The first words that come to mind when reading this novel are quick, engaging and ultimately satisfying. The reader is immediately immersed in Piper a...moreThe first words that come to mind when reading this novel are quick, engaging and ultimately satisfying. The reader is immediately immersed in Piper and Anna’s journey of discovery, and though a perceptive reader might be able to deduce the hidden secrets interspersed throughout the text, knowing them beforehand does not detract from the reader’s enjoyment of the book given the nature of the story. In fact, I thought it rather fun having my suspicions confirmed, and I believe that many young readers would share that same sentiment.
The Mark of the Dragonfly is a book heavily focused on plot, which makes the story progress at a busy, energetic pace that keeps the reader’s interest despite the book’s length. Because of this, even though Johnson’s story is about 400 pages, it could easily be read in one sitting. However, because of the book’s focus on plot, there is not as much background development as one might expect for a fantasy tale. Though the reader gains some basic background knowledge of the kingdoms and their territories, as well as a general understanding of the population and the kinds of human-other species interactions that happen to exist in this fantasy world, I personally would have liked to learn more about these elements. For example, what are the origins of those special gifts? What were some of the gifts described in the fairytales that were briefly mentioned…did these gifts focus solely on natural elements or could they have also represented other potential talent abilities? Do interspecies relationships exist and are they really possible, given the story’s discussion about the difficulties of treating some of these cohabitating species using human medicines? When depicting such elements generally, it can be somewhat difficult to really apply them on a personal level in regards to how they relate to the characters. As such, older readers might find these missing elements somewhat of a disappointment in their reading of this book. However, such questions are not typical for the average middle grade reader, and because of this, I don’t think the reader is really meant to think beyond the basic outline of the story. And given how the story’s written, it can be easy to gloss over these elements, allowing the reader to focus on the characters and their progression through the story.
Overall despite its flaws, I found Johnson’s novel an entertaining read. The combined elements of adventure, action and drama, with the added benefits of camaraderie and little romance would easily appeal to many young readers.(less)
After reading the last few pages of this novel, I felt a moment of déjà vu—not in regards to plot, but to the overall reading experience. The Here and...moreAfter reading the last few pages of this novel, I felt a moment of déjà vu—not in regards to plot, but to the overall reading experience. The Here and Now reminded me of my overall reaction to reading Robin McKinley’s novel, Chalice. I loved reading Chalice and found elements of it quite intriguing. However, it felt more like a prelude than a complete work. Though the book had a definite conclusion, it felt more like a beginning, and I couldn’t help but wish for more. The Here and How is just like that. This book could easily be the beginning of a series if the author wished to make one. That said, a series or a companion book is not entirely necessary, since the author adds just enough hints and suggestions that allow the reader to envision a more satisfying conclusion that could happen in the near future—a future that would benefit not only the main protagonists but those associated with them as well.
In regards to the actual story, I liked it for the most part. Both Prenna and Ethan’s characters are interesting and in some respects true to life. They both share the difficulties associated in learning how to balance personal interests with the responsibilities and rules they’re expected to follow. As illustrated in the novel’s pacing, this struggle becomes immediately apparent to the reader, with the characters attempting to fulfill the mission presented to them, while at the same time trying to pursue a normal relationship. The resulting plot mix initially makes for an odd read…the characters seemingly procrastinating, engaged in normal everyday activities that have no real bearing on the problem at hand. However, Prenna and Ethan are just teenagers, who happen to be doing what any normal teenage couple would do to develop their relationship. And once the reader remembers this, the plot choices begin to make sense.
However, the one plot element that I found fault with is one that I’ve found in many young adult dystopian novels, i.e. the shifting roles of adult-teen relationships, placing teens in a position of power over adults, with the adults quietly accepting this role reversal. This is a plot element that is a bit overused, and as a result, has lost its overall effect. As depicted in this novel, this moment feels too simple and easy…a move that directly leads into a tidy and speedy resolution. I would have liked more verbal interaction to develop additional conflict, which would eventually build into the final resolution of the story. I think this addition would have made the book more appealing and distinct from other books in this genre.
Overall, The Here and Now’s mix of time travel, mysterious viruses, action and first love has the makings for a read that could engage many young adult readers. That said, while some elements of this story make for an intriguing read, other aspects of the novel, especially in regards to its conclusion, left me as a reader wanting more.(less)