Book Reviews

[review] The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer – Michelle Hodkin

Release Date: September 27, 2011
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages: 452
Format: Hardcover
Source: Personal library

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.

Discovery: The only thing I knew about this book before reading it was that it was a really confusing and heartstopping ride through Mara Dyer’s life. I wasn’t sure if I would like it, but I figured that since people found it challenging to review, the complexity would be appealing.

I’ll say off the bat: this is going to be a very weird review.

+/-     Writing style. Michelle Hodkin has a talent for strong, punchy sentences that move the story along wonderfully. The first chapter hooked me and refused to let me go. I could quote passages from the book that made me pause and shake my head and say “Oh MAN, Michelle is awesome,” but we’d be here all night. I appreciate the care she took in using the right tone and language for a girl like Mara. The story wouldn’t be nearly as impressive without the lyrical and natural prose that she uses.

Unfortunately, there were also times where I felt like a lot of confusion could have been cleared up with clearer writing. The mystery behind Mara’s abilities and flashbacks becomes murkier in some parts of the book where you’d expect them to be better explained. I had moments where I wasn’t sure what was happening or even when it was happening. I am willing to give Michelle Hodkin the benefit of the doubt because Mara’s own mental state isn’t normal for much of the novel.

+/-     Characters.      Here’s the thing: I really really like Mara. But I also kind of hate Noah. Let me explain.

Mara is a kickass character, one that surprised me in every chapter. I was invested in her journey from the first paragraph. I wanted to know if she would have the mental and emotional peace she so desperately needs after the death of her friends, and I wanted her to be happy. She isn’t weak in the slightest, and she gives the reader a hell of a story. This is not to say she’s perfect: I wasn’t too happy with the way she treats her mother and brothers. But she is written well enough for me to give her a little leeway, though not much.

On the other hand, I thought I was going to fall hard for Noah, and I almost did. He is a classic playboy and Mara is the girl he professes to have changed for, and I have problems with that. If you’ve read my review of Lola and the Boy Next Door, you’ll know that I don’t find bad boys appealing. Boys that push the envelope a little? Definitely. But ones that treat girls badly and pretend not to care? Yeah, we might have an issue there. I find it a little difficult to believe that someone who respects herself as much as Mara does would be so taken in by Noah that quickly. And therein lies my concern over paranormal romances: most of them are lightning-fast, devotion forming in the blink of an eye, without any steps back to consider what is really happening. If Noah is as bad as people say he is, then I need something more to believe that Mara would want to be with him.

+/-     Paranormal twists. I can’t say much about this without spoiling anyone–yes it’s that difficult–but I will say that you’ll need the sequel. The ending is confusing and I’m still not sure what happened, but I want to know more. In a way, I suppose this is a good thing. Michelle Hodkin came up with a story so complex and layered that it needs three books to be told and I truly hope the succeeding novels will be clearer.

Recommendations:  Mara Dyer is a wild ride and one that will probably need a couple rereadings to be fully understood. It’s worth picking up for sure, and I can’t wait for the sequel.

Rating:  Very good.

Go visit Michelle Hodkin at her website and follow her on Twitter @michellehodkin.

You can check out The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer on Goodreads and order it over at Amazon and Book Depository.

Next review: The Name of the Star, Maureen Johnson


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