THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER by Michelle Hodkin
jacket flap blurb
Mara 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.
She believes there must be more to the accident she can’t remember that killed her friends and left her mysteriously unharmed. There is.
She doesn’t believe that after everything she’s been through, she can fall in love. She’s wrong.
It started off with a weird-ass, confusing prologue written in an almost-but-not-quite indecipherable font. The prologue is written like a journal entry from the main character, Mara Dyer, who tells us that’s a fake name she’s picked to tell us this story. Personally, I dislike books that do the whole “this is totally a real thing it’s dangerous for you to know but I’m going to tell you anyway so sit back and remember this is absolutely true it really happened” shtick. Even the Percy Jackson books. Nope, nope nope nope. Jolts me out, makes me go “uh-huh, really?” and roll my eyes at the page. So not the best start, but intriguing in a “I have no idea what the hell is going on with this” kind of way.
Then we get to chapter one, which is titled with the number 1, and then the word “BEFORE” on the next line, and the location, “Laurelton, Rhode Island” on the next line. Then the chapter starts. I liked the “Before” and didn’t have an opinion on the location. However, second line is “When Claire pushed the heart-shaped piece into my hand, I startled.” You startled? You mean you started. Or possibly, you were startled. But the next couple lines made up for it: “The Ouija board was her favorite present that night, and Claire gave it to her. I got her a bracelet. She wasn’t wearing it.” It sets up the dynamic between Mara, Claire, and Rachel perfectly. Rachel is the leader, Claire is the bestie, and Mara is the want-to-be, possibly the was-bestie, who is now the third wheel.
The rest of the chapter is good. The writing’s clear, but not to the point of boredom or dryness. There’s interesting descriptions; they aren’t watercolor vibrant, twisting off the page, half in your mind and half in ink, weird and exotic and metaphorical, but in this story, that style definitely wouldn’t work. This is the kind of story with a lot of moments where we and the character go “Is that real? Is it really happening?” and can’t say for sure either way. I think if the language was too creative, you truly wouldn’t have any idea what’s going on.
The first chapter grabs you, but the second is a little slower but not by much. It’s titled “AFTER” and the location is “Rhode Island Hopsital [line break] Providence, Rhode Island.” Chapter three doesn’t give a “Before” or “After” because, like chapter two, it’s after. There’s no change in time from the previous chapter. I didn’t like that, however. It’s like in Insurgent, where each chapter has either “Tris” or “Tobias” until suddenly at the end there’s no name. Ugh. No. Stick with the pattern. Chapter three’s kind of dull, too. Four picks up, though and it just gets better from there. Like with the “before” and “after,” we’re not given a location unless the location has changed. I don’t like that. She should keep the pattern going, or take it out completely, since I’m not sure it’s necessary. I like it, but it could be taken out.
I like the various relationships in the book, I think most of them are done really well. I liked Mara and Jamie, and Mara and her brothers, and Mara and her mother. I wasn’t sure about Mara and Anna, though. We’re told that Noah, the love interest, is a playboy-type “sleep with everyone and never talk to them again” guy. And we’re told that Anna, the private school’s most important girl, was Noah’s girlfriend, or possibly lay, and then Noah dumped her and somehow, that translates into Anna’s distaste for anyone who comes near Noah, or anyone Noah goes near. I found that kind of confusing, especially since it wasn’t related very clearly in the book, it seemed like just an excuse to get the school’s top chick to hate Mara.
And Mara’s relationship with Noah was kind of weird, too. For the first part of the book, I didn’t really like him, and didn’t understand Mara’s attraction. Eventually, he grew on me, though, and now I don’t what to think. He takes some getting used to, I guess. I suppose if I could change it, I’d lessen Mara’s initially draw to him. Since Noah is interested in Mara from the get-go, we don’t need Mara’s attraction to him to keep him in the story. Mara could start off with only a little interest in Noah, and then Noah could grow on her as well as us.
But going back to relationships, most of them are done really, really well. Mara and her older brother, Daniel, and Mara and her younger brother, Joseph, are awesomely written. Mara and Jamie make total since, which is hard to accomplish since Jamie dislikes Noah and Daniel dislikes Jamie. Mara and her mom are perfect and I wouldn’t change anything there. Mara and her dad, though. After finishing the book, I hardly remembered there was a dad. I mean, he’s important to the plot. He has some good scenes. But I guess I just would have liked more between Mara and her dad. There’s a couple points where they talk briefly, and her dad says they should have a real conversation, talk about stuff. The book might have been stronger had Hodkin found a way to work in that conversation. I say “might have been” because I’m honestly not sure. What I see of the dad, I like, and I want to know more because he’s such a minor character to have such an important role. But at the same time, I’m not sure how he could be wedged into the story more without disrupting the flow. Perhaps he’ll have a bigger role in the sequel.
At the end of the book, besides the dad, I was also missing the connection to the prologue. I was left wondering why the prologue was even there, since chapter one seems like such a stronger opening. I can only assume it has connections to the sequel, but I think I would have cut it.
rating out of five stars
Definitely worth a read. I’ll look for more books by Hodkin.
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