Saturday, 19 November 2011

Book Review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

First published: 27th September 2011
By: Simon & Schuster

Mara Dyer doesn't think life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there. It can.

She believes there must be more to the accident she can't remember that killed her friends and left her mysteriously unharmed. There is.

She doesn't believe that after everything she's been through, she can fall in love.
She's wrong.

My review:

This book has a fantastic opening: It starts with a handwritten note which informs us that 'Mara Dyer' is not our heroine's real name and that she is somehow involved in a string of murders. Then the first chapter takes us to 'Before' and we see an extremely spooky Ouija board session (is there any other kind?) between Mara and her friends and are told that a few months after this, Mara's friends were dead. Cue the ominous music.

Mara wakes up in hospital with no memory of what happened the night her friends died. To help her heal, her family move to Miami, Florida so Mara can start over at a new school and have a normal life. Only Mara can't go back to normal - it seems her mind has been irreparably damaged and she is haunted by hallucinations of violence, darkness and death.

The part of this book that is a psychological thriller, I absolutely loved. A lot of  Mara Dyer is about typical teenage, new-school-mean-kids-hot-boy stuff, but every time we go into one of Mara's hallucinations, it's creepy-gruesome-scary stuff. And we don't always know what's real and what's Mara's delusion and all this kept me hooked. I found Mara to be a frustrating character, though, because she so obviously has serious, frightening issues, yet she refuses to get any help for them. It is realistic, because I know from experience that it's the kids with the most problems who are most resistant to accepting support, but as an adult reading about a teen like this, I was screaming: "Mara, you are seeing maggots in your food and dead people in your mirror! Get yourself to a shrink right now!"

One touch I really liked about Mara, is that she's half-Indian. It's not a big deal in the book, but YA can be so WASP-y all the time, that reading about someone who has a slightly different culture was cool.

Mara's romance with Noah is the main plot. Although the novel goes back to Mara's state of mind often enough to satisfy me, I definitely would have preferred it if the balance between the romance and the psychological stuff was weighted towards the latter rather than the former. This kind of romance is so prevalent in YA and there was an opportunity for Mara Dyer to be something completely different. I did end up falling for Noah, to my embarrassment. At first I was sure I was going to resist; he was such a stereotypical YA dream guy: Beautiful, rich, mysterious. And, of course, he's a bad boy, known to have slept with and used every girl in the school, and his banter with Mara can be explicitly sexual and crude. But God help me, after he rescues an abused dog and reads to Mara when she's sick, I was a goner. Job done, Michelle Hodkin. The chemistry between Noah and Mara is also very hot; it's a long time before they kiss, but all the staring, touching and stroking beforehand ratchets the sexual tension up to 100.

A lot of reviews I've read mention the ending to this book; it is a cliffhanger, which is something that annoys many, but my disappointment started earlier, when the truth about Mara and Noah is revealed. I wanted the explanation for Mara to come from the real world, not the paranormal and I wanted Mara and Noah to have connected as damaged people, not as supernatural. Not fair; authors doing what they want and not what I want!

This book was a good read and I enjoyed it, but as I said, the opportunity to be truly different was missed.

Rating: 4 stars


  1. Awesome review! You touched on a couple points that irked me but I couldn't articulate - I would have loved for Mara's explanation to come from the real world as well, instead of the crutch of it being something paranormal. And I also thought Mara should have swallowed her pride (or fear, or whatever) and gotten herself to a shrink, but who knows - if I were in the same situation, I might feel differently.

    I also (begrudgingly) fell for Noah - he's impossible not to love!

  2. It's so much more intriguing to me now! I keep trying to resist from spending the money just yet, but I may cave in soon after all. I love your reactions while reading the book. :) Great review!

  3. Wow, super awesome review! It was really a absorbing thriller, wasn't it? I didn't really like Noah just because he seemed too mysterious for me, and when I found out his connection, I was like, "Um... What?" Haha, I'm glad you enjoyed this book! I did too.

  4. Kelly - Michelle Hodkin really pulled out all the stops to make us love Noah, didn't she? Someone who rescues dogs is hard to resist. But yes, I think Mara Dyer staying within the real world would have been different and better, because so much of YA is paranormal now.

    Jessica - I'm not going to tell you to buy anything now that I've got a glimpse of your TBR pile, hehe.

    Sophia - Yeah, another reason I didn't like the paranormal stuff was that it didn't feel signposted. Maybe it was done that way to be more of a shock, but particular Noah's thing, seemed out of nowhere.

  5. This was such a great review. I finally feel like I have a grasp on what to expect. Thank you! Usually I want the romance to take a back seat to the plot, but at least it takes them a while to finally kiss. I lose interest when they're kissing and declaring their love from page one.

    "Mara, you are seeing maggots in your food and dead people in your mirror! Get yourself to a shrink right now!"

    ROFL! That's great :P

  6. Oh come on! One more book won't hurt. Pretty please?!? Lol. :P

  7. I like that the paranormal element took a backseat for a while, and I think Michelle meant it that way. Truthfully, I adored this book, but it's refreshing to see a nice, fluid and honest take :)

  8. I liked mara too , I especially enjoyed how slowly the relationship developed on Mara's side

  9. Small Review - Glad I could be of assistance! And that I could make you laugh!

    Jessica - All right, but don't say I didn't warn you when you have to do the TBR challenge again in 2013!

    Melissa - I think that the paranormal element being non-present for the majority of the book is why I enjoyed most of it. It's not like I dislike paranormal romance or anything, but it's just that YA is swimming in those kind of titles, so it's difficult to be thrilled/excited about another one.

    Fiction State of Mind - Yes, the slow relationship was better, because Mara really wasn't emotionally ready to have a relationship with anybody. I'm glad Mara/Noah didn't happen until she could trust him.

  10. I loved The Unbecoming. Glad you enjoyed this book im totally solid Noah's fan. :) great review.


If you visit this blog, please comment! I really do appreciate and read every one and try to answer back as much as possible.