Monday, January 26, 2015

Book Review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

I went into The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer thinking "Oh, it's just going to be some silly cutesy romance with a little bit of paranormal thrown in for flavor." Boy, was I wrong.

And I loved being wrong! (But just this one time. The family motto is "Seldom Wrong, but Never In Doubt")

I'm completely obsessed with this cover. It's something different and unusual. It shows some of the emotion of the book and the desperation of the book. She seems so close to drowning but he is there to help. It works well contextually and on a artistic level, it is absolutely lovely. This is the photograph that is the highlight of a session. I love how his hands are gripping her like he is afraid to let go. That's Noah for me in a nutshell.

Mara is an awesome protagonist. I can't imagine how traumatic it would be to wake up and find that not only is your best friend dead, but also your boyfriend and your boyfriend's sister. Talk about Survivor's Syndrome. It's amazing that she is as together as she is. She doesn't really inflict her fear on anybody else but rather internalizes to the point that she is about to burst at the seems. Think about it. You are the only one that is left. You are the only one with answers. Their parents would probably be all over you, asking questions and demanding some sort of resolution. Parents these days would probably sue or try to prosecute her for just surviving. That has to be the most stressful thing that an author can imagine.

And then the hallucinations start. And dreams that are more like nightmares. Mara is more than just a silly girl who got hurt. These are real problems.

You see, a lot of the time with YA books, you end up with a stupid conflict. It can be self inflicted or over a boy or whatever but I frequently find that eye rolling is appropriate. Oh, she stole my boyfriend and betrayed me in front of the football team so I called her a slut and now she is trying to get me expelled from school and ruin my chances at college! What.freaking.ever. I hate high school drama. This had none of that and that was cause for celebration!

When the weird stuff starts, Mara thinks that she is being paranoid or simply going insane. These aren't normal dreams or hallucinations and people are dying around her. She imagines bad things happening in horrible graphic ways and the writing frequently gets close to the grotesque. These scenes were wonderfully written in such a style that it is easy to get into the mindset of Mara.

Her mother is the definition of a helicopter parent. Mara can barely sneeze without her mother hovering over her and monitoring just about everything. I once heard a woman like this called a "smother". It would be absolutely exhausting to be that child where you never had a moment's peace but it is so easy to sympathize with the mother who nearly lost her child. I freak out whenever Tara gets a little bit lethargic and take her to the vet. If I had to deal with a child that I had nearly lost, they would probably never be allowed out of my sight. So it's understandable on a parenting level but extremely smothering (to use the word again) for the child. Mara wants to get past it and move on but her mother constantly reinforces that something bad happened.

Moving onto Noah...

Perfect. Book. Boyfriend.
Perfect Noah. Look at those cheekbones!
Not your typical angsty over the top YA male protagonist/love interest. He is a genuinely nice guy who wants to help. Try to find a teenage boy like that these days. If they are nice guys, they get friendzoned in a bad way and they don't have the confidence that Noah has. And that's one of the better things about Noah. He has all of the confidence that you could possibly want in a male protagonist but he is still grounded in reality and isn't a cocky asshole.

He doesn't act like a jerk just to be rude and he is focused on problems other than high school drama. Noah reaches out and actually helps Mara with her problems.

That's been something that seems to happen a lot. Boys don't help problems. They make things worse. (I'm looking at you Twilight) You haven't improved her life. You have made it infinitely more complicated. Books like that make it seem like having a boyfriend or being in a committed relationship is *the* most important thing that can happen to a girl, but it isn't. Those plot lines are overplayed and ridiculous.

But that's not this book. He isn't a perfect human and has his own problems but he isn't just a space filler. He doesn't have flaws just to make him imperfect which is a personal pet peeve. Everybody is screwed up in some way, don't just make a character clumsy and act like that is a character flaw.

And he is just as scared as Mara. His emotions work in the context of the book and his fears are natural. Noah isn't some weird emotionless male protagonist that keeps everything inside just so he can be strong and cold. It is incredibly refreshing to run into a character like him.

The plot line is amazing too. To a certain extent, I saw the twist coming. I sort of expected it and was hoping for it in some ways but it was well written. It felt well thought out and planned. I hate it when books just throw some crap in at the end just to hook you into another book. This was appropriate and it made sense all the way through.

This is a paranormal thriller that doesn't make you sit and reread everything just to get the context. It is a deliberate book with just enough details to get you hooked but not so many that you are wading through infinite info dumps. Things aren't jumping out of closets for cheap thrills and there aren't bones in the backyard that come to life. This really is a well written more psychological thriller type of book.

I struggled to put it down and made sure that I read it thoroughly but I still was able to binge on it without feeling like I was missing significant plot points.

So go read this book. Or save it for Halloween.

Another 5 star book! How rare!

What did y'all think of this one?  Creepy? Awesome? Fun? All of the above?


  1. DUDE!!! That Noah pic! Like omg!
    What is his name? I must google the heck out of him.

    1. I have no idea but he is hot as sin. It's actually what you get with a Google search for Noah Shaw. His cheekbones just make me think of the aristocracy haha

    2. lol he does give a Royal feel
      and they guy is English!
      Apparently he's on Teen Wolf. I must start seeing that :P

      oh btw totally random. I just started watching Vampire Knight on Netflix!