Written by Michael Grant
Messenger of Fear is the first book in a new series by Michael Grant, who wrote the popular Gone YA dystopian thriller series. It is tagged as a horror/thriller, and I would throw paranormal into that mix as well. It is the story of a teenage girl who wakes to find herself in a fog of sorts with no memory of her identity or past. Eventually, she is approached by several spectral-type individuals who draw her into a new reality and present her with a new role in life. They show her many disturbing things to help her understand what her new position is all about.
Although the book is pretty confusing for the majority of the time, it actually works because the reader is discovering things along with the first-person narrator, who is also the main character. She doesn’t know what’s going on for the most part, and likewise, neither does the reader. This also works very well with the tone and ambience of the book – there is an air of mystery about everything and the structure of the story supports that well.
The characterizations in the book are really very good. All the characters feel strong and well-developed, while still full of vulnerability and weaknesses. Mara was a good main character. While she is confused and scared, she shows a substantial amount of strength and fortitude, and her growth as an individual is evident as the story progresses. Although she seems to struggle with a lot of emotions and ideologies, she doesn’t come across as too whiny or self-absorbed which occurs often in 1st person narratives.
I also really liked the character of Messenger. He was so intriguing. He seems very hard-core, and yet there is a strong underlying compassion about him. I definitely wanted to know more about his background. And Grant is very good at creating an affinity for Messenger and an interest in his story. I was a little unsure of how about the character of Oriax (another of the supernatural beings). There didn’t seem to be a clear reason for her to be in the story except to shake things up a bit. Maybe that’s enough of a role, but I didn’t care for her much.
One thing that I really loved about this story is the underlying social concerns that Grant seems to be addressing. It actually led to some deep thinking on my part and I loved the philosophical stimulation. He deals with hard issues like bullying, justice, and the difference between right and wrong, action and intent. I really appreciated how much it gave me to ponder.
The big “twist” at the end was not quite as subtle as I would have liked, but I think it would probably work for most people. I was able to guess fairly early on, through Grant’s foreshadowing, what the situation in the end would be and so I wasn’t terribly surprised to discover Mara’s true identity. I thought it was still a good progression for her though.
Since it is a horror-type story there is a fair amount of savagery in parts of the book – disturbing actions and images. But there is nothing gratuitous about the violence since it is an integral and effective part of the story. So although I will admit that I felt a bit of discomfort reading through some of the events, I was not too bothered by the inclusion of those things.
Although I was intrigued by many aspects of the story that don’t become fully clear at the end, I was a little disappointed that this is not the end of the story. I kind of like the idea of being left in a totally ambiguous state at the end of the book (which you are) and letting the reader deal with it. It would fit well with the tone of the book. Grant ends with a definite lead in to finding out more about the supernatural beings that are the basis for Mara’s situation, which will be explored more fully in subsequent books, I assume, and I would be interested to see what he does with that. So I won’t complain too much about more installments to come in this story.
Overall, I thought this was a very insightful and thought-provoking book, while still being very entertaining and contemporary. I would recommend this as a very interesting read for YA readers to get them to think about their own actions and intents related to the way that Grant discusses them, with the caveat that there is a bit of grittiness involved. But good stuff, in my opinion.
Review by Rachelle Funk, Skyline High School Media Center
Rating: ★★★★✩ (4 stars)
Interest Level: 9th-12th
Messenger of Fear
Written by Michael Grant
Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date: September 23, 2014
ISBN: 9780062207401 (hardcover)