Friday, August 12, 2016

Review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer - Michelle Hodkin

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer
Michelle Hodkin
Series: Mara Dyer, #1
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Psychological Thriller
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

I'm not 100% sure how I feel about this book. I keep alternating between liking it and disliking it -- there were some parts that worked for me and some that didn't (like any book) but it feels so heavily split between the work/didn't work sides that my feelings are super mixed.

One of the things I found kinda not-so-great was the writing. At first I didn't really notice anything about the style -- it wasn't too detail-oriented but I liked Mara's narration and viewing the story through her lens, especially all the ends of the flashbacks and the hallucinations. Except at some point I was FaceTiming with my friend and jokingly reading a passage aloud and I realized the writing sounded super awkward when I read it aloud. That's not generally a basis for judging books for me, but I paid closer attention to the words and a lot of it felt like forced or awkward writing. The dialogue was the weirdest. It often didn't sound natural. I remember one scene where Mara is waiting for her brother and says "You've got some 'splaining to do" when she sees him and I think I genuinely cringed at how awkward and uncomfortable that piece of dialogue was.

Putting aside the parts that clearly read weird though, I definitely didn't go through the whole book thinking "wow this is written so terribly when will it end" so if you find the story interesting don't let the writing deter you, it isn't a major negative factor or anything, just something I wanted to mention. The story itself focuses on Mara Dyer, who moves away after her three friends die in a terrible accident she survives but has no memory of and ends up suffering from severe PTSD as a result.

Something I liked was that Mara wasn't a totally reliable narrator. Her hallucinations influenced a lot of what she experienced and every time I was introduced to a character I watched to see if they would interact with anyone other than her because I kept expecting the "they're actually a hallucination" trick. However, other than her severe mental instability, I felt that Mara wasn't developed enough as a character. I felt like I had no idea what her personality was beyond "always worried her mom would be on her case." Some of the other characters were more developed, like her entire family, her friend Jamie (who was so cool but for some reason Hodkin decided to cut away his page time after a certain point) and even Noah, the Love Interest.

Speaking of Noah, the love angle of the story is really the biggest negative for me. This book could have been so cool. Mara could have explored so much of what made her different and how it worked and why it was happening. And YET. The entire book was focused on this Bad Boy rescuing her from the confines of private school and it was all about the exploration of their love and I am 10000% here for cutesy love stories and romance books and love plots but like there was such potential for an exciting terrifying killer paranormal plot and it just got shoved to the side for pages of them riding in his car and her refusing to kiss him because it's gross. Yes, I do realize there are two more books and the weird stuff will probably be explored more there but 1. in this book, it felt tacked on at the end, like an afterthought 2. I wish it was built up more in this book so I knew a little more about what I was going into in the next book. I feel like I could have read the first 20 pages and the last 20 pages and been okay for the sequel honestly because everything that happened in the middle was just...for funsies.

The only reason I feel mixed is because the concept is interesting and the ending left off on such a cliffhanger that I want to see how this series continues. I feel like it deserves credit for making me want to know how the paranormal aspects work without just looking them up online. I probably will read the next two books sometime but I'll probably take them out from the library or something because I'm not invested enough to pay for them. Overall, I wish it had more creepiness and less sappiness but it still seems like it could be a promising series.

- Noor

Have you read any good paranormal books lately?
Let us know in the comments!

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