The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
YA Romance, Suspense, Paranormal/Supernatural
Paperback, 456 Pages
Mara Dyer, her best friend Rachel, her boyfriend Jude, and his sister Claire, go into an abandoned asylum which later collapses on them. Mara is the only survivor, but has no recollection of what happened that night and why she was there. She and her family move and Mara is enrolled in a fancy prep school where she encounters the annoyingly charming and crazy beautiful, Noah Shaw who has an English accent and a reputation for breaking hearts. Mara struggles with the mental and emotional aftermath of that night at the asylum and is haunted by strange visions and unpleasant memories that may or may not be truths. As she grows closer to Noah, she learns that there is definitely more to him than meets the eye and he may understand her troubles better than anyone else.
First of all, we should all be proud that I actually read a book that I included on my TBR list of books that I didn’t get to read in 2017. That, alone, definitely a 2018 accomplishment.
When I first came across this book, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The cover is gorgeous and a little more than creepy, which led me to believe there would be some angsty teen romance in here.
I was pretty much right, but the weird paranormalcy integrated into the story made it that much more engaging and suspenseful.
Mara is an unreliable narrator of sorts as she can’t remember everything about the night of the accident which led to the death of her friends (more like actual friend and stupid boyfriend and his rude sister). Throughout the course of the story, Mara experiences some strange paranormal activities including seeing said friends in her reflection, maggots in her food (yuck), and people she dislikes dying violent deaths.
I had a hard time putting this one down as I was totally gripped by every page turn. Many times, I thought my eyes would pop right out of my skull because of the sheer craziness of what was occurring on certain pages.
I found the writing to be excellent – straightforward, not too descriptive, but beautiful in many ways. The story is as funny as it is dark and I think the selling point of this book, aside from the creepiness, is the characterization.
Mara is not particularly strong or weak as a protagonist, but she is surrounded by some very interesting people. She comes from a loving family – a psychologist mother who truly wants her to get better, a lawyer father who always expresses to her how much he wishes he could be home with her more, and two sweet brothers who are both smart and smart-assy with their sister whom they care about deeply. Her brother Daniel is just the best – he is always looking out for Mara and covering for her with their parents as needed.
Jamie, a blewish classmate with dreadlocks who befriends her almost immediately, also has a smart mouth and looks out for her within the school, where her brother can’t always.
But Noah Shaw…now there is a character. Like most YA heroes, he has a bad reputation for being good in bed. He has an accent which will draw you in if his looks didn’t already and of course, he’s insanely wealthy. But readers will learn with Mara that he’s a bit of a weirdo himself, but there ain’t much reason to dislike him. He is persistent in his courtship of Mara, always referring to that cliched excuse being that she is “different from other girls.” I mean, he’s definitely not wrong. And anyway, he’s just so damn cute in everything he does for Mara. I’m a sucker for romance and we all know it – but this one just seriously worked for me.
Like most paranormal books that involve a female protagonist experiencing hallucinations, she hides her deep, dark problems from most people and can’t figure out if medication will make her better or worse. And I’m definitely with her there–I’m not really sure what Mara should do either…but if Noah were by my side, I wouldn’t mind handing over the reins and important decision making to him…especially when death is the most likely outcome in many situations.
Some might be put off by Noah in this sense because he is very stubborn and it sometimes seems like he’s trying to control Mara. But she does not always choose right and she’ll wish she listened to Noah…but isn’t that just life for you?
The banter between all the characters is hilarious and it often made me forget how dark the story is. But then something weird would happen on the next page and I’m reminded to make sure that my night-light is working properly and that my door is locked. I’m also considering covering up my mirror before I go to bed…
Verdict: Darkly funny, strangely beautiful, and totally romantic – this was definitely worth the day I spent reading it. I will be moving onto book two right away! I plan on purchasing The Becoming of Noah Shaw ASAP. Now shall I get the paperback to match my other Mara Dyer books…or do I indulge myself with the hardcover…
*Reading challenge update: 7/200 books completed
Most recent read: “The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer” by Michelle Hodkin