The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
Book One of the Mara Dyer series
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Publication Date: September 27, 2011
Rating: 4 stars
Source: Purchased copy
Summary (from Goodreads):
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.
What I Liked:
I decided to reread this book this year, and finish the rest of the trilogy, so I can comfortably read The Becoming of Noah Shaw and The Reckoning of Noah Shaw. The two series are companion series (ish), but I never finished this original series and I always wanted to do so. I adored The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, even after all these years.
This is the story of Mara Dyer, whose name isn't actually Mara Dyer, but that's the name she is legally allowed to share. Her friends were in a horrible accident, and Mara has been suffering PTSD as a result. She and her family move so that Mara can have a fresh start. Mara has no idea how she survived the accident that killed her friends; she also has no idea how to explain the strange things that she has been seeing - and experiencing. Is it the PTSD? Or is it something more? And why does it seem like the boy with the panty-dropping smile has something to do with everything? This psychological thriller is twisted and intriguing, and will keep you guessing until the last page and anxious for the next installment.
The first time I read this book was in 2011 or 2012, not long after the book published. Honestly? I didn't really understand the story, and I wasn't sure if I even liked the book. I was so confused about so many things, and I wasn't sure what to think of some of the characters. Still, I blown away by the concept and the execution, and the originality. I'd never read anything like this.
I liked Mara from the start, which surprised me because usually I feel disdain towards unreliable narrators. I liked Mara's spunk and honesty - she has a spitfire type of sarcasm that I really liked. Maybe I just like sarcastic heroines. Mara puts on a strong front but she is vulnerable too, and she doesn't like others seeing that vulnerability.
Enter Noah Shaw, the bad boy of the high school, the guy who seemingly sleeps with everyone, the cultured British boy with an accent and smoking hot good looks and an arrogance to match. This type of hero is sometimes hard to like, but I actually liked Noah. Even after having only read one book (of the three), I was confident that Noah was fairly misunderstood and maybe not as bad as everyone thinks. Still, he comes across as a f**kboy. You love 'em, you hate 'em.
There was an interesting set of secondary characters, most of which I felt ehh about but could still appreciate their presence. Daniel, Mara's older brother, seemed way too perfect but was incredibly supportive of Mara, especially with her struggle with PTSD, and her budding trust of Noah. Jamie, Mara's new best friend, is a gay black guy with a lot going on, past and present. He's cool but maybe a little one-dimensional. Joseph, Mara's younger brother, is a sweetheart. He is much younger and he has an innocence to him that I really liked.
The story is bizarre! Is Mara suffering from extreme PTSD? Is there something sinister going on? Something else? Is this a paranormal psychological thriller? There were a lot of unanswered questions by the end of the book. This could be a complaint, but I think this actually sets up the series well, and leads perfectly into book two. I'm not overly annoyed about being left with so many unanswered questions because I have a feeling the author will reveal more information as the story goes on.
But there is some strange things going on, including murder... or was it coincidence? You'll have to find out! Or I will, as I continue to read the series.
There is of course a romance, between Noah and Mara. It is a seriously fiery romance even though there is literally one (technically two?) kisses in the book. Noah and Mara have amazing chemistry from the start - lots of sparks and a ton of witty banter. I liked the dialogue between the two, and I loved how they set each other off.
This book is extremely well-written, debut or not. Michelle Hodkin clearly knows how to build a story, and write it. I am sure her writing will get even better as she writes more books. I'm excited for more, from this series and new stories too.
Overall, I liked this book, especially after reading it several times. Initially I wasn't totally sold, but the more times I read the book, the more I understood and the better it got. I am looking forward to reading the second book!
What I Did Not Like:
I mentioned that I had a lot of unanswered questions and confusion after reading the book, even several times. While I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing, it's something that will definitely frustrate readers. But hang in there for the next books (I'm assuming)!
Would I Recommend It:
If psychological thrillers are your thing, then I highly recommend this debut novel. It is strange and almost sinister at times, and worth the hype. I'm sure opinions are varied in the extremes, but I found this story to be extremely intriguing, even when I didn't quite fully understand it (I still don't, to be honest). It's a debut novel worth trying, at least!
4 stars. I read this book about six years ago and it stunned me then - it still stuns me now. I really liked this book and I am kicking myself for not continuing the series. I think I was waiting for the series to be complete, since I knew book three would take more time to publish (and it really did). But I'm sure the wait was worth it, and I'm finally ready to continue.
Was this review helpful? Please let me know in the comments section!