Author: Michelle Hodkin
Series: The Mara Dyer Trilogy, #1
When an accident leaves Mara’s friends dead and her with no memory of the tragic incident, Mara struggles to come to grips with the loss. Moving to Florida gives her a chance to start over, but unanswered questions about that night keep haunting her. As she continues to try to convince her family that she is coping well, it becomes increasingly difficult to hide the hallucinations that keep creeping up. Soon it’s difficult for Mara to discern between reality and the strange illusions her minds conjures up. Slowly, Mara begins to pieces together the forgotten memories of that night, but the truth may become her undoing.
“The room tilted, pitching me to the side. I bit my tongue, then braced my hands on the counter. When I looked up at the mirror, it was once again my face that stared back.”
Michelle Hodkin’s The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer has been on my radar forever and though I enjoyed the concept of the novel, there were several elements that made it less than enjoyable. Mara’s story revolves around the mystery of the accident that took the life of three other teens, including her best friend and her boyfriend. As the story unfolds, Mara’s reliability as a narrator comes into question. Her hallucinations range from fleeting visions to frightening scenarios. She begins to doubt her own sanity and as a reader, you also begin to wonder if the narrator is capable of telling the whole story. It was nice to read a YA novel where the protagonist’s family was actually present; however, I did feel that instead of being fully-realized characters, the members of her family were a means to tell an aspect of Mara’s story without having too much personality themselves.
This was true for many other supporting characters as well, and unfortunately some either play clichéd roles or are examples of common tropes. There is the cliché mean girl, Anna, who causes our protagonist problems for the simple reason that the guy she likes is giving the new girl attention. Also present is the arrogant, hot jerk that makes the protagonist forget he’s a jerk with a winning smile. Noah Shaw is Mara’s love interest, but it was difficult for me to like him and I became increasingly frustrated with Mara because of him. Though he is pushy, Mara quickly dismisses his behavior even though she objects at first for no other reason than because she likes him. At the beginning of the novel Mara is befriended by Jamie, who spends the majority of the novel warning her about Noah’s bad boy reputation. He has no character development and is conveniently dismissed from the narrative later on. At one point he calls himself the “token black Jewish bi friend” which came across as ironic rather than an expression of self-awareness on the author’s part.
Though I enjoyed the first half of the book, I did feel that the second half fell apart in terms of plot. The end provided many surprising twists, but lacked enough of a foundation to make complete sense. There is also the absence of an answer for “how” when it comes to the strange events that occur throughout the novel (I’m being purposefully vague for spoiler reasons). I suspect this will be addressed in the subsequent installments but the lack of one here made this first novel feel incomplete.