Title: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer
Series: Mara Dyer (Book #1)
Author: Michelle Hodkin
Summary: Mara Dyer doesn’t think life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.
She believes there must be more to the accident she can’t remember that killed her friends and left her mysteriously unharmed.
She doesn’t believe that after everything she’s been through, she can fall in love.
Review: One last review before I head off to camp!
I’ve heard so many mixed reviews regarding this book. Up until the point that I actually bought it several months ago, I’d heard nothing but great things. But, of course, after it arrived at my house, I realized that several of my friends had given it surprisingly low ratings, and when I started reading it, more of them came up. I was feeling a little conflicted over how I’d react to it, but eventually, I was too drawn into the story to care anymore. Although I didn’t feel like this was much of a paranormal book (not even in the slightest), I found that I loved every second of it, and stayed up late into the night reading, wanting to devour every moment of the story. I’m a sucker for romances, so I wasn’t at all disappointed when Hodkin slathered on the love. And I’m a sucker for exactly the kind of romance this was, and while there are lots of other people who see it differently than I do (less romantic and more creepy), I loved it. It wasn’t perfect–not by a long shot–but I realized that I didn’t care and was just enjoying the story.
What I Liked: Spoilers!
- Let’s start with Noah. He’s a controversial character, from what I gather, but I truly enjoyed his presence. I wouldn’t classify him as a jerk, although he has his idiotic moments–but so does everyone. I just loved the way he protected Mara, and would risk anything for her. I loved the way he cared about her, and took care of her. Like I said, I’m a sucker for this type of romance–a protective guy who brings back chivalry and the protecting of dignity. It’s like in Arthurian legend–if you dared insult the lover of a Knight, you had better believe you’d be in a world of hurt by the time they got through with you. It’s not about being possessive or obsessive over her–it’s about honoring her and protecting that honor. I liked Noah because he reminded me of the way knights acted about the women they loved. Sure, he was definitely cliché at times–he’s rich beyond belief, he’s the talk of the school, can get private access to almost anything in town, and a popular/mysterious guy who took interest in our supposedly average main character. But, again, even though in the back of my mind I knew all of it was cliché and really dumb when lined up, I didn’t care because I was enjoying myself too much. And even in retrospect, I still don’t care about the flaws in his character. There was too much I liked to bring it down.
- I really enjoyed the way Noah and Mara’s relationship was much less-than-physical. They barely, rarely, kissed, and relied almost wholly on actual emotions, rather than physical reactions. Noah and Mara had never kissed when he picked her up for school, or acted like a gentleman, or took her out exactly where he thought she would want to go. It wasn’t a relationship that started with that infamous first kiss that blossoms into actual dating, as it is with basically every other young adult book out there. There weren’t passages and passages about the way Noah looked, or how kissing him felt like–and I really enjoyed that. Their relationship, up until the very end, was purely emotional, and you don’t see that very often, or at all, in young adult books. It just showed me that you can have a meaningful relationship without having to be physical about it.
- I enjoyed the mental aspect of this book. The PTSD, the remembering, the hallucinations. These are actual things that happen to PTSD victims, and as I learned more about Mara’s story–particularly the episode with Jude–the more I understood why her mind was hiding it all from her. Maybe it comes from being the daughter of a psychologist, but I’m fascinated by the workings of the mind in that sense–the idea that it will hide things from you until you’re ready to deal with them. I was drawn to Mara and her story because of that, and seeing it all from her perspective was just really cool.
What I Didn’t Like:
- While I felt like it was supposed to be important, the paranormal aspects of the book just weren’t important to me. Mara can kill things? Okay; that’s a little weird. Noah can magically heal things? That’s also strange, and I’m not yet sure why any of it has a place. I enjoyed the story less the more this was focused on, and I don’t really know why. I mean, that’s the whole point of the book, right? Honestly, I would have preferred if this was realistic fiction–like a mind game, as I said. It would have been much more interesting, in my opinion, and it seemed like making a paranormal story out of it was an easy out to the more complicated, more interesting, mental aspect that could have explained the things that were happening.
- The dialogue was very flat. I should have cared more when I read it, but I didn’t really notice terribly much until I was already done. However, flipping back, there were very few descriptions in the dialogue itself, and was mostly just a string of talking without anything else. It was kind of boring when you looked at it. I noticed this while looking back for the other parts of the story as well, like the descriptions and the pacing–a lot of stuff seemed to happen in a short amount of time (although perhaps that’s more because I read it in a short amount of time rather than there weren’t enough pages!)–etc. The writing was far from perfect, and barely above amateur when you really look at it.
- What the heck was up with that ending? I feel like I should have been surprised, or anxious to keep reading and see what happened, and distantly, I know I should have more of a reaction than the one I had. But rather, I just closed the book, and sighed at another supposed-to-be cliff hanger that, while intriguing, fell a little flat for me.
Overall: Regardless of what I said about the writing itself, it didn’t matter much, because Hodkin created a world and a set of characters I wanted to know and enjoyed seeing develop. I was able to connect to Mara on several different occasions (one of which being seeing her after she discovered Rachel was dead–I’ll admit, I shed several tears while imagining what I would be like if my best friend had just suddenly died), and loved learning more about her and her story. I’m definitely looking forward to the next book, and seeing more of this cast–I thoroughly enjoyed myself reading, and again, while it was less than perfect, I was so drawn in that it didn’t matter that it had flaws. I would definitely recommend this to fans of romance and mental exploration. Probably ages fourteen and up, mostly for language. Happy reading!