YA WEEK: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Title: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer
Author: Michelle Hodkin
Series: Mara Dyer #1
Genre: YA, thriller, contemporary, paranormal
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2011
Source: Library
Read for: Fun

When Mara Dyer wakes up in the hospital, she has no memory of the accident that killed her best friend, boyfriend, and his sister. However, that doesn't prevent her from being haunted by their faces, despite her family's move to a different state. Life becomes further complicated as strange things begin to happen around Mara -- things that can't be explained or ignored. The more she seeks to unlock the secret, the more dangerous things occur -- what is happening to her?

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer was a book with a lot of hype last year. It was also a book that held no interest for me. In fact, I could hardly remember why I put it on hold at the library, and simply picked it up and read it because it had come in. I probably gave into the hype when I decided to put it on hold. However, I am extremely happy that I did. Despite my skepticism, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer was a thrilling, well-written adventure, one that I could not put down despite my 14 hour days.

I think the first thing that lured me in was the spookiness of Mara's situation. The atmosphere is well-crafted, with the ghosts from Mara's past appearing everywhere, creeping into her consciousness. The fact that she knows they aren't real does nothing to put her mind at ease -- she is tortured by the constant reminders as well as by the fact that she has no memory of what happened the night her friends died. The last book I remember drawing me in so well with its creepiness factor was Nevermore by Kelly Creagh, a book that I adored, so the creepy hints and chilling events were absolutely fantastic. I couldn't wait to find out what happened to Mara next, and what the secret of her experience was.

I also loved Michelle Hodkin's writing. I heard a rumor at an author event (not one attended by Hodkin) that one day she decided she felt like writing a book and sat down and penned The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer with little to no other writing experience. I have no idea if this is true, but if it is, I am even more astounded. Her writing was evocative and vivid for me. I felt as if I was in the moment. In addition, despite the overall gloomy and creepy tone of the book, I loved the dry humor in the crackling dialogue between the characters (in particular, Mara and Noah. More on them in a second). The writing was inviting and suspenseful and pulled me forward.

As for the characters -- more love all around. I'm going to have to dedicate a paragraph to Noah, the British bad boy that won't leave Mara alone. In general, I'm not a fan of bad boys, in books or in real life (although there were a few that made an appearance in my romantic history). Marcus Flutie does nothing for me. (Dodges hurled rotten tomatoes). However, Noah got me from the first page on which he appeared. Even though it seems obvious that he can't be good for Mara, I was rooting for him almost instantly. As I became better acquainted with him, it became clear that I should have been rooting for him all along. The chemistry between the two characters is not only physical, but deeply emotional as well, further solidifying my total fangirl-dom of the couple.

I also loved Mara's family, especially her brothers. They are all well-developed despite being secondary characters, a true sign of a good and thorough author, in my opinion.

My one quibble with the book has to do with the paranormal element. I think in part it is simply because I was not expecting it -- I kept waiting for a more logical explanation. The book seemed to push toward something less mystical and more concrete, so when I realized there was a paranormal element I felt somewhat let down. However, I am intrigued to learn more about this aspect of the story in the sequel. I'll be honest -- I have not been more disappointed with a cliffhanger ending since I read Nevermore (Lauren Oliver also hands out those unabashed "You're just going to have to buy the next book" endings).

I am on the edge of my seat waiting for The Evolution of Mara Dyer. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer combined romance, suspense, and just enough creepiness to have completely drawn me in.

4 stars

Warnings: Language, violence, allusions to sexuality


  1. Isn't it wonderful when a book we had low expectations for ends up astounding us? My expectations for this one are so freaking high that I keep putting off reading it. Must lower those pesky expectations first.

    1. I think sometimes not having high expectations definitely makes for a better read! But it is so hard for me to not read the "it-books" that I read about on everyone's blogs!

  2. After I finished this book, I completely freaked out about the ending. I think my roommate thought I was crazy because I was totally spazing out. After I was done, it took me some pondering to decide whether I actually like the book or not, but happily, I did decide that despite messing with my mind, it was awesome. Great review, Lorren!

    1. I love those books that just make you freak out with the endings! That has been Delirium and Pandemonium for me. And this one definitely made me more angry than some cliffhangers. I kind of expect them now with trilogies but with Mara Dyer I was frustrated because I wanted more!

  3. The paranormal element was actually probably my favorite part, keeping me off-kilter and waiting for the next surprise.

    1. I'm hoping I grow to like it more in the following books as I learn more about it.


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