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Cassie sees the mark of death, the fading light around a person just before they die. It’s the kind of gift you wouldn’t ask for, but it’s hers to live with. Sorting it all out takes time. As a 16 year old in a small town, she hasn’t encountered many people in their last moments. A school bus of children, a businessman off to work – they glowed and nobody else saw it.  It’s not until Cassie sees the mark on a loved one that she accepts her wild hunch as truth.

The Mark by Jen Nadol

The Mark by Jen Nadol

In the midst of grieving, Cassie is sent to a small city in Kansas to live with ‘Drea, an aunt she’s never heard of. She’s to spend 90 days with her in order to have access to her inheritance. ‘Drea opens up her apartment to Cassie, but not her busy busy life. The girl is on her own to do whatever a smart girl with a heavy heart and pure freedom does.

Cassie gets a job, a boyfriend and takes a philosophy class at the local college. She’s learning how to take care of herself, but encountering more people throughout her day than ever before means an uptick in the people on Death’s front porch. The philosophy class is a useful device. Should she tell the marked that they’re about to die? Would knowing prevent their deaths? She mines her class and cute TA for perspective, hypothetical of course.

Many storytellers begin with a “What if?”, choosing an adventure and following down that course, taking a few detours when things need shaking up. Mountains battling each other as our hobbit and warrior dwarves inch along jagged cliffs – why not? Fight, mountains, fight! Here, all twists lead back to what would you do if you had this ability? If you find the question curious enough, you’ll enjoy this quick, bouncy read.

First person narrative isn’t my favorite, but it works for this story. Nadol makes Cassie quite likable so you’re happy to spend some time with her. The romance is simple and believable, and thankfully not drenched in syrup. The only thing that made me chew my lip was the whole discovery of origin part. All the dots connect, but I like my endings messier and don’t always need an explanation. While The Mark could stand alone, it has a sequel called The Vision. Don’t judge these books by their covers, unless you like the covers.

Oh, and happy twenty the thirteenth. Does that mean we get a whole year of creepy Fridays? Yes. Yes it does.