The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
So. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer. Where do I begin?
First let me say that I had a lot of hope for this book. The premise is intriguing (how did Mara survive a building collapse that killed her three friends, and why can’t she remember it?), Mara is snarky (girl after my own heart), the cover is stunning (albeit completely irrelevant to the story), and there’s a hot British bad-boy love interest (obligatory swooooon). That has some serious makings for a great story, right?
Well, with just these factors, it is a great story. I absolutely loved the first two-thirds of this book, and was tearing through it. But then, of course, like every trendy YA book, Mara Dyer throws in a paranormal twist. And that’s where the book loses it.
Look, I’m a huge fan of paranormal. I think, when done right, it’s awesome. But the paranormal in this book is so choppy and abrupt that it feels like one big gimmick. Not just that, but some supernatural happenings are alluded to in the beginning of the book with a Ouija board, but then is completely dropped until the last one-third of the novel, when the paranormal comes back full force. But here’s the thing–it feels like such a cop-out. I’m going to leave it at that, because I don’t want to spoil anything, but I found myself sighing and groaning the last third of the book because it was so ridiculous.
Then there’s Noah, Mara’s sexy, slutty love interest. He’s a player, he’s British, he’s loaded, he’s the epitome of every single bad boy cliche there is. This isn’t necessarily a negative. No, I found Noah to be one of few bright spots in the novel. He’s funny and charming, but there’s nothing very original about him, and, honestly, the 350+ pages of “I hate you!” and “No, you love me!” got so. Freaking. Old. So much of the banter between Noah and Mara, while amusing, was repetitive and totally gratuitous. Like, really, does Noah need to pretend to be a nude model? No. It’s a silly, pointless scene meant to emphasize how oh-so hot Noah is, and how lucky Mara is that he’s interested in her.
Because how could anyone be interested in Mara? She’s uninteresting, and her only real talent is flipping out and being sassy.
The secondary characters all fell short as well. Even Mara’s brothers, Daniel and Joseph, are complete stock characters — the quintessential perfect first-born and the super mature twelve year old, respectively. Then there’s the evil blonde bitch at school, her gay buddy, the token minority best friend (who is, in this case, black, Jewish, and bi–oy vey), the overprotective mother, and the emotionally absent father. The biggest issue with the secondary characters, though, was that Rachel, Mara’s supposed absolute best friend who died in the building collapse that Mara survived, isn’t characterized. At all. You know how in Twin Peaks, Laura Palmer herself is barely onscreen except for, like, two flashbacks and a few dream sequences, but the watcher still develops this huge connection to her based on the attitudes toward her from the other residents? Well, Rachel is seldom shown “in action” in this book, and Mara primarily just talks about how much she loved her, and how great she was, and blah, blah, blah. Uh, yeah, that’s great Mara, but why should I care that she’s dead? I couldn’t care less that Rachel is dead because I failed to see what was so great about her, so all of Mara’s feelings and emotions felt a little… Eh.
I feel like that’s the perfect word to describe this book: Eh. The characters are eh, the story is eh, everything about it is eh.
In retrospect, I guess I liked this book a lot less than I originally thought I did. The plot is convoluted and the character interactions are gratuitous, but you know what? It was the kind of book that angered me to the point where I know I’ll end up reading the next book just to see what, if any, resolution there is. Which is annoying, but at the same time, it’s what a book series is supposed to do — you either love it and keep buying books, or you dislike it and keep buying books to frustrate yourself even further.
Mara has found herself a cozy little spot in the latter section.