Title: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer
Author: Michelle Hodkin
Release Date: September 27, 2011
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Genre: Teen/YA, Psychological Thriller
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
After Mara’s best friend and boyfriend die in a building crash, of which Mara is the only survivor, her family relocates to Florida for a fresh start. Though Mara puts on a brave face for her parents, she is anything but fine. She isn’t sure whether her hallucinations are a sign of her PTSD or something more sinister, and isn’t certain she wants to know the truth.
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is a novel that is difficult to categorize. It’s a creepy book with a really dark undertone. From the beginning, it’s unclear what is actually happening with Mara; is she going crazy? It’s honestly hard to tell. This isn’t a book where you know everything will turn out all right at the end, where it will conclude happily with Mara having everything she dreamed of. Instead, there’s a real sense of malice pervading this novel that makes it a gripping but ominous read.
Mara herself is an incredibly level headed character for what she’s been through. Readers will take to her from the first page as she tries to explain what has been happening in her life. While her perceptions can’t entirely be trusted, the reader never has doubts about Mara herself. I also appreciated that she is very much her own person; Mara never felt the need to go along with the crowd or be pressured into a decision, especially considering what happened the last time she was challenged to do something. She was strong and resilient, and I believed in her even when I had no idea what was going on around her.
The romance in The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is incredibly well done, and it honestly surprised me that I enjoyed Noah so much. He’s sort of the bad boy who’s been saving his heart for the perfect girl, and when Mara comes along, he knows it’s her. This isn’t instant love, though; Mara resists his advances, certain that a boy in her life is just going to complicate things even more, and that’s not what she needs. She really craves normalcy and finding sense in things, and it’s great that Noah eventually helps her do that. Readers can really see how these two help each other to heal, which is rewarding.
Of course, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer has quite the twist towards the end, and while I will not discuss it in detail so as to avoid spoilers, I will say I really enjoyed it. I loved how menacing it was, how it was so different than much of the other YA out there. My only complaint is that I felt that the exposition and explanation was a little hurried; I would have loved for Hodkin to spend a little more time on the subject, given how explosive the reveal was.
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is the first book in a series, and it set the rest of the books up perfectly. I’m very curious to see where Mara will go from here, and if she will remain the same person I’ve come to know over this first book. Michelle Hodkin has done an excellent job with this novel; it’s very unique and creative, and I love the dark nature of the book. Even if you’re not a fan of traditional YA, if you love creepy and sinister novels, you should definitely consider picking up this book.