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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Published: September 27, 2011
Pages: 450
Source: For Review from Simon and Schuster Canada (Thank you!)
Rating: 4.5 Stars

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.

In short: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin couples a freaky psychological thriller with realistic characters and relationships to masterful effect.
You know I love me a psychological thriller. The more creepy and messed up and confusing, the better. And The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer delivers as an intense, freaky thriller that messes with your mind right from the beginning. I tore my way through this one, largely thanks to its very short chapters, but also because Michelle Hodkin throws at the you scene after mind-bending scene that leaves you more and more confused with every page turned, so that you need to read on to find out what exactly is wrong with Mara Dyer and her freaky hallucinations.

My favourite part of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer was its odd combination of unrealistic hallucinations with realistic characters and relationships. Mara has a whole, complete family (two parents and two brothers), which is unusual and refreshing compared to the non-existant or broken family structure that we're used to seeing in YA. I loved reading about Mara's relationships with every member of her family. But none more than Mara's relationship with her mother - the frustrated daughter and overbearing but caring mother kind of relationship - which wonderfully and accurately represented mother-daughter relationships in real life. Mara's insecurities and awkwardness around her love interest, Noah, also rang true to real life.

I found Mara to be an easy person to like. She's nerdy and awkward and prone to swearing and violence (what's not to like in those qualities?). At various points in The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, she feels the urge to punch people in the face for annoying her: the mean girl at school says something rude and she wants to punch her in the face; her brother and her love interest, Noah, team up behind her back and she wants to punch them in the face; on one memorable occasion, the sun blinds her and she wants to punch it in the face; and several times, she says something awkward to Noah and wants to punch herself in the face. I couldn't help but like her for that.

I was not a fan of Noah's, however. I didn't always buy into his character; some of the things he said were cliched. But worse, he was an arrogant jerk, which I know some people who are into bad boys love, but it just isn't my thing. There is a fine line between being confident and smug and just plain douche-y, and unfortunately for me, I found that Noah fell on the wrong side of that line more often than not. That said, I have a feeling I may end up in the minority and most readers will love Noah. At any rate, my love of the plot was able to largely overrule my dislike of Noah, thankfully.

Overall, I loved The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer for the way it messed with my head one moment and then brought me back to earth with its realistic depictions of family life the next. Michelle Hodkin is a talented debut author and I highly recommend The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer. Word of warning though: if you hate cliffhangers and the wait in between books, watch out because The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer has one heck of a torturous cliffhanger.

Other Reviews:
i swim for oceans
The Bursting Bookshelf

Author Links:

*Read as part of the 2011 Debut Author Challenge
*The Letter U in the A-Z Reading Challenge


  1. This sounds thrilling! I also like that she has a complete family. It's quite the rarity for YA. Relationships with family can say a lot about a person's character.

  2. This was fantastic! I was completely confused half the time not knowing what was real or imagined. And the ending GAH

  3. Awesome! I've been really looking forward to read this so I'm glad you found it so enjoyable. I love Mara by your description of her already, hah. Can't wait to get my hands on the book!

  4. Oh! I had been hearing about this one but had no idea what it was about!

    It sounds very interesting :D

    thanks for the review

  5. Glad to know you liked it! :) I am even more excited to read this. It just looks so darn good.

  6. Alison: Exactly! I feel the same way. I wish good parental figures were present more often in YA. I love reading about the MC's interactions with them.

    Laura: Heh, I loved being confused half the time! But that ending! That was messed up.

    Stephanie: Mara was fun. I appreciated her capacity for violence and her eagerness to talk back to teachers. What can I say.

    Alex: It was interesting. I just couldn't put it down until I found out what was going on my Mara!

    Jillian: I hope people aren't affected by all the hype and end up being let down though!

  7. Lol, I like Mara already. I think you just made me even more excited about this one if that's possible, Aylee.

    Why must authors torture us with cliffhangers?! Thanks for the advance warning on that.

  8. "My favourite part of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer was its odd combination of unrealistic hallucinations with realistic characters and relationships."

    Exactly! That was my favorite part as well:) Too bad Noah didn't work for you but he definitely won't appeal to everyone. I loved him, but he was definitely an arrogant jerk at times! I'm a glutton for punishment I guess:)

  9. I loved this book so so so so so so so much!! Too bad you didn't like Noah because I loved him! I can see why you had a problem with him though. Great review! =D

  10. Zahida: Cool I hope you like her still when you read it! And it's likely because it has the effect of making you want to read the next book... but I swear I'd want to read the next book anyway even if it didn't have one!

    Jenny: The coupling of the unrealistic and realistic was so well done! Heh, at times I felt I could maybe sort of like Noah... but then he either said something dickish or cliched and cheesy. He was far from my least favourite book love interest of all time though.

    Bailey: Like I said, it wouldn't surprise me if most people ended up loving him, he just isn't my thing! I think I used to be into his type a lot more... but I've since lost my tolerance.

  11. I REALLY liked this book. I completely agree with how well Michell Hodkin balanced the hallucinations with reality! And Mara--I really liked her! I was able to buy into Noah, though I can see how he wasn't appealing to you. Great review! :)

  12. While I'm disappointed to know that Noah won't be making me swoon, I think I'd be very charmed by Mara, least she punch me in the face. :P

    Can't wait for this one!

  13. oooh, great review! people seem to either hate this book or love it, and i hope i'm on the former team :D

  14. Lauren: Michelle Hodkin is talented, for sure. She's one to watch. And as I suspected, most people love Noah. I'm not surprised actually!

    Missie: Well, don't speak too fast. I seem to be in the minority about Noah as I suspected so there's a fair chance you'll love him. I was very charmed by Mara, anyway :)

    Aleeza: You hope you hate it? Hmm, it's more likely you meant that you want to be on the latter team probably. I hope you love it anyway!

  15. Wow, you've completely sold me on this book. Now I HAVE to read it! Thanks for the warning about the cliffhanger. And great review!

  16. I am glad for the strong family dynamic you described. I often wonder in most YA books where the family is. I am SUPER excited to read this book. It's the first thing I plan on reading when Sept shows it's face. Great review Aylee.

  17. Jessica: Excellent, I hope you love it!

    Sara: It was so refreshing to have a complete and strong family surrounding Mara. I think she needed it. She goes through so much as is to have to deal with being an orphan/crummy parents.

  18. Great review! You know I am going to HAVE to read it now for myself. Just to see if I fall for Noah or not. ;0)

  19. lol, that's a lot of face punching! I think I like Mara already. I love that her family is whole. But Noah? Erm, I like arrogant guys, but NOT jerky guys. Guess I'll have to find out for myself. I love that there are short chapters and the plot keeps you guessing, but a cliffhanger? Why oh why? Thank you SO much for mentioning that. I thought this book was a standalone!

  20. Tracy: I'm interested to see the ratio of people who fall for Noah and don't fall for him, myself!

    Small: I'll be interested in hearing what you think of Mara and Noah. But I take it you'll be waiting a bit before reading this one because of the cliffie? It's funny that you would think this one a standalone because I never make that assumption about any of the books I read nowadays!

  21. I like a psychological thrillers, too. It's fun to see them in young adult books. Too bad about Noah. But...ugh...a torturous cliffhanger? Great. lol

  22. I'm really loving the psychological thriller genre too. I wouldn't be surprised if it became the new dystopia. It was pretty torturous... just kind of left the plot hanging there.