Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

Title: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer
Author: Michelle Hodkin
Genre: YA Paranormal Mystery
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Length: 466 pages
Original Publishing Date: September 27th, 2011
Series: Mara Dyer #1
Where I got it: Bought at Barnes & Noble
Links: Goodreads Amazon Author's Website

Synopsis from Goodreads:  
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.

Main characters: 4.5/5

Mara was a solid main character. Although she was lost and confused, she didn't whine or cry or curl up into a little ball. Her reactions were realistic and believable without being over-the-top or annoying. Mara had a little spunk (read: snark) that made her likable and I loved her passion for drawing.

Noah was a cliche wrapped in a cliche. He was the typical hot, arrogant, millionaire British manwhore. I've seen it before and I'll see it again. In fact, I groaned when I realized he had an accent. I wish that Hodkin had taken a bit of a more unique approach to the love interest. That being said, I loved Noah's tenacity and determination to woo Mara. When his soft side started showing, I really began to like him more.

Together, Mara and Noah had everything you're looking for in a couple: the sass, the chemistry, the mushy stuff and the determination. Plus the way that they started dating was too perfect. I did feel like they feel into a dating rhythm too quickly- they had barely met and suddenly they were the "perfect couple in love". Where was that awkward first date and the conversations that went with?

Secondary characters: 4/5

I really liked how Hodkin included Mara's siblings to a significant extent: they weren't just in the background or used for a specific purpose, they really dictated who Mara was as a person. I also thought it was unique that Mara's brothers were the "perfect" boys and Mara was the "troublesome" girl. What a great role reversal!

And Jamie... Jamie. What a character. Hodkin didn't introduce him as "black, Jewish and Bi" (at least until after you got to know him). Instead, she let his actions and words and appearance speak for itself as if you were meeting him for the first time too. It was refreshing not to read labels right off the bat.

I felt like Mara's parents fell a little flat. Hodkin did such a good job integrating Mara's siblings into the story, and Mara's parents could have been the same, but instead they were pegged as the bad guys because they were concerned about Mara's behavior and mental wellness.

I had a little bit of a problem with Anna and Aiden. The were depicted as pure evil, and while I know they were some of the main antagonists, I wanted to see more characterization. Even the most awful bullies are people too.

Writing style: 3.5/5

Overall, I'd have to categorize Hodkin's writing style as not great, but pretty good. The writing was rather functional and utilitarian; there wasn't a whole lot of brilliant prose. That being said, it's the kind of writing that's easy to read and compelling. One thing I noticed was a lot of short sentences and fragments. This allowed the writing to move quickly, without getting bogged down in run-on and complex sentences. I also supremely enjoyed the flashbacks. The pacing was excellent for the most part: I was absolutely enthralled in the story. However, every once in a while it began to drag, especially toward the middle/end of the book.

Plot: 3.5/5 
Dat mystery doe. No seriously, the mystery and intrigue in this novel were out of this world. And it was so spooky, I'm surprised I didn't end up having nightmares. Hodkin did an amazing job at keeping me guessing at what the "paranormal activity" was. The flashbacks did an excellent job at piquing my interest and keeping me focused on Mara's past and present equally. I do want to point out that some of the plot points themselves were predictable and disappointing. While I liked the background plot, I had hoped that the mystery surrounding Mara wouldn't turn out the way it did and that it wouldn't concern Noah the way that it did as well. Also, the ending got a little convoluted and confusing. I'm a little concerned about how this plot paragraph turned out because I thought that the plot was one of the things that I loved and it turns out that it actually has some of my biggest issues. But I think that's just how I feel about this one. The plot makes it, and the plot has some huge flaws.

Ending: 4.5/5

The cliffie is so real!!! As you may know, I absolutely hate books that end on a pure cliffhanger. However, this cliffhanger was too good and too shocking not to love. Also, I normally don't have that crazy urge to read the next book right away, and I TOTALLY had that with The Evolution of Mara Dyer. So even though I don't normally like cliffhangers, I liked this one.

Best scene: The Spanish oral exam

Reminded Me Of: Beautiful Creatures meets The Liar Society

Positives: Strong and realistic main characters, unique and memorable secondary characters, mysterious and intriguing plot, the cliffhanger ending

Negatives: Some quick/instalove romance aspects, some secondary characterizations needed more work, some minor pacing issues, predictable plot points, confusing ending

Cover: Haunting, mysterious and beautiful.

Verdict:  A fascinating and mysterious debut from Michelle Hodkin!

Rating:  8.0 / 10 (5 stars)

Your Thoughts: Have you read it? What did you think? If you haven't, will you be adding it to your TBR list? Let me know!

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