Sunday, January 29, 2012

Review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

Title: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer #1)
Author: Michelle Hodkin
Published: September 2011 (Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing)
Rating: 4/5
Summary: Mara Dyer doesn't think life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there. It can.

She believes there must be more to the accident she can't remember that killed her friends and left her mysteriously unharmed. There is.

She doesn't believe that after everything she's been through, she can fall in love. She's wrong.

My Review: I fully intended to review at least one the books I read earlier in the month that are due back at the library. Instead, I am reviewing this book. Because I just...need to. I got The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer from the library on January 26 (this past Thursday). I was in the middle of another book right then, but I knew that I was going to want to discuss Mara with someone when I was finished. So I gave it to my friend Lynne. She flew threw it, and the next thing I knew, she was at my door later that afternoon, telling me I needed to read it ASAP. I was going to read it over this weekend, but I heeded her and picked it up that night. And finished it a little after 2 in the morning, much do my dismay. I was right. I DID need someone to discuss it with, but everyone was asleep. So, after sending a lamenting text to Twitter, I switched off my reading lamp and went to bed. Only problem was that this book? Isn't exactly conducive to sleep. I tossed and turned, mind wide awake and still spinning with possibilities, until giving up and sticking my well-used DVD of Two Weeks Notice into my laptop, plugging in headphones, and watching my tied-for-absolute-favorite movie until I fell asleep. Thankfully, the next morning, Lynne and I were able to debrief and exchange theories and just talk about everything pertaining to Mara. It was a great (and much needed) talk. I just love talking about books, particularly with people who love them as much as I do. ♥

*Lots and lots of spoilers ahead. Proceed at your own risk.*

The first word that comes to mind when I start to describe this book is somewhat less than appropriate. So, we'll just call it a mind...warp. Yes. Mindwarp.

I don't do thrillers. I might watch an action/adventure or mystery movie with just a hint of thriller and suspense mixed in, but I don't do thriller/horror stuff. I don't enjoy scaring myself; I simply don't see the point of it. So this book pushed my boundaries a little. But it was so fascinating because you didn't know what was simply Mara's PTSD and what was...something else. The scene where she comes back to the empty house and the water turns itself off and her earrings were at the bottom of the tub? Holy crap, I am pretty sure I barely breathed. It was just so thrillingly creepy. I'm glad that was as creepy as it got, though, because I am not sure I would have finished it otherwise. But! I will say that Hodkin masterfully crafted this book, because I would be tingling from nerves one second and laughing out loud the next. It was a great balance of suspense, intrigue, humor, and romance. This book also induced a lot of gasps. I'm not entirely sure why that happened, because I'm not a gasping person. I was just so on-edge for the entire book that every little thing set me off.

I find it interesting that all the names of the main characters are Biblical. Mara, Daniel, Jude, Noah, Joseph. It's interesting, and I wonder if that will be at all relevant later.

Speaking of Mara, Daniel (whom I loved and would love to see featured in a spin-off), and Joseph, I loved their sibling relationship. I was touched by the affection and protection between them, and their exchanges cracked me up. They were just so realistic and made the siblings believable.

Your level of neuroses will only find love in a made-for-TV movie.
It's too early to be such an asshat.

I suspected Mara's gift early on. Once she visualized the dog owner's face so clearly, his fate was obvious. Her gift did come as a bit of a surprise because I wasn't expecting anything quite that dark when I started the book. But I was okay with it for most of the book because Mara was not doing it intentionally. She wanted to learn how to control it. To stop it. The moment I became not okay with it was when Mara unequivocally decided she was going to kill Lassiter. I found that an interesting contrast to the early scene where she did not even want to cause a spider to be killed. She went from that to fully intending to kill a man based solely on one piece of evidence. That bothered me a lot. She was unstable at points in the book, but Mara always seemed logical. Yet, she was going to kill a man with an alibi and enough evidence going for him that he was able to escape conviction, based solely on a wristwatch. That was...odd. I'm just glad she did not kill herself in the end, because there were several times I thought she might.

Switching topics, I loved the romance of this book. The build up was drawn out to nearly painful lengths, and the chemistry between Mara and Noah was fantastic. Noah was a strange character, but I liked him a lot. He was different, which I appreciated. Oh, and he's British. Always a plus.

Let's talk about Jude for a moment. Even though I logically suspected for a lot of the book (after the not-so-hallucinated television broadcast that said Jude's body had not been recovered) that Jude was definitely still alive, if not to blame for Rachel and Claire's deaths, I was absolutely jaw-droppingly shocked and astounded when he showed up at the end. Lynne and I decided was that this was because Hodkin did such a great job of writing Mara's thoughts. Mara was so convinced that she was responsible, that Lassiter was to blame, that every time she saw Jude was a hallucination. We're shocked because she's shocked. And it is rather abrupt, and not at all what you're expecting at that exact moment. Gah, I could really go on forever about the questions surrounding the end, but that's really the point of where it ended, I suppose.

Lynne and I talked a lot about Mara's gift. For instance, how specific is it? For the most part, it seems to be about killing people and things. She pictures the dog owner and her Spanish teacher dead, and they die exactly how she imagined. She wants one alligator (crocodile?) to die, and the entire group dies. Same for the leeches/animals in the room. But it only worked on the animals in the room, not the human, and it did not expand beyond the room. On the other hand, she visualizes Lassiter being shot, and it doesn't work out how she envisions. (Which, by the way, may not have even been a result of her gift? Maybe the mother really was responsible. It would make sense.) With Jude, she only wanted him to feel trapped and crushed like she did. So maybe it is not limited to death? It caused the building to collapse with the intent of giving Jude that feeling, rather than killing him, like I automatically assumed at first. There are so many possibilities there.

Another questions I still have: What's with the number 213? It was the number of the asylum room Mara and Jude were in as well as the courtroom number at the end. That seems insignificant, but it can't be a coincidence.

Random point: Both Mara and Noah love Lolita! This makes me incredibly happy. Nabokov for the win. ♥

Basically, the end is just a huge question mark. I actually did not know this was a series; for some reason, I had thought it was a standalone. Obviously not. Or that would be the worst ending ever. I cannot wait for the next one to come out! Goodreads says it is supposed to be sometime this year, but does not specify beyond that. We will see. I know I will definitely be acquiring this one the moment it becomes available!

I am definitely up for discussing this book further if anyone is so inclined. Comment away! :)


  1. Ok, so I have to say that I skipped the review part because I've STILL got this checked out from the library. Sharon, it's sad. I want to read it, but I'm overwhelmed by the sheer amount of books I have. I will read it before I have to return it... and then I will come back and re-comment. :) I am so intrigued by how much you NEEDED to talk about this book. I just can't read any spoilers (yet) because I'm definitely the kind of girl that if she knows the ending.. or anything that happens... skips things... and I can't skip this book. Haha! :) I can't wait to join in on the discussion though.

    1. Haha, I definitely understand that! I have no fewer than 25 books checked out from the library right now, and I want to read them all. But there's no way I will be able to. I would definitely recommend this book! It's a quick read, too. I read it in just over 4 hours, which, for a 450 page book, is nearly unheard of for me. I read faster than average, but not that fast. I just couldn't put it down.

      Let me know when you do read it! I would love to discuss it with you. :D


Psst! I now reside over at The Book Barbies. I'd still love to hear your thoughts, though!