justice and right vs. wrong. His reasons are tied up in religion and family and intimacy and physical attraction in a POV that is starkly unsettling, especially juxtaposed with Eva’s chapters.
Also, let’s talk about Eva for a moment. After suffering an accident at the beginning of the book that puts her in the hospital, she develops a paranormal power where she can see someone’s death if she has certain direct contact with them. While this paranormal element wasn’t ever fully explained (Was it an effect of her traumatic brain injury? Was she always predisposed to having this power), it was a cool element to the plot, as her visions of people’s deaths would shift due to circumstances, especially if she was warning them and telling them how to avoid what she was seeing- fate would simply alter its course.
Though the novel at heart is a thriller, it had some great relationships that I think were really important. While I wasn’t a fan of the romance (I feel like it went from 0 to 60 pretty fast for my taste) I thought it had a great portrayal of friendship between Eva and Grace, the only Asian student in her circle of friends and tiny Southern town. While not deviating too much from the core mystery of the book, there was recognition of the town’s subtle racism and discomfort of having someone so “other” to them running in the most elite social circles of the school. Grace and Eva were also extremely dedicated friends to each other with little drama and secrets between them, which is always super refreshing to read in YA. I also LOVED the small scene’s we got with Eva’s mother throughout the book. Eva is pretty disconnected from her parents, but not in a “convenient for YA plot purposes” way, but in a detached, her parents had her too young sort of way. While you’d expect Eva’s mom to be super uptight and strict since she’s the Ultimate Southern Hostess, she’s actually pretty perceptive and chill and is more aware of the things going on in Eva’s life than YA parents generally do. It was great seeing an involved parent actively try to work through their issues with their child and not be reduced down to a stereotype, and in a thriller book no less!
I’ll also fully disclose that I had this book on my radar when it initially came out a few years ago, but I could not bring myself to purchase the ugly American hardcover with the bug on it (I don’t do bugs on book covers). I get that it was probably going for a #creepy aesthetic but I also need books that don’t violently clash with my personal aesthetic, you know? I was thrilled that when the book was re-released in paperback in the US they switched to the Australian cover art. Does it have anything to do with the story? Not really but it also doesn’t gross me out when I look at it and lo and behold I ended up purchasing it #marketingcorrection.
Overall: Made for You was creepy, twisted, and kept me up reading until 2am on a Sunday night which messed up my sleep schedule for the entire next work week but was totally worth it. It’s not afraid to shy away from the more disturbing elements of thriller (and hello, if you have a creepy stalker there’s going to be some disturbing elements) and the conclusion of the story did not disappoint. I think this is Marr’s only YA thriller to date but I really hope she continues to write in the genre!