July 11, 2013

Review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

Title: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer #1)
Author: Michelle Hodkin
Release Date: September 27th, 2011
Publisher: Simon & Schuster BFYR
Page Count: 452
Source: Borrowed from the New York Public Library
Rating: Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?
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.

[Summary Source: Goodreads]

So there's this gigantic accident that kills 3 teens and leaves one in the hospital. That one teen who survives is Mara Dyer. (Or at least that's what we're told her name is. It's not really, supposedly.) Mara wakes up with no memory of what happened and is so traumatized by the whole thing that she convinces her family to move all the way to Florida to escape her past. But, like, obviously that's not going to happen. Throw in a hot guy and a little paranormal activity and we've got ourselves a story.

Let's break this down:

After I finished this book I messaged Judith freaking out. If it weren't for spoilers, I would just screenshot the whole conversation and post that in lieu of a review. Alas. SPOILERS. BUT I will quote a few of my gut responses because, well, they're pertinent.

"I do not understand this book."
"Help me."

All of that sounds promising, doesn't it?

None of this is to say I don't like this book. I did like this book. I liked Noah and Mara and everyone else involved in this story. I liked the writing style and I even liked the plot. I just think there was a lot of STUFF going on and all of this STUFF made it very hard for all of the excellent elements of this book to properly hold their own.

First, there's Mara's memory loss. Then there's the development of her paranormal powers. Okay. I'm down. Then there's Noah and all his shenanigans. which I'm also down with. I don't totally understand the paranormal powers here - there's some bizarre nightmare/vision portion to it that leaves me feeling all: "huh say what now?" But in general, I got it. But then things get a little wonky crazy with Mara's father's case and what happens to Mara's little brother towards the end of the book. I get the end game of doing all of this but I really just felt like the baby was being thrown out with the bathwater (almost literally, I think, in this case) and it was just too much for me.

But as much as I wished there'd be more fewer plot points and more answers, I really did find my little jaunt into paranormal enjoyable. Mara as a protagonist is really interesting. She's struggling with a lot - I repeat, A LOT - of things and she manages it all admirably. Yeah, there were times when I wanted to shake her, but I think I'd be more worried if there weren't. But she's totally been through a lot of person-shaking moments.

I also really enjoyed Mara and Noah's relationship, as well as their personal relationships with their friends and families (although Mara's token black/bi/Jewish bestie was a little much for me). And that twist at the end? Well, that's one plot point that I liked. A lot. As much as I hate cliff hangers, I love a good sucker punch at the end of a book - especially if Book 2 in the series is already out. (I will say I'm probably going to wait until Book 3's out to dig into Book 2. It just seems like a really bad idea to not have the last book in the series ready to go if I'm going to finish this one.)

The long and short of it?

Plot: Maybe a little too plot-y for me.
World Building: I have no idea where any of the paranormal in this book comes from. I'll worry if I don't know by the end of Book 3. That's generally how paranormal works, right? (I'm just praying I'll one day know.)
Character Development: Poor Mara. Poor Noah. Poor everyone, really. This book really puts its characters through their paces and the characters, well, they handle it well.
Prose: Smooth sailing.
Would I Recommend This Book?: If you like paranormal with a hot guy, unstable girl and way more questions than answers, this is a pretty good series to start. However, if you're interested in a little less mystery and fewer WHAT THE FREAKING WHAT moments, you might want to skip this one.

I read this book because my friends couldn't shut up about it (*cough* Noah). Did/do you have similar motivations for reading or do you binge paranormal books on the daily? Talk to me about your genre preferences (and Noah) in the comments below!


  1. Yeah, I thought the same things when I read Mara Dyer. I love YA paranormal, but this book was sooooo not for me. It's been a while since I read this one, but I think I thought Mara was a little nuts. I mean the way she sort of wished bad things would happen to people - like that guy with the dog. I mean, I am SOOOO not for animal cruelty, but homicide wishings aren't exactly okay either.

  2. I'm not normally one for a minimal plot book, but this one, and the sequel, totally sucked me in. I loved the dream-like quality of Hodkin's writing.

  3. God knows I loved this, I hope you continue on with the series though. Personally, I don't mind unanswered questions in a first book. But ... well. I will say no more ;)

  4. See I usually DON'T LIKE paranormal, but this one stands out for me because it's effing creepy.

    And Noah.


  5. I remember really liking this one, but I do have to reread it ... I have the second book and don't want to dive in unless I remember the first one! I think the only time I've read books that everyone else is reading and I read out of guilt are book club reads ... and I've given up on that. I like being more in control of my reading choices!

  6. I read UNBECOMING a few days after it came out, and I can't even remember what happened anymore. I do, however, recall being similarly overwhelmed by PLOT TWISTS EVERYWHERE. I may have to reread and then pick up the second book soon!

  7. I love these books, but they are sooo out of my reading comfort zone. I have seen a lot of mixed reviews. I wish I could say you get some answers in book 2, but I think you get more questions than answers! I CAN'T WAIT for Retribution!

  8. I honestly still don't know if I even want to read this! I do vaguely recall trying it out way back when it was first released, but just not having it click with me then. I am picky about my paranormals after all! Clearly, it's an interesting and very discussable book though, and that's always enough to make me curious. I'm glad you enjoyed it though!

  9. This book is craaaazyyyyyy, but I love craziness, and I loved your reaction even more. It was quite similar to how I was talking to Cass after I finished book two. Which is even crazier. What can I say? I love wtf-ery so so much.


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