Friday, October 21, 2011

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer - Michelle Hodkin

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 e 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.   (Summary from book - Image from www.goodreads.com )

My Review:  Mara Dyer’s friends are all dead, crushed beneath a crumbling building.  Only she knows what happened that night – a night she can’t remember.  Mara and her family move to Miami looking for a fresh start. and there she meets Noah Shaw and, even though sparks fly, she’s determined to go it alone -- to play sane and hide the grisly hallucinations she’s been having.  Only her delusions get worse, and with them come flickers of memory  -- pieces of what really happened – and Mara discovers a deadly secret.  Little does she know, Noah has secrets of his own.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer seethes with darkness, tension, and an intriguing storyline.  This plot has not been done.  At least, I haven’t read it yet.  I was fascinated by Mara’s intense hallucinations, the unexplained deaths, threatening phone calls, and mysterious time loss.  Some books are pretty transparent, but with this one I couldn’t predict what was going to happen next and I found that I enjoyed not knowing. It didn’t take me long to finish this book.  Hodkin’s plot and well-time delivery held my attention even when other aspects of the book threatened to ruin it. 
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer was not without its flaws (and by flaws, I mean things that annoyed me).  I had difficulty connecting with the characters, mostly because I didn’t really like them.  Mara was traumatized, no doubt, and I’ll cut her some slack for that, but she’s also abrasive, angry, ungrateful, and six kinds of crazy.  I’ll give her props for resisting Noah’s wiles for as long as is conceivably possible in a YA novel, but it only made me like her a little bit. 

As for Noah -- he is an insanely attractive, lanky limbed, pale-skinned,  messy-haired, and unconcernedly stylish control freak with a taste for classical music.  Sound familiar?  Hodkins might as well have called him Nedward.  This might have some of you running for the shelves, but hold on a second, because I’m not done.  He wears skinny jeans.  He’s a man whore.  And he smokes.  Ugh. For the first half of the book, the only thing Noah had going for him was his stubble and his British accent.   It wasn’t until the latter half the book that he gained more than a smidgen of my interest – right around the time Mara begins to realize there is more to Noah than meets the eye.   So, while Noah improves upon acquaintance, even with all his devotion to Mara, his accent, and his stubble, I’m still not sure if I liked the rest of him.
This book also has a shboatload of profanity, and not the Biblical kind.  Sometimes I am so stuck in a story that I barely even register the language, or I choose to ignore it because of the importance of the subject matter.  However, there was enough of it in this novel that it was distracting.  Each F/A/S/D/B word was one more was a nail in the coffin of you’ll-never-be-able-to-recommend-this-to-your-mother.
So.  Long story short.  I was captivated by the unique plot, and loved the cliffhanger ending, but was annoyed by the somewhat aggravating characters and unneccesary profanity.  It became quite clear in the final pages that The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is only the beginning of a much larger story.  I’m just not sure if I’ll be reading it.   
My Rating: 3.5 Stars

For the sensitive reader:  Quite a bit of profanity – and not the kind you find in the Bible either.  Occasionally crass language and subject matter.  A few graphic (violent) hallucinations.
Sum it up:  A hauntingly dark novel, with a killer plot (and language most unbecoming).

1 comment:

Mell said...

I wanted to love this book. The cover was gorgeous, and it’s one you want to hold in your hands, not on a Kindle. But the cover art and the title both had very little to do with what is actually inside.

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t dislike it; in fact I enjoyed that Unbecoming was kind of dark and different with the protagonist-might-also-be-the-antagonist angle. I was following along while Mara tried to figure out what is real and what is not. It was a good pre-Halloween read too in a “don’t go near the bathtub while you’re alone in the house, bad idea, bad idea, bad idea” sort of way.

I agree with Mindy’s Nedward assessment, it wasn’t so obvious until towards the end of the book for me (possibly because I only read the books and didn’t watch any of the Twilight movies) – okay yeah, he’s pale with messy hair, but he’s got a British accent at least. But then all of a sudden Noah is totally in tune to Mara’s heartbeat and SPOILER: has superpowers. Other comparisons: rich, basically an orphan being raised by a classy woman-that is not his mom, well traveled, so smart he never needs to open a textbook, can waltz into any class at high school without the teachers blinking at him, come with me to special secret places instead of out to a movie like a normal teenager on a date, etc.

Mara was pretty obnoxious, even with everything that happened to her. Her potty mouth was also a bit much, especially when her language was worse than that of any of the male characters. Did Noah like her just because she called him an ass? Seems like that was her big trick to befriending Jamie too, bonding over variations of the a-word. What a charming girl. She also got a little bit Bella-ish with her self-sacrificing-ness at the end.

Also, here is my big pet peeve of the last six months: novels that are written for the sole and express purpose of being in a trilogy, saga, or series. There’s been a lot of those lately, particularly in the YA genre. I think it is important that each book in a be able to stand alone on it’s own merits, as well as leave the door open for what’s to come. This means that at least some of the plot components need to have a resolution. Think of Harry Potter – each book has a conclusion while still leaving the reader wanting more. Unbecoming left a LOT unanswered and I felt like I only got half the story. Just as we start getting to the bottom of what’s going on with Mara, Hodkin cuts the story off. I started getting nervous when the pages were getting thin on the right hand side of the book in my hands – uh oh, we’re not going to be able to wrap this up, “to be continued… ahead”. SPOILER: We don’t even get to find out how Mara is unbecoming, it sort of seems like her “ability” might have been latent and isn’t something new.

So in short, I completely agree with Mindy’s review, and might add that Unbecoming needs a different title, less pointless profanity and at least two more chapters with a little more resolution before the cliffhanger ending.

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