May 19, 2012

Review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

By: Michelle Hodkin
Published: September 2011 by Simon & Schuster
Format: Hardback, 452 pages
First Reviewed: October 2011
Buy: Barnes & Noble//Books-A-Million//Amazon//Book Depository
Add it on Goodreads

Maya 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.

Mara wakes up from a coma with no memory of the accident that caused the deaths of her best friend, boyfriend, and boyfriend’s sister. The doctors tell her parents that starting over in a new state and a new school will be good for her and that she should let the memories come back on their own. But Mara’s new start is anything but comforting when she sees the faces of her dead friends everywhere, and her world starts to fall apart. She begins to see people’s deaths just before they happen—at least that’s what she thinks she’s seeing. On top of that, the most beautiful boy ever is pursuing her, but his intentions may not be so pure….
Part thriller, part paranormal, this hotly anticipated debut novel will have readers on the edge of their seats.

Rating: 3/5

I've been wanting to read this since I heard about it months ago. Finally something creepy. And after reading tons of good reviews, I thought I was going to love it. Instead, I just liked it, and I'm left feeling confused and let down with some of the open ends.

The writing in this was okay for me. Not bad, not amazing, just good in some places and annoying in others. Massive amounts of telling and unneeded information bogged down much of this story, mainly in the beginning. I found myself wondering several times how paragraphs of this made it through all the editing rounds.

Besides that, the Hodkin's main style was nothing special for me. It didn't stand out or feel emotional, in my opinion. Where I should have felt emotion, I found myself being annoyed with it, and with the prose, I felt there was a sort of tug-of-war between a literary/commercial mix and flat commercial. Almost like Hodkin wanted to create vivid pictures and descriptions and emotion, but instead stuck with commercial. If that makes sense.

However, I did like some of the simplicity, as well as the overall narrative voice of Mara; she stayed consistent with that, even if I had issues with some of the prose. And the dialogue, I felt, was realistic and fun at times, even cute. I guess I just wanted more dynamics and more uniqueness to Hodkin's writing. To be honest, I think this would have worked better written with a literary/commercial mix, as then the eeriness would have really shined. Overall, decent writing.

Only after I've finished the book do I realize that I didn't have many problems with the characters. Originally, I thought I'd hate our male lead, Noah, as he seemed like the typical love interest in YA today, but I did end up liking him. I liked his humor the most, though I do wish we could have gotten to see a little more of his dark horse (I've been watching too much Dexter) throughout. That way there would have been more of a mysterious air about him.

As for Mara, I hated her in the beginning, not gonna lie. I really didn't like her. It mainly had to do with the lack of emotion, methinks. I just couldn't connect with her and I didn't feel sorry for her. This did change somewhat, and I think she can only grow even more, but she did end up being my least favorite character of the bunch. Annoying at times, weak at times when I think it would have been beneficial to make her react a different way finally, but she was solid at other times, too.

With the minor characters: I loved Jamie. I would have loved more from him during the last half. And I also liked Daniel and his relationship with his sister, Mara. The sibling relationships in this was one of my favorite aspects. Though I did think Jude characterization could have been entirely stronger. Overall, I thought the characters were pretty good. I think there's a ton of room for development, but I think they fit well with this story in general.

Hmm...I'm not sure where to start with the plot. What I liked about the plot was Hodkin's risk with the mystery and creepiness. Even after I've finished, I don't quite understand it, which I'm not sure if I mind about that yet or not. So for the time being, we're calling it a good thing, as I'm intrigued. I also liked that the creepiness was there (pretty much) throughout. One time I even muttered an "oo, that's creepy." But...I still don't feel there was enough.

To me, the focus fell away from that, only coming back at the most convient of times, or at the times where it felt Hodkin's remembered it and through it in at the end of a chapter. Instead, this felt more like a general fiction romance with some added paranormal creepiness and mystery. Also, some of the mystery and twists felt a bit forced and/or rushed and/or sudden. At one point, I literally set the book down in my lap, looked up, and was like, "What in the world? How'd we get to this point so quickly? She's not even questioning it." It just didn't seem to flow well.

Oddly enough, though, I didn't mind the romance. While it's still what I'd consider Instant Romance, Hodkin didn't have them all over each other for the entire book. That, I did appreciate. I also liked the slow reveal of what happened at the asylum, though I still think I would have liked more background history with the friends (the first chapter only semi-worked for me). And I've sort of touched on this, but I think Hodkin tried putting too much into this book. I think a few of the plot lines should have either been played up more or just ditched completely. There was just too much to follow, so some elements lost the mysterious intrigue and thrill for me.

So...I sound like I didn't like anything about this book, but I did like it once I finally got into it. Part of me is conflicted about a lot of my thoughts, but there were many things I liked. The overall premise was interesting and not something I've read before, some of the creepiness was generally creepy and interesting and intriguing, and I do look forward to the continuation, as I'm curious to see how Hodkin will handle the final twist she tossed at us. I want her to make me believe she didn't throw that in there at the last minute. :)

Other: FYI: There is cussing in this. The f-word quite a few times. Normally, I don't mind if it fits, but these felt out of place and unnecessary for me. And for anyone who's read this, can you please let me know if I'm crazy? No pun intended. I just want to know if Maya's mom had an English accent. I mean, they said she grew up in England, or something? And if so...why didn't she have one?! Completely random question and it spoils nothing, I promise.

I'm sorry to say I didn't care for this as much as I'd hoped. At times I was bored, sometimes annoyed, while other times I was intrigued and creeped out. There was a lot to this I think could have worked tightened up, but I just think it contained too many mystery plotlines, which lessened their impact. I did, however, enjoy it to some extent after I got into it. I think it's worth a try, and I will be checking out the next book when it releases, as I think it can only get better.

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