Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

I bought this book right after it came out (in 2011). I had read so many great reviews for it that I knew I absolutely needed to have it. Plus, the book jacket is loaded with blurbs from impressed authors who I trust and love. Seriously, Cassandra Clare, Veronica Roth, Kirsten Miller, Beth Revis, and Rachel Hawkins all had good things to say about this one. Why on earth did it take me so long to start it? Honestly, I have no idea. I’m just glad I read it before the sequel came out (sequel comes out next week!).
Mara wakes up in the hospital after an accident that killed her two best friends and her boyfriend. She doesn’t really remember what happened. She knows an old, abandoned building collapsed and killed everyone but her. But she doesn’t remember why she and her friends were in the building and she doesn’t remember them dying. It’s clear in the very beginning that Mara is not the most reliable of main characters. She writes with the knowledge that her mind is not all there.
She’s taking anti-psychotics, seeing a therapist, and is diagnosed with a form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. She hallucinates and she keeps seeing the ghosts of her dead friends. She has learned to not look in mirrors because that is when she sees them. And she very rarely leaves the safety of her family and her house. Her family, mostly for her benefit, moves to a new home and a new state where Mara won’t always be thinking of her dead friends. They also move because Mara’s important, lawyer father gets involved with a high profile law suit involving a man accused of kidnapping, torturing, and murdering kids.
Too bad for Mara, the new school and home and city don’t prevent her hallucinations from happening. However, as the story progresses, Mara remembers more and more tidbits from the night the building collapsed. At her new school, Mara quickly develops a friendship with the school player, Noah. Noah is notorious for sleeping with girls and then dropping them. And Mara is warned to stay away from Noah. She also isn’t looking for a relationship because she is still dealing with her old one. However, the two very different characters connect. They both have dealt with a lot in their young lives and both know a thing or two about loss.
The last quarter of the book is chock-full of supernatural elements that I was not expecting this at all because the whole book till that point read more like a contemporary novel. There’s special abilities, a lot of death, kidnappings, law suits, animal rescues, romance, bullying, grief, and plenty of mystery. Of course the high profile lawsuit comes into play with Mara’s life too.  I was on the edge of my seat the whole time, needing answers just as badly as Mara needed answers! There’s also some deep stuff going on here about questions of death (and a little death penalty argument). The book also deals with rape and mental illness. I loved Mara’s family (particularly her brothers) and how they dealt with Mara’s needs.
I loved bad boy, Noah! He reminded me a lot of Gansey from The Raven Boys, wealthy, beautiful, and totally not what you are expecting. I had a love/hate relationship with Mara. I loved how much attitude she had. I loved how hard she made things for Noah to make his move. There might have been a bit of an instant-love thing going on, but Mara never really gave into it. She got to know Noah and did everything she could to try to push him away before actually giving in and realizing she loved him. And this was so amazing! But, Mara was also rather needy in a way I didn’t like. She needed other people just a little too much for me. I wanted her to be just a little bit more independent. Like, the only way she could do anything besides go to school was if her brother talked her mother into letting her out. And her mother had to approve of everything. And she just needed so much approval. I get that this fits with her mental state, but it doesn’t fit with her personality, which is full of attitude.
I did not think the book was as dark and scary as the blurbs and the publisher were trying to sell it as. And a big part of it not being so dark or even as mysterious as I wanted was because of a letter Mara writes in the beginning, before the first chapter starts. The letter sort of spoils something about dead bodies. And if I never read that letter I think I would have been a lot more freaked out and surprised. I wish that letter wasn’t there. I get the whole Mara needing a false name thing needing to be explained, but I really feel like a huge part of the book was spoiled for me before I even started it.
All in all, I loved the characters, I loved the story, and I loved the suspense. I just wish the book wasn’t spoiled for me before it even started. And I kind of wish Mara was just a little bit more independent. I read this one remarkably fast (one sitting). And I really am looking forward to the sequel. This one ends with a bit of a cliffhanger. I give it an 8/10.

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