The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

“You could start a fire with the heat between you two.”
“You’re mistaking bitter animosity for heartfelt affection.”

Mara Dyer wakes up in a hospital bed and can’t remember how she got there. She is told there was a terrible accident where her best friend, her boyfriend and her frienemy were killed when the abandoned building they were exploring collapsed on them. Her family moves to a new town to help her adjust to having a normal life without her friends. Despite the new setting, Mara starts to see her dead friends in mirrors and hallucinates other creepy happenings, such as the ceiling collapsing upon her. Mara isn’t sure how much of what she is seeing is real and how much of it is in her head, which makes it hard to fit in at her new school. She meets Noah, the school’s most beautiful and admired boy, and they fall for each other. Then things get really creepy and complicated.

I’m not giving any more away because the plot has a lot of twists and turns. Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I stayed up until 4 am last night reading it in bed because I wanted to see what happened. I was completely hooked. I enjoyed the darker aspects of the book, the death, the mystery, the hallucinating which caused the readers to not be sure of what is real and what isn’t. Also of course, slowly learning what really happened that night with her friends. All these elements really captured me and made me stay up reading until I was done.

On the other hand, the aspects I did not enjoy were a couple of points that I felt made the book a little weaker than the hype lead me to believe. Firstly, there are some paranormal elements which are never explained and seem to be written in just to find a way to resolve her memory or move the plot forward. I don’t want to ruin anything, so I’ll have to be vague which I know is annoying, but message me after you read it and we’ll talk.

Another aspect I had an issue with is the trend of main girl characters being these helpless damaged creatures who end up ignored, ridiculed and miserable at their new school. Despite this, they are inevitably irresistible to the cutest, smartest, most popular boy at the school who can’t help but fall for them (before he knows them) and wants to save them from the harsh reality of their everyday life. Then of course, the girl doesn’t care that she’s alone or not fitting in because she has him.

This recipe in young adult literature has proliferated a lot of YA novels I’ve read in the past year or so (there are exceptions of course, I rave about those exceptions when they come along!) and I’m kind of tired of it. The romantic aspects of these novels are beginning to all sound exactly the same. I’m not saying it isn’t an attractive plot. What girl doesn’t want a guy to come along who loves her at first sight and wants to help her solve all her problems no matter how horrible they are? Of course that all sounds great in theory, which is why this recipe is popular. But I would like, just once and a while, to see a young girl character not give in to the swooning and sighing, and hey, maybe even save herself.

Despite this, I did enjoy the book and will read the next one in the series because of a final redeeming moment. At the end of the book, Mara makes a decision that she believes is necessary even though Noah says she shouldn’t. Of course, she immediately regrets it because she thinks she’ll lose him as a result, but she does it anyway. She makes her decision, acts upon it and accepts the consequences. That moment gave me hope. For Mara, for this series and for future young heroines being written even as we speak. Hope that they’ll be independent, intelligent and driven young women, who can find love, but not be drowned within it.

2 thoughts on “The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

  1. Haha that IS a recipe for your basic YA novel, I never thought about that. I did agree that the paranormal was unexplained and even a little forced to make the story more interesting. Great review!

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