Book Reviews 2014 · Supernatural Books · Young Adult Book Reviews

‘The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer’ by Michelle Hodkin

Mara Dyer believes life can’t 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 that killed her friends and left her strangely unharmed. There is.

2.75 Stars (Rounded to 3)

I had been looking forward to starting this trilogy for the longest time. It is one of the most popular books on the YA scene at the moment, especially as the third and final instalment has just been released. So I bought it with my birthday money, sat down and braced myself to enjoy. I was deeply disappointed.

In its favour, I did really like the first 2/3 of this book. Well, I wouldn’t say it was a favourite, but it was looking to be 4 or 5 stars. I was really curious as to what actually happened in the accident. The plot was gripping, and I liked that information about the accident was lowly leaked out in small snippets, leaving me wanting more. I was fascinated to read about how Mara coped with her PTSD, and for the first 300 pages or so this felt like a realistic mystery that I could believe, which therefore impacted me more. However, after page 300, the book hit what I thought was a rough patch. I became less and less hooked by the events, not always for reasons that I can explain. Maybe the ‘novelty’ of the story had worn off, and once I got used to the book, it actually seemed less impressive than I thought it would be. Either way, I thought that it was a rough patch, and that it would pick up by the end. After 50 pages of this, I realised that it was not picking up at all. In fact, it just got worse. The final 100 pages were terrible. Confusing, pointless and a bit of a mess, I felt as if the plot had tried to step up to build towards the climax, and instead fallen flat on its face, losing my interest in the process. It became far too bizarre, and not in a good way. I was reading sections no less than three times to try and work out what on earth was going on. Sometimes, even after the third read, I was still lost. In short, this book went from potential-5-stars to lucky-to-get-3-stars in about 150 pages. That must be a record for me.

*SPOILERS START* The scene where her little brother went missing was an absolute car crash. I was reading it going ‘what the hell is actually going on?’. When it was revealed that that far-fetched monstrosity was supposedly real and not a figment of her imagination, I was incredibly disappointed. The revelation at the end that everything Mara was doing could be attributed down to odd superpowers that Noah had an in-depth understanding of seriously pissed me off. First of all, the incorporation of superpowers behind everything felt to me as if it was an attempt to explain certain elements her PTSD, and as a result of these powers coming into play, the focus on her mental health went completely out of the window. I was actually looking forward to seeing an outcome which reflected her sense of mind, rather than some bizarre magical explanation to everything. Also, I was trying to come to a conclusion on where I thought the series was going (disclaimer: if anything I say here is right, I take no responsibility for any ‘spoiler’ situations. I have not been spoiled, I have not read the next books and have no intention to). However, with the reveal that Noah completely understands this power thing, the only sane and workable conclusions that I can draw is if Mara has created Noah in her head due to PTSD, or that Mara died/is still in a coma after the accident and nothing she is experiencing is actually real. I would love these endings, but I am going to assume that neither of these will happen, and that everything can be explained with ‘magic powers’. If we get some long-winded story about powers actually existing, I will be fuming. There’s enough of those books already, and I was hoping for an even slightly realistic portrayal of a girl suffering from PTSD. The whole involvement of magic blows that idea to pieces.

The end of the story, I feel, was meant to have a massive impact on it. But the whole shooting part was written as a mess, and I had to re-read it several times to establish who shot who. The ‘cliffhanger’ at the end was meant to be dramatic, but I didn’t actually care at that point. It didn’t make me want to read the next one more. If anything, it made me even less keen. *SPOILERS END*

Mara was an okay character; not particularly likeable, but I could sympathise with her, and she was definitely not two-dimensional. Noah Shaw was strange. I did like him as a character (when we occasionally saw him as a person and not a piece of eye candy), but the while time I was reading it, I could just see a stereotypical ‘hot guy’ that every girl is meant to love. I feel like he was written purely as an attractive male love interest, and not as a character in his own right. I probably wouldn’t have minded this too much, had I actually found him attractive. I find nothing less attractive than the stereotypical rich, popular, funny-to-the-point-of-arrogance ‘hunk’ who the entire female population thinks is amazing. If that floats your boat, fine by me. But that kind of guy will never appeal to me, real or fictional, so Noah had no chance really. I was fond of Mara’s friend (whose name I have completely forgotten), but he did not have enough of a story to really amount for anything.

Overall, I very much doubt that I will be continuing the series. I am curious as to how it finished, but I will probably just look up some spoilers to save my time and money. It just wasn’t worth it for me, and I feel incredibly let-down. If the whole magic power element rocks your boat, then go ahead and pick it up (although I think everyone else has already). If, like me, you wanted to see the PTSD element in a YA non-contemporary, don’t bother. Beyond 200 pages, the whole PTSD becomes lost within a sea of messy nonsense. Generally, I wouldn’t recommend.

Twitter @emmathereader

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