Vinaya's Reviews > The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
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Oct 03, 11

bookshelves: book-schizophrenia, books-i-liked, books-i-ought-to-hate-but-don-t, guilty-pleasures, hmm-that-was-interesting, horror, mixed-vibes, surprised-me, what-the-eff, ya-fantasy
Recommended to Vinaya by: Phoebe
Read from September 30 to October 03, 2011

What? WHA-WH-WHAAAT? There's a sequel, right? RIGHT? What the eff, Michelle Hodkin?!!

I hate cocky, self-assured teenage boys who are hiding a deep dark secret behind a man-whore façade. I hate stories involving mean, blonde girls who hate the heroine on sight for reasons unknown. I hate stories where each chapter ends in unnecessary foreshadowing. And I really, really, really hate cliffhanger endings. So it's a puzzle to me why I like The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer so much.

Credit where credit is due - it's all Michelle Hodkin. The woman can write, that's for sure. I'm not a big fan of prologues in general, but the opening chapter of Mara Dyer caught my attention in a way few YA books have recently. Hodkin does horror-lite superbly. She builds the tension slowly, slowly, until you feel that deliciously creepy chill down your spine and you can't wait for the flesh-eating zombie to jump out the closet and scare the pants off you. And then she brings you down gently, only to start it all over again.

There are, as mentioned before, several aspects of this book that follow standard YA tropes. The romance,for example, is your garden-variety asshole-meets-good-girl. Asshole is incredibly, "inhumanly" beautiful and good girl is hiding a deep dark secret, and for no reason that the reader can fathom, asshole is immediately smitten with good girl, wants to go out of his way to drive her to school, forsake the company of all others to play her loving slave and shield her from life's harsh realities, big and small. In fact, Noah Shaw, in all his glorious British perfection, is the number one reason this book loses a star. I didn't 'get' him, no matter how hard I tried. He's supposed to be this tortured, 'empty' person who doesn't care about anything or anyone, but I can't figure out why he would be that way. I mean, the guy has a loving mother and sister, scads of money, good looks and brains to spare. His father, we are told, is of the absentee sort, but since we never get a good look into the personality of Noah Shaw, I can't tell if that would be enough to twist a person that way, or if he's just being, in his own words, "an emoteen". I also felt that the build-up to the story twist about Noah was unsatisfactory, and felt very forced, for some reason, like Hodkin couldn't figure out what to do with him.

Mara's family was awesome, though. She has a full complement of caring, possibly over-protective parents, older brother and younger brother. And they are all very much present in the story, leading their lives, intersecting with Mara's in just the way normal families would. I loved the dynamic between Mara and her older brother Daniel, and I would give this book several brownie points just for involving the entire family in the storyline.

Mara was, of course, the linchpin of the plotline, and she does her job very well. This book is actually paranormal in the true sense of the word, no supernatural creatures, just a girl and her possibly broken mind. Don't get me wrong, the way in which Mara's story was handled was not perfect - the Big Twist was telegraphed a little too obviously (Hodkin would have done well to have taken notes from Ultraviolet in this instance) and at the end of the book, I remained dissatisfied regarding several points. (view spoiler)

But. And it's a big but - regardless of its weaknesses, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is a solidly entertaining read. It's deliciously creepy in parts, it has an actual plotline over and above the romance, which takes a backseat for large parts of the book and Mara has a great voice-

I decided not to tell her about my little adventure today; if she watched me any closer, she’d turn into the Eye of Sauron.

Is there any point asking what you’re going to make me do on Sunday?”
“Not really.”
Okay. “Is there any point asking what you’re going to do to me?”
He grinned wickedly. “Not really.”
Fabulous. “Does it involve the use of a safe word?”


Mara's not perfect- in fact, she's pretty much a mess, and she doesn't get any better the further the book goes on. And yet, I could understand and sympathize, because it all felt so real . Imagine losing your best friend, and moving cities and starting a new school, only to find out you haven't outrun the past, because it's in your head, and it's never going away. Mara's just a bunch of cracked pieces held together by weak glue, and all of her self-doubt and her confusion and even her stupidly reckless actions in the end felt like a teenager on the edge, and not a regular TSTL Mary Sue. Mara does generally try to handle things on her own, and in her own way, and that's something you gotta appreciate in a YA heroine.

All in all, this was a great read for me, but at the same time, I can see where other people would have problems with the narrative and the plotline. So if you're the kind of person who likes solid writing, doesn't require adrenaline-inducing pacing and doesn't mind the use of regular YA tropes, I would definitely recommend Mara Dyer to you - it's fun, and I think the sequel will be even better, and it's creepy in all the right places.
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Comments (showing 1-19)




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message 19: by [deleted user] (new)

How is it? I've heard good things and bad things.


Vinaya Just started... I've heard some VERY mixed reactions too, so I'm tentative...


Steph Sinclair Can't wait to see your thoughts on this, Vinaya.


message 16: by Megan (new) - added it

Megan I kinda hope you don't like it, cause I love your snarky reviews!!! :)


Sarai Just started reading this as well. Just got to Chapter 8. So far so good :)


Larissa I have this book on hold at the library...so I'm anxious to see what you think of it (:


Shante Can't wait for your review!


Evelin what happened?


message 11: by Ceilidh (new)

Ceilidh Looking forward to your review since this book has brought about very different reactions amongst the GR crew. Yes, you're all a crew.


Vinaya Cliffhanger ending, that's what! Aaaaaaarghh *pulls hair out*


message 9: by Daph (new) - added it

Daph (Loving Books) Yup, there will be a sequel!


Phoebe Do I even need to say it? I feel I do: taste twins FTW!


Vinaya Phoebe wrote: "Do I even need to say it? I feel I do: taste twins FTW!"

Always! :) It's been a while since we read the same books though! YAY that the magic still lives! :)

Lvngbooks wrote: "Yup, there will be a sequel!"

I figured there must be, thanks to the CLIFFHANGER bloody ending, but it doesn't even have a name, or an expected date of publication, or anything yet, so god knows how long its gonna be! I am disappoint. :(

Ceilidh wrote: "Looking forward to your review since this book has brought about very different reactions amongst the GR crew. Yes, you're all a crew."

You've been reading Sister Mischief again, haven't you? :P


Cait I was kind of nervous about this book, but I'm glad that it's good, even with faults!


Larissa Glad to see your opinion of the book, I just got it yesterday & I'm quite enjoying it (:Great review!


message 4: by Cas (new) - rated it 5 stars

Cas It's so sad that theres no info about the sequel, I loved this one alot. I heared though, it's not out until fall 2012 -_____-


Kadbury(Young Readers) Even you liked it! Great I NEED this book now!


message 2: by Ali (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ali Hahaha I SO agree with the first bit - well, most of it, but especially the shock of the ending. Such a twist and then we have to wait?? aaaaghh!

And yeah, the writing in this is great!!


message 1: by Pamela (new) - added it

Pamela Aah! Love your review, Vinaya. I was able to formulate a small and tentative story out of it. :>


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