4 Rated Books Book Reviews

Book Review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

Title: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

Author: Michelle Hodkin

Genre: Paranormal, Young Adult

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing
Publication date: September 27th 2011
Hardcover: 450 pages

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.

Stand alone or series: Book one of the Mara Dyer series

How did I get this book: I got a copy at BEA.

Why did I read this book: Because the blurb is awesome and the cover intriguing, and the hype! And the reviews!

Review:

I didn’t believe that hype could still fool me.

It can.

I didn’t think there was any way that Paranormal YA could get any more irritating.

There is.

I hoped that The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer would be different.

I was wrong.

I had problems with basically everything about the book. And what frustrates me the most is how well it started and how much potential the story had. Mara Dyer wakes up one day in hospital with no memory about this freaky accident that killed her best friend and her boyfriend and left her physically unharmed. Psychologically speaking though, Mara is a mess, suffering of severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and hallucinating. It’s been a few months since the accident so her parents decide to start over, move away and Mara starts at a new high school. And then weird things happen to her – and people begin to die around her and she starts to remember…

The opening pages were quite gripping and I love the premise of the story: how this girl can’t remember the most traumatic experience of her life, and how her memories are slowly resurfacing. Not to mention all the hallucinations she kept having: the author definitely has a knack for writing disturbing, creepy scenes – there is this one scene when Mara is alone in the house that was genuinely scary. The is-she-crazy/is-she-not-crazy added quite a lot of suspense to the story and as the story progresses one starts to suspect that supernatural elements might be a part of the equation as well…which is great but unfortunately for a book that is 450 pages long, very little happens in the way of developing the supernatural elements of the story. When finally there is some development they happen via awkward conversations between the two main characters, Mara and Noah, who just happen to have…what? Abilities? Powers? The paranormal aspect of the novel is so random and underdeveloped that it makes sparkly vampires pale in comparison. To be fair, given how things don’t really happen till the very end of these (450) pages and then BOOM cliff-hanger, it is very likely that everything will be further developed in the sequel. Not that I will ever know.

I found extremely frustrating that instead of a fully realised paranormal story, what we do get are pages and pages of romance. Of course, it goes without saying that I have nothing against romance but it needs to be done well. But honestly, most of the story is taken over by a ridiculous romantic storyline that was partly infuriating and partly hilarious. Let me count the ways the romance was frustrating and troubling:

First of all, Mara starts at the new school and she is immediately singled out by Noah, the hottest guy in school (of course). She has a hard time making new (girl)friends because every.Single.Girl loves Noah and so they hate Mara immediately and on principle (of course).

An aside: she does make one friend, Jamie. Who is so underdeveloped as to only exist to perform two functions: one to be the one to relay to Mara everything he knows about Noah, which includes accusations of wrongdoings, thereby sort of functioning as a wrench between Noah and Mara. His second function is to be the poster character for diversity: he is Black, Jewish and Bisexual (three for the price of one!). Once he fulfills his roles, he disappears from the story completely. Like, literally, as he is expelled from school. The reason behind his expulsion and the way it happens is so contrived to make the story move in a certain way that I found incredibly insulting to my intelligence (and the fact that everybody behaves so illogically only made it worse).

But back to the romance:

Noah has a reputation for sleeping around and never going on proper dates until he meets Mara (of course), because she is different (of course) and not boring like all the girls at school (of course). And also of course, the girls that supposedly slept with him are the ones to get the bad reputation as sluts – not Noah. We never really know if this reputation is really warranted and if he really has slept with everybody because Mara and Noah don’t really have direct conversations – their language is the language of innuendos. I don’t really know WHY he has this reputation; I just know he is hawt and British. Because THAT explains it. Of course.

Noah is the quintessential douchebag: he is suave, a major flirt, pushy and annoying. This type of relationship dynamics can only work if the girl calls on this douchebaggery. And you know what, Mara had the potential to do so as she could see right through him. However, and this is the part that I found troubling, even though Mara calls on his bullshit and is capable of holding her on during their charged conversations, she never really acts the way she supposedly thinks, it is all just for show. The essential elements of their dynamics come across in the very language used in the book. Everything she does, or every time she argues with Noah, is “without conviction” and “despite herself”. She is always eventually caving to him. Whereas he is always pushing, always “ordering gently” or ”grinning wickedly”.

This is the sort of dynamics between the two. He calls her at home:

“How did you get my phone number?” I blurted, before I could stop myself.
“It’s called research.” I could hear him smirking over the phone.
“Or stalking.”
Noah chuckled. “You’re adorable when you’re bitchy.”
“You’re not,” I said, but smiled despite myself.

“My family is going to screw with my life if you come over.” I knew them far too well.
“Congratulations – you just made the prospect all the more enticing. What’s your address?”
“I hate you more than you can know.”
“Give it up, Mara. You know I’ll find it anyway.”
I sighed, defeated, and gave it to him.

At another time he says he will pick her up before school. She goes:

I blinked hard, and shook my head to clear it. “But it’s out of your way.”

“And?”

“And Daniel has to drive to school anyway.”

“So?”

“So wh-”

Noah placed a finger on my lips. “Don’t. Don’t ask me why. It’s annoying. I want to. That’s it. That’s all. So let me.” Noah’s face was so close. So close.

Focus, Mara

Does anyone else find all this really frustrating? It just makes me INSANE that he clearly does not care when she says no, and that it is implied that this is ok by how she reacts, because really, her no actually means yes. And I am pretty sure that this is supposed to be hot and their innuendo-heavy conversations are supposed to be funny and sexy but they really aren’t. I found all of it troubling.

Not to mention that he has special supernatural powers that allows him the following:

“Mara, if you’re tired, I can hear it. If you’re hurt, I can feel it. And if you lie, I will know it.”

Creepy, right? This is Edward Cullen 2.0:

“ ‘And ALL I want is you.(…) Today. Tonight. Tomorrow. Forever.’
Noah’s eyes held mine. His stare was infinite”

On that note: inquiring minds would like to know what does constitute an infinite stare?

So all the aforementioned were the troubling parts. This is what made it hilarious: for all of this intensity, all of this talk of LOVE!Forever!Mine!, the book is weirdly PG. They are boyfriend and girlfriend officially for a while before the ending of the book, they hold hands, sleep together (chastely) and there are a number of near kisses and loads of breath catching, arms brushing, galloping chests and whatnots and yet, they never get around to actually… kissing – despite all the time they spend together, all this supposed sexual attraction, and Noah’s promise that his kiss will change the world or something (seriously), they manage to not kiss for the entire book because apparently kissing is something that is really hard to accomplish. And THEN when they FINALLY find the time to kiss, there is this ridiculously convoluted paranormal explanation as to why THEY CAN’T.

I am so unimpressed.

Notable quotes/Parts: From the opening chapter:

My name is not Mara Dyer, but my lawyer told me I had to choose something. A pseudonym. A nom de plume, for all of us studying for the SATs. I know that having a fake name is strange, but trust me —it’s the most normal thing about my life right now. Even telling you this much probably isn’t smart. But without my big mouth, no one would know that a seventeen-year-old who likes Death Cab for Cutie was responsible for the murders. No one would know that somewhere out there is a B student with a body count. And it’s important that you know, so you’re not next.Rachel’s birthday was the beginning. This is what I remember.

Rating: 4 – Bad, but not without some merit. Because I am feeling charitable today.

 

Buy the Book:

Ebook available for kindle, and nook

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43 Comments

  • Renay
    September 16, 2011 at 12:18 am

    Ahhhh, the Asshole DudeBro stock character! #964623 in YA Trends I Will Not Miss When They Die

  • Slayra
    September 16, 2011 at 1:35 am

    *facepalm* Really? Edward Cullen 2.0? That’s just so sad… and old. And why does every author think turning their protagonists into the new Bella and Edward is a good thing? Ugh.:P

    Glad I read this review, this book has been on my wishlist for a while because it seemed interesting. Now… not so much. No thanks. I’ve read enough “Twilight” “look-a-likes” (lol) already. Wimpy girls without personality and forceful boys? Not romantic at all, and it’s pretty sad that these types appeal to teens, in my opinion. It seems like we are going backwards in our way of thinking. Instead of strong heroines who can think and act for themselves, we have girls who are solely defined by the love they have for their brooding, stalkerish boyfriends. 😛

  • Lea
    September 16, 2011 at 1:42 am

    I don’t like YA, or romance, at all. But books like this one make me want to write a series where a girl gets it together and slaps one of these douchebags as hard as she possibly can.

  • KB/KT Grant
    September 16, 2011 at 3:56 am

    I’m up to the first 115 pages and like you I’m enjoying the beginning. But then when Jamie tells Mara (and the reader) that Noah is a walking STD man ho teen bag, that’s where I rolled my eyes. I’m so sick of the YA’s heroine’s love interest being disrespectful toward the heroine and sleeping with all the girl just because it gives him a sense of some deranged sexy appeal to him. Seriously, authors and publishers think this is smart? At least Edward was a virgin and very dedicated to Bella.

    I also like Jamie and it does seem he’s just there to be a narrator of sorts about the situations Mara finds herself in. I really wonder if Jamie was a recommendation per Mara’s agent or her editor to make him the character the way he was portrayed?

    Infinite stare- Noah wants to Buzz from Toy Story? To infinity and beyond, and try to get into Mara’s pants?

  • Nikki Egerton
    September 16, 2011 at 5:26 am

    Oh no! This looked and sounded so great 🙁

    I am tempted to give it a go to see for myself, but after just reading the small snippets you posted I hate Noah. And my baby boy is called Noah, it’s very annoying that his lovely name is used on another creepy and pushy “love” interest.

    *Sigh*

  • KarenS
    September 16, 2011 at 6:25 am

    Thank you for the review and for the snippets, especially. I was bummed that I couldn’t find an ARC of this at BEA because I wasn’t sure about it (too much hype).

    Your review, and the snippets, have helped me make a decision. The snippets reminded me of Hush Hush and why the narrator of that YA frustrated me so much – she was disturbed by Patch, but kept giving into him as if she had no choice.

    I hate when a heroine acknowledges a possible love interest is douchey, but gives into him “despite myself” or acts like she wouldn’t give in if she didn’t have to, as if charm and aggression are valid reasons for doing something you don’t want to do. Seems lazy.

  • XxVj7xX
    September 16, 2011 at 7:10 am

    Ugh! I was so excited about this book! it went straight to my “to-read” list but after reading your review,I’m sure I wont like it. I hate it when the MC just let’s her love interest be possesive and overprotective and make all the decision for her becasue the guy is so hot and has a sexy smile! I’m tired of yelling at books like this, just deperately wanting to slap some sense and selfrespect into the so called “Heroine”

  • Ceilidh
    September 16, 2011 at 7:52 am

    Yay for more slut-shaming and douchebag worshipping in YA!

  • Pam
    September 16, 2011 at 7:53 am

    I got up to Mara’s third or fourth day of school and abandoned the book. Not because I didn’t like it but because I am reading some books I bought this month. So far it is all very interesting to me and I like the turns of phrase she uses. We’ll see where it goes when I resume scheduled reading. Several parts of this review made me LOL. Heartily.

  • Su
    September 16, 2011 at 9:35 am

    I’m glad you read these books so I don’t have to. I was really looking forward to this review since the plot sounded intriguing, but those excerpts you posted would definitely have me screaming and throwing the book at the wall. 🙁

  • Kelly
    September 16, 2011 at 9:36 am

    Holy spoilers! Can you please put an alert in the title or mark the review or something so people have warning 😡

  • Alice
    September 16, 2011 at 10:37 am

    The beginning sounded like a book I read a long time ago and perked my interest, but the rest of the review completely turned me off. I am really really sick of romances like these. So sick.

    *spends some twenty minutes searching*

    Ah, The Dark Garden by Margaret Buffie. After a bike accident, Thea suffers from amnesia. She begins to see things and hear voices and she doesn’t know if she’s going crazy or if there’s something going on. Also first person. Male love interest doesn’t come in until much later since this was more a book of mystery.

    Much better book.

  • Angie
    September 16, 2011 at 11:36 am

    Ugh. Just UGH.

  • Ana
    September 16, 2011 at 11:59 am

    Thanks everybody for your comments.

    @Kelly – sorry that you feel that this review is spoilery but I can promise you that it’s not; I don’t reveal a single plot twist. The small details I talk about are necessary to any in-depth review.

  • Adrienne
    September 16, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    I’m really bummed…this book looked good and the story sounded fantastic…but I am burned out on hawt douche bags at the moment and the milk-maid female characters…and what is going on with the lip touching with fingers? If some strange guy tried that with me I would scream in fear of where his hands have been

  • Cory
    September 16, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    Another book I have no desire to read. *sigh* This is exactly why I don’t like PNR. And the black/Jewish/Bi friend? *double sigh*

  • tess
    September 16, 2011 at 4:38 pm

    Is it wrong that I get much more excited when I see “4 rated book” than I do when I see, say, “8 rated book”? 😛

    But yeah, this sounds terrible. I really don’t need another creepy, controlling love interest that’s supposed to be sooooo amaaazing. And I definitely don’t need another passive Excepto-Girl. Sadly, the whole she-gets-the-slut-reputation is pretty on track with reality, but everything else, feh.

  • Megan
    September 16, 2011 at 8:45 pm

    Is there anything worse than a less than stellar book with a truly gorgeous cover?

  • Lenore
    September 16, 2011 at 9:43 pm

    Oh Ana! I love your reviews, even when we do not agree. I genuinely enjoyed this book and Noah. But then, I don’t think I took it as seriously as you did 😉

  • Franki
    September 16, 2011 at 9:47 pm

    Yes – a stellar book with a less than gorgeous cover. 🙁 Those ones sometimes just don’t get enough attention.

  • Elizabeth
    September 17, 2011 at 5:35 am

    Great choice of quotes to back up your points.

  • capillya
    September 17, 2011 at 10:42 am

    Just for clarification, I think an “infinite stare” is kinda like a Care Bear stare? Not as cute, but still a weapon? Mmmm?

  • Miranda
    September 17, 2011 at 11:05 am

    well, piffle. I had this on mah list…but I really don’t think I can handle an Édouard Part Deux (Twilight makes me french, reasons still unknown).

    I’ll just infinite stare at the cover and leave it at that.

  • Nymeth
    September 17, 2011 at 11:53 am

    What Renay and Angie said 😐

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  • Emily
    September 20, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    Ugh, this sounds absolutely atrocious. I’m so sick of “romances” like this.

    Do you ever read the blog Amy Reads? Your review reminds me of one she posted a few months ago: that you might find interesting.

  • Cedes
    October 20, 2011 at 11:45 am

    I think everyone should just read the book for themselves instead of basing whether or not you’d like it on a book review. I have the book and read it. I enjoyed it immensely. I think that yes, Mara is weak, and yes, Noah is forceful, but it is nothing like Twilight. We are all entitled to our opinion, but you really shouldn’t base your opinion on someone else’s. Really, the author’s editor apparently was pleased with it as was the publisher, because here it is. It wasn’t a bad book, in my opinion. But I think you should read it for yourself before deciding not to do so because someone else dislikes it.

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  • Elana
    March 26, 2012 at 8:18 am

    As a teenager myself, I don’t understand the appeal in all these douchebag types–they’re the ones I run away from as soon as I see them. Would it be too hard for the love interest to be a NICE guy for once, in an equal relationship with the (also nice, non-douchey) heroine? Not all teenage girls find pushiness sexy, authors.

    Also, why is there such a lack of sex in these YA books? Again, I’m a high-schooler, and although I don’t do that kind of thing myself, pretty much everyone is sexing (along with drinking, doing pot, swearing up a storm, whatever). It would be nice if YA authors acknowledged that teenagers are not perfect virginal angels.

  • Becky
    June 16, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    Man I could not even get through this book. Two things really bothered me. 1) I am so sick of the girl drops book, boy springs out random quote from book ~swoon!~ scene in YA books, and this one did it worse than any. I mean really, what teenage boy reads Lolita? And remembers 3 lines from it?
    2)*Spoiler* Okay so the big, dramatic plot twist was given away in the first two pages with the prologue. I mean when the Ouija board spelled out Mara, it was obviously the answer to the question, and no teenagers would be so stupid to think it meant it wanted Mara to ask a question. It just confused me as to why her friends assumed that, and it was a crappy try at making a detail you could look back on later.

  • Kari
    June 20, 2012 at 6:53 pm

    I really loved this book. To me, it was nothing like Twilight, and Mara was a strong character who didn’t give into Noah. I think people who are basing there opinion of this book on the ONE review, should really check the book out for themselves.

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  • VeganYANerds
    January 18, 2013 at 7:22 pm

    I just discovered this because I am reading your review of Shatter Me, and you have captured exactly how I felt about this book – LOVE it!

    What is with all these teens not daring to any more than hold hands? Especially when Noah continually boasts about what a stud he is. Ag. So. Over. It!

    Mands xox

  • Carla
    May 27, 2013 at 11:34 am

    You guys -.-, you’re not gonna read a book you were interested in JUST because one person said it was horrible? Well, of course, if she didn’t like, she’s just gonna show you the bad aspects of Mara Dyer. First of all, I’ve read the sequel because I loved it, and guess what? Jamie reappears :)! It may be true that Noah is the dominant part of the relationship, but there always is one in a relationship, and it doesn’t always have to be the girl. Did Noah break Mara’s car? Did he “forbid” her from seeing Jamie, as if he could? And if he did or tried, Mara would not just stand back and still act all cute like Bella did. Have in mind that, obviously, Mara is in a weak state of mind, as you would be if you discovered and saw the things that she sees, but she still manages to be strong enough to fight against her “enemies” and understand what’s happening to her. Noah is not disrespectful or anything. And the book is full of action and creepy, breath-catching moments. Now, saying Michelle Hodkin is a bad author just because she said “infinite stare” is pushing it a little. Want me to tell you something? That’s how literature is, not everything is… well, literary. Reading is not just the author telling you what to create in your head, you also create things ALONGSIDE the author. And an infinite stare is not something impossible to imagine, is not something you can’t possibly re-create in your mind. Would you criticize Stephen Chbosky for making Charlie say that he and his friends we infinite? No, because you’re biased. As I am, too, but I’m just writing this to give people a different point of view and not just NOT read a book because of this one review. Sorry I can’t put it into detail, but I read the books a while ago so I don’t remember very well. If you don’t like romance, please do avoid this book because romance is a very important part of it, but if not, go get it right now.

  • YA who hates YA
    June 6, 2014 at 5:16 pm

    So glad I’m not alone!! I was assigned this book for a school project, and I feel like ripping it apart. Bad action, bad characters, bad cliches- way to much hype, I can agree. So not worth reading.

  • Alyssa
    July 27, 2014 at 5:27 pm

    This book stood unique to any other YA book I’ve ever read. As a teen myself, I love to read YA novels and dream of a dangerously exciting life where I, the main character, am a complete and utter bad ass. Too often do I read YA books and end up loathing the perspective I’m reading from. As for Mara, I couldn’t ask for a better narrator. She embodied everything I would like to be as a teenage girl. Despite her obvious struggles with PDSD, Mara is extremely intelligent beyond belief. The banter between Mara and other characters was so unlike a normal teen conversation…instead they were quick, smart, clever, and almost formal. Reading Unbecoming made me feel -(in lack for a better word)- different. I really don’t think any review could do this book justice because its not only the plot that is incredibly amazing..but the characters and their thoughts and the relationships between them. There’s something special in the words of this book.

  • ñ
    November 8, 2014 at 11:23 pm

    (I might have grammar mistakes because my native language it´s spanish)
    Excuse me but: first of all, at the beginning they have sort of a pretending relationship (than after it isn´t just pretending) and they don’t kiss because Mara has an hallucination (no one knows what the hell happened there, whatever). Second, Noah it isn’t at all like edward and, he is how he is because he wants to destroy himself (kinda of cliché, nevermind). Third, I think you should read the other books because Jamie keeps appearing, indeed i think that he appear more in the third book than Noah. Also *SPOILERS* mara says in the last book “This is a love story. Twisted and messy. Flawed and screwed up. But it’s ours. It’s us. I don’t know how our story will end, but I know how it will start.” it’s romance, obviously.
    Two things more:
    -Unlike other books (or even series) they use everything related with mental disorder or biological things, correctly.
    -You have to read the other books because, at least Mara, evolve. Yes, at the first book she was weak, she got PTSD, got problems with death bullshit, (i´m gonna skip to the third book)but then she just killed a man and feel nothing, no guilt, no remorse (even though it may have been because of some weird drug). That it´s not weakness, maybe madness but not weakness, because always, ALWAYS was the damsel in distress that couldn´t kill anyone because it was so innocent (Indeed, Noah said somewhere, something like “she looks nothing like a damsel in distress. She looks like a dragon instead”), even Katniss Everdeen, for the love of god, couldn´t kill anyone, and when she did she got traumatized. My point is that she might not be the typical strong heroine, I don´t think she it´s the heroine at all.

    Here it’s the thing these books might have little clichés, are about romance with (kinda of) typical douchebag, and have some weird power. But those clichés complement the book, that douchebag was supposed to be the good guy, but he was the selfish one, and the weird power makes everything weirder. That it´s what makes these books amazing plus the scary parts.So just because one review say that it sucks you are not going to read it. I get it if you don´t like YA but if you do like them at least give it try, the story it’s very well written and amazing.

  • Maianna
    May 1, 2015 at 9:03 am

    Thanks! I was just about to go on my monthly book splurge and this one was on my list (having made a must-read YA books blog) but your review has doused any desire I have of reading this. Guess it will be Lois Lowry The Giver for me – unless you have any good recommendations?

  • Naz
    March 26, 2016 at 8:00 am

    I finished the trilogy last night and though I partially agree with some of the points you make, I actually liked the overall quality of the novels. They are challenging and unnerving and the fact that everything that happens doesn’t take place in some distopian future or made up universe and happens in the ordinary world we live in is RIVETING. They got me to question the concepts of sanity and reality in a way no other Young Adult series had. And then there was Mara:

    She really is not a conventional hero and according to a destiny that precedes her, she is quite the villain. She really got me questioning the idea of self fulfilling prophecies (The subtle but not so subtle conversation about Oedipus in the beginning of the first novel did point in this direction though.) : If she goes from being a normal teen to everyone thinking she’s insane, dangerous or in dire need of being fixed, of course she’ll be terrorized and she’ll make mistakes. Perhaps even become what everyone believes she is. She was utterly human and some choices she made did unnerve me but everything was just so realistic and awful, I could not put down the novels.

    Apart from the instinct of self-preservation, the novels explored how far people were willing to go for the ones they loved. This being shown by Mara-Noah and Mara and her family. Maybe I’ll think differently about the novels after some time but they were so witty and gripping that I absolutely think that anyone with some spare time should read them.

    And everything gets better once I learned what the author based these novels upon…

  • Anonymous
    May 15, 2016 at 8:15 pm

    well I loved the book 🙂

  • Kiyah
    December 26, 2016 at 10:32 pm

    I actually think the twilight books and movies are amazing. Look a likes aren’t that good I agree. And I really hope your a boy talking like heroines haven’t reached you yet.

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