Monday, October 3, 2011

Book Review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

Title: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer
Author: Michelle Hodkin
Genre: YA, contemporary, paranormal?
Published: 2011

The less you know going into this book, the more of an impact it will have. I also suggest skipping the handwritten looking prologue prior to the first chapter, and I'll go into why later.

Sixteen-year-old Mara Dyer survives a building collapse, but three of her friends are killed. She wakes up in the hospital unable to remember what happened. Shaken to the core, Mara is diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and as a means of moving on with her life, she convinces her family to relocate for a fresh start. Her father makes a job connection with a law firm in Florida, so they move from Rhode Island to Miami in the middle of the school year.

Mara experiences hallucinations of her deceased friends on a daily basis. Some visions seem to be triggered by stress, and other times she will blank out for minutes to hours, losing all concept of time. She is inconsistent with taking her prescription medication which lends to rather trippy storytelling. At night, she dreams in fragments, and finally starts piecing together why she and her friends went to an abandoned building at night and what happened between then and the collapse.

Mara is withdrawn but not afraid to speak her mind when provoked. Right away as the new girl at her small private school, Mara draws the attention of another loner, a rich kid named Noah Shaw who's a transplant from England. Everyone warns Mara that Noah is a player and will use any girl he meets. He's a cocky alpha male who delights in Mara's resistance to his advances. As much as she hates him, she also finds herself drawn to him.

I do have a few issues. I loved the book when I thought it was just Mara's PTSD giving her hallucinations. The truth of what happened to Mara in the building collapse left me a little underwhelmed. Also, her relationship with Noah felt very Edward and Bella at times, with him possessively declaring she was meant for him and belonged with him. Even though Mara is far more feisty than Bella, I wish there had been more resolution to all the rumors that Noah slept with girls and ditched them. Noah tells her it's not true, but it doesn't feel convincing. Events in the last 2/3 of the book really upend the story and I'm not sure I felt like it meshed together. Instead of resolving, the story adds more twists and sets up immediately for a sequel.

The first line of the scrawled note prologue is compelling: "My name is not Mara Dyer, but my lawyer said I had to choose something." Awesome right? This is never touched on in the book. She is not personally involved in a court case, her father is a lawyer but not representing her in any way, and it is never mentioned that she changed her name. This is a really cool intro, but it left me puzzled as to its relevance.  I really had no idea this would be a paranormal romance until mid-way through the book. I was hoping for more of a contemporary thriller with exploration of real-life PTSD. Overall, I have mixed feelings, although it was a real page-turner and kept me guessing most of the way through.


  1. Sounds like the plusses outweigh the minuses :-)

  2. Hi Stephanie, Thanks for answering my question on Query Shark about paranormal or historical. I love your blog and have joined.

    I read what you write about yourself not wanting to do journalism but not finding another writing degree. Kandinsky didn't start painting until he was forty-ish and had spent his life as a lawyer.

    I look forward to reading more of your posts.



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