Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

Publisher: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

Source: Library

Summary: Mara Dyer doesn't believe 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 strangely unharmed. There is.                                                                                                       
She doesn't believe that after everything she's been through, she can fall in love. She's wrong.

I first heard about Michelle Hodkin's debut, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, at Book Expo's Teen Book Buzz panel. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get an ARC there, so I had to wait until the book was actually released before I could read it (I know, I have such a hard life). After reading this book, I am happy that it was brought to my attention, even if I have certain reservations about this one.
Before I say anything about the story, I want to just state that I love the cover of this book. It's weird, kind of creepy, and dark. It's also not a black background with some sort of item that doesn't actually have too much to do with the story or a girl in a flowing ball gown of some sort, so good job Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers for creating a badass paranormal cover that is set apart from a lot of the others.
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer tells the story of Mara Dyer's life after an accident in an old, defunct insane asylum that left her alive and her three companions dead. After these events, Mara has to adjust to a new life in Florida featuring a private school, unfriendly classmates, and the attentions of a devastatingly handsome British boy named Noah. Not to mention, a mysterious new ability and some supposedly PTSD-related hallucinations.
This was just one of those books that I inexplicably sped through. I read four hundred out of the four hundred and fifty pages one Saturday night, just because I could. Upon waking up the next morning I promptly finished the book. Hodkin pulled off a gripping story that actually made me happy that there was going to be a sequel.
The setting was great. I love reading books with private school or boarding school settings. I'm going to attribute this to the thirteen years of public school eduction and four years at a public college I endured throughout my life. I didn't experience private school life for myself, so I like reading about it in books. Of course, had I experienced it, I probably would have hated it, so reading about it is probably a better option.
The characters were awesome. I loved Mara Dyer and the fact that she didn't seem to have a problem cursing. An issue I have with some young adult books is that they seem to fear dropping curse words. I know that many teenagers do not curse, but I'm also well aware that many do, and many worse than adults. I often feel like young adult books don't reflect the kind of language teenagers use and liked that Hodkin wasn't afraid to drop a few f-bombs. Mara was sassy and protective of herself, which made complete sense considering the horrors that she had recently experienced. I also enjoyed Noah's character in the beginning. The bad boy slut model for a male lead didn't go too wrong in this one, especially since Hodkin chose to make this particular male lead hot and British. You're not going to be hearing too many complaints about that combination from me.
This being said, I wasn't totally sold on their relationship. It seemed to fall into a slightly Twilight-type (I know, I hate saying it) model. As soon as they crossed over from sassy bickering into acknowledging their mutual attraction (at least there was sassy bickering), their relationship became far too intense for me. It went from nothing to Noah immediately trying to take care of Mara, who I wished didn't fold so easily to being taken care of. All of the sudden he's all about loving her forever, with surprisingly little physical action to match all this talking. I think I would have preferred some more hooking up and less "forever and always" talk for these two.
I liked how the story was told partially in flashback and partially in the present. This book did have the pacing problem. I felt like we started getting explanations for the supernatural elements too late, they probably should have started closer to the middle. Also, I want to know MORE about the supernatural elements in the story. The supernatural elements took a place at the back burner while Mara and Noah started seeing one another, resulting in a rushed end to the story in the paranormal department. I still don't think I quite understand everything that happened in this one, I could use some more details about both Mara's and Noah's abilities. And possibly some more freaking out, because Mara's ability is slightly disconcerting (I'll point out my use of understatement here). Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading this book and look forward to the next installment, whenever/whatever that may be.

Mara: Speaking of finances, what the hell were you doing with five thousand dollars on you?
Noah: Eight, actually. I had grand plans for today. Hookers and blow aren't cheap, but i suppose animal sacrifice will have to do. Happy birthday.

Rating: 3.5/4 - fair/good (fair because of the romance drawbacks, good because the writing caused me to read this one so fast).

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