Thursday, October 6, 2011

"The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer" by Michelle Hodkin review

Product Description--
Mara Dyer doesn't believe 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 strangely unharmed. There is.                                                                                                       
She doesn't believe that after everything she's been through, she can fall in love. She's wrong.

I really struggled with how to rate this book. I settled on three stars because while I adored the story itself, I didn't like the profanity and pervasive sexual innuendo. That took this book from a five cupcakes read down to three. (I'll explain the cupcake thing soon, I promise!)
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is one of the most engaging and downright freaky books I've read in a long time. I didn't want to put it down, and when I finished it late at night after a marathon reading session, I really didn't want to be alone in the dark.
Mara is slowly unraveling after surviving an accident that killed her three friends and left her with barely a scratch and no memory of what happened. When she begins seeing horrifying visions, neither Mara nor the reader is sure what parts of her hallucinations are real, what is PTSD, and what is something much darker and harder to explain. The story is taut, well-paced, and leaves you guessing until the end...and then even after the end. Part psychological thriller, part paranormal mystery with a smoking YA romance, overall it's a cool head-spinning, heart-pounding novel. Michelle Hodkin created characters and a plot that stuck with me.
Mara's relationship with Noah Shaw, self described "smuthound with daddy issues" was well done. I didn't find it to be "insta-love" as some others have complained, since Mara didn't fall for him immediately.
It's so hard to give details about what goes on between them without spoiling the book, but let's just say that Mara and Noah both have secrets and aren't as normal as they appear.
There were times when I felt the book was almost too twisty and complex, and some elements were never explained at all. (One example: Where did the priest and his shop go? A whole building vanishing requires some explanation.)
Another thing I enjoyed were the little shout-outs to book nerds like myself. Hodkin includes witty references to Lord of the Rings (Mara notes that if her mother starts watching any more intently, she will "turn into the Eye of Sauron"...that made me laugh) and Harry Potter (Mara's friend is banned from the phone and internet so he tells her she won't be hearing from him unless he finds an owl to send). There were lots and lots of funny things like that, and I'm sure I didn't even get all the references.
And while I realize that cursing and sexual references don't affect the enjoyment of a book for many readers, for some (like me) they do. Since I like to know beforehand what type of mature content is in a book, I always try to include that information in my reviews. There's no actual sex described in this book, but it's talked about a LOT. I've never seen the word "vagina" in print this often since I was in AP Anatomy. Or maybe when I was in Labor and Delivery classes before I had my kids...
There's a twist at the end that I kind of thought might be in the works, but I'm still stunned at how the book ended with so much unanswered and left unexplained. I'm hoping the next book will have less locker room talk, because I really want to know what happens next, especially after the cliffhanger ending.

Funny lines:  "Seriously, you must have better things to do with your life than waste it on the hopeless?"
"I've already learned Parseltongue. What else is there?"
(pg 124, US hardcover)

"I gracelessly darted into the crowd and only narrowly avoided being elbowed in the face by a girl attired in what could only be described as 'slutty Gryffindor' apparel. So wrong."
(pg. 142, US hardcover)


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