The Reformation of Marli Meade

Tracy Hewitt
Young Adult

SUSPENSE/THRILLER:  Marli Meade has lived the most sheltered kind of life—atop the Appalachian Mountain range, trapped in the grip of a secretive community led by her father Charles, their preacher. Both he and her irrationally stern grandmother, Edna, struggle to control every facet of Marli’s life, from her wardrobe to her choice of husband. When her family arranges a marriage for the sixteen year old, she is introduced to Nate, a troubled boy temporarily placed in the care of her fiancé’s family. As Marli struggles to glean what she truly desires from life, she discovers the extent to which her fanatical father and grandmother will go to maintain control over her destiny.


This novel’s narrative breaks out of the gate strong. The reader cannot help but feel outraged by the strict control exerted by the religious leaders of the mountaintop community. Some of the dialogue felt unnatural, but Marli’s despair hooks the reader from the first page. The plausibility of the story breaks down in the second half, however, leaving the reader hard-pressed to accept law enforcement’s failure to step in to investigate murders, the disappearance of children (who all attend the public school in town) or brutal assaults leaving behind permanent scars. When not one, but two police officers originate from communities of zealots themselves, the reasoning behind such lack of action is glaringly unsound. Some characters presented one-dimensionally, such as the bully-turned-fairy-godmother whose actions didn’t quite ring true. Deeper conversations between the two main characters would offer true knowledge of one another and better pace the sweet romance budding between them.


Claudette Melanson