Rummanah Aasi
   I have been a big fan of greek mythology ever since middle school. My favorite book on the greek myths is Mythology by Edith Hamilton. I had read it so much that it began to come apart and needed to buy a new copy and transfer my notes (yes, I write notes as I read. It's been a habit of mine for a while and it was fueled even further during my college years as an English major). I was one of two people in my high school freshman english class to actually enjoy reading Homer's Odyssey. I was more than happy to read it again in college. In fact, when I heard The Illiad was going to be a movie called Troy, I read the entire epic. Unfortunately, Troy was awful but The Illiad made up for it. So, when I come across a modern retelling of the myths, I'm all for reading it. This is how I found The Mark by Jen Nadol.

Description: Cassandra "Cassie" Renfield has always seen the mark, a candlight glow, around certain people. When she first saw it, she thought she was seeing a trick of the light. Until she watches a man awash in the mark die. Cassie realizes she can see a person’s imminent death. She does not know how or where, but only when.  Cassie begins to explore her “gift,” seeking those marked for death and probing the line between decision and destiny. If you know today is someone’s last, should you tell them or should you help them prevent it?

Review: The Mark is a modern retelling of Cassandra and the three Fates in greek mythology. Instead of focusing on the origin of the mark, Nadol focuses her debut novel on the ethical implications of Cassie's so-called gift. Should Cassie alert those who are marked to die or should she let fate takes its course?

There is very little in terms of plot in the book. So little in fact, that I think Cassie is misplaced in the "adult world" that she is forced to face after the death of her grandmother. The life and death choice seems far removed from her, which is probably why I felt her struggle with her gift wasn't much of a problem but rather 'a freaky thing that happens time to time'. The crux of the novel is actually the classical debate on predestination and free will. In fact, the philosophy class that Cassie takes is a device that Nadol uses to allow Cassie to reflect on how she should deal with her 'gift'. I found this aspect of the novel very interesting, but I also wanted the origin of the mark to also be explored more. Nadol does touch of the myth as an explaination, but it comes off as more of an afterthought and doesn't use the myth to further strengthen the story. While I do not agree with Cassie's final decision at the end of the book, I do believe readers will find a lot to discuss in this book. Overall, a quick read and an enjoyable book but I wouldn't rush to the library or the bookstore to read it.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of caution: There is some mild language. Since Cassie does she death and watches two people die, the book may be frightening for elementary school readers. I would recommend it for strong 7th grade readers and up.

If you like this book, try: Numbers by Rachel Ward. If you are looking for a good modern retelling series for 4th graders and up, I highly recommend Rick Riordan's excellent Percy Jackson series. The first book is called Lightening Thief.
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