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A Reader of Fictions: Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review #32: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review #32: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer
Mara Dyer, Book 1

Author: Michelle Hodkin
Pages: 452
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Read: August 28-September 2, 2013
Source: Won ARC and yeah oops
Recommended by: Aly of My Heart Hearts Books

Description 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.

First Sentence: "The ornate script on the board twisted in the candlelight, making the letters and numbers dance in my head."

Going into The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, I had some expectations but also no real idea what the book was actually about. It's an odd thing, diving into a book that pretty much everyone you know has already read. Though readers at large loved Hodkin's debut, the bulk of my friends, as evidenced by ratings on Goodreads, did not like this book at all. For much of the book, I could definitely see myself going the same way, but then the twist happened and I've got to say that I'm curious and really eager to read the next book.

Before you get mad at me, do not even try to tell me that saying there's a twist in this book is a spoiler. It's about a girl who waked up in a hospital with no memory of her friends dying and herself being trapped when a building collapsed. Obviously, that is a book that is all about surprising you with spoilers. You should expect this.

As is the case with many books that use this basic framework, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is a bit slow and awkward at the beginning. Much of the book, you're really just waiting for answers and a reason to care. Thankfully, I found one, with the seriously creepy twist about which I want to know so much more. I wish I could say more about that, but then it would be a spoiler.

Many readers were upset by the relationship dynamics between Mara and Noah, but it really wasn't as bad as I was expecting. Noah does run to the English, fantastically wealthy and overprotective stereotype, true, but I don't feel like he forces Mara into anything that truly matters. He does initially seem too interested in her, but there are reasons for that explained later. In a lot of ways, Mara's the more powerful person in the relationship and Noah's the nice one once he opens up a bit. I wouldn't say that I ship them, really, but I don't want to strangle Noah either.

The characterization in Mara Dyer is rocky. Obviously, Mara's not in a healthy mental place at any point in the novel, as she suffers from PTSD after her friends' deaths. Plus, she's hallucinating and generally not sure of anything. It's not a good place from which to get to know her true character. Pretty much the only thing I know and really like about her is that she likes to protect animals, but even that seems somewhat inconsistent. Noah, too, doesn't ever really jump off the page. He's interesting, but seems somewhat contradictory at various points throughout the book. I also, because I'm me, really loathe the fact that he smokes, which seems like an incredibly unnecessary thing to add and only romanticizes a filthy habit. Oh, also, he needs to stop attacking every guy who says anything flirty to Mara. While it can be attractive for a guy to have the strength to defend you, it's certainly not hot to assume you require that protection and starting shit over minor incidents will really only endanger the girl than protect her in the long run.

My favorite character doesn't get a whole lot of screen time, but I hope he comes back in the next two books. Jamie Roth is hilarious and one of the only people in the school not to subscribe to the social hierarchy accepted at their pretentious private school. Plus, he's bisexual AND a POC (as I believe Mara is as well, actually). He's by far the most interesting character in the book and I only wish it was more about him.

Like the characterization, I think the writing is a bit clunky. The transitions, especially, were off somehow, with inconsistent switches between memories, dreams and the present. Much of the dialog felt stilted. The writing as whole was pretty decent, but Hodkin has quite a bit of room to develop her prose. This being her debut, I don't think it's a bad showing.

I'm really all over the place with this book, but what it comes down to is that I'm captivated by the plot and have to know where it's going. I'm not sure why it worked more for me than others, except perhaps a certain weakness for particular plots.

Rating: 3/5

Favorite Quote:
"'Your level of neuroses would only find love in a made-for-TV movie.'"

Up Next:
The next Sadie Hawkins Sunday book will be Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund! I've enjoyed all of Peterfreund's books that I've read so far, so hopefully this one will go well too!

Want to tell me what to read? Fill out the following form with a suggestion! For more details, check this post.

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Blogger Kristilyn (Reading In Winter) said...

I just reread this one the other day and I still really loved the creepiness of it all! Of course, there were some things that bugged the crap out of me, but I'm glad that the reread didn't make me hate the book. Can't wait for the next one now!

September 8, 2013 at 8:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to say that I really liked The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, especially once it gets all creepy. My favorite part of the book is that Mara is so crazy. I absolutely love unreliable narrators.

I can see where some of your criticisms are coming from, such as that Noah is a bit of a walking stereotype with an English accent. I still loved reading about him, but I can understand how is portrayal would bother people.

The second book really steps up the creep factor. I was so excited for the release of the third book, The Retribution of Mara Dyer, but its pub date got pushed from late October to June 2014. *sobs*

September 8, 2013 at 11:12 AM  
Blogger Angie said...

I'm glad (and a little surprised) that you liked this one! It's been on my wishlist for what feels like forever, but I just haven't gotten around to it. But now I really want to meet this Jamie! I also happen to be a bisexual PoC. :D

September 8, 2013 at 11:14 AM  
Blogger Nara said...

I think I just gave this one a 3/5 as well. I suppose the book wasn't horrible, but I feel like there wasn't anything that really stands out about it. I probably say this because I can hardly remember anything about it except the characters' names (which I consider an achievement anyway :P). I have the sequel on my TBR though, so hopefully there'll be some improvement in that one :)

September 8, 2013 at 11:24 AM  
Blogger Christina said...

It's always good when a reread doesn't totally kill a book for you!

September 8, 2013 at 1:49 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

The creepy part of the the book and the unreliable narrator were my favorite aspects too. I'm a character reader, but this was definitely about the twists and plots for me.

Why did he smoke? That got to me the most. Just because he can? Really? Smelling like an ashtray is fun? Ugh.

Oooh, I'm excited for the second, but I heard I should put it off a bit.

September 8, 2013 at 1:53 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

I live to surprise people! Steph thought Jamie was too much of a token, and I see that, but I want more of him so he cannot be. Also, I am learning things about you. :)

September 8, 2013 at 1:56 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Oh, I think there are parts that stood out to me, and aspects I really liked, but there was enough clunky construction that I really couldn't go higher than a 3.

September 8, 2013 at 1:58 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I read this quite a while ago and don't really remember it very well, but I do remember that the twist spoilt it for me! I was really enjoying it, and then it changed into a totally different kind of book and that annoyed me! Glad you enjoyed it more than I did.

September 8, 2013 at 3:38 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Oh, see, I was the other way. I really liked the twist. Powers anytime.

September 8, 2013 at 5:54 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Ah, well my expectations were actually super low, which may have helped. I'd been told Noah was the biggest asshole, and he definitely wasn't THAT bad. Haha. Anyway, I hope her writing and characterization improves in Evolution. I mean, this was a debut, so it ought to.

September 8, 2013 at 5:56 PM  
Blogger Sassy Sarah Reads said...

I'm glad you enjoyed this one a bit, Christina. The second book is way better in my opinion. Noah is a bit a jerk, but compared to a lot of YA males he isn't too bad and he even becomes sweet in the second book. Hope you enjoy the next book!

September 8, 2013 at 8:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I missed the first book, so now that is arrived in Italy this one, I am really curious about these two books! Yes, after reading your review, I'm curious again. xoxo


September 8, 2013 at 9:19 PM  
Blogger Kimberly @ Midnight Book Girl said...

I was pretty surprised (and pleased!) that you gave this 3 stars. My one issue in this book was actually Jamie. I felt like he was just thrown in to throw him in and then *poof* he was gone.

I totally loved all the twists in this one and The Evolution has some other twists I loved too, but I would probably wait to read it. Especially since it's going to be forever now until the last one comes out.

September 9, 2013 at 9:16 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Ack, clunky writing? :( ALSO. From the GR updates of yours I saw, I'm really pleasantly surprised you ended up rating this one as highly. Gives me hope!

Finally what you said about it being okay for a guy to defend you but not alright to assume it's always necessary? FUCK YES. (Sorry not sorry for the f-bomb; it seems to me that so many people try for alpha male and end up writing creeper guy.) :D

September 13, 2013 at 2:58 PM  
Blogger The Insouciant Sophisticate said...

I really loved the ending for this one-thanks for the reminder that I still need to check out book 2!

September 14, 2013 at 8:54 PM  

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