on October 7, 2011
The synopsis for The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is enticingly vague, so I didn't really know what to expect when beginning this book, I just knew that I had to know what it was all about...flash forward to me starting the first chapter before bed telling myself Just this one chapter, then I'll go to sleep...flash forward again a few hours after this to me looking at my clock as it blinks an ungodly wee hour in the morning time telling myself Well I've gotten this far, I might as well read a little more...OMG I can't put it down now...Must. Know. Ending.
This is definitely One Of Those kind of books. The kind that grips you tight from page one and still has a hold of you long after you've read the last sentence on the last page. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is a stunning and impressive debut novel from Michelle Hodkin. I found it absolutely captivating, riveting, smart, highly original, and brilliantly written and developed. To say that this book is simply a Paranormal-Romance or a Psychological Thriller or Mystery or Contemporary Fiction, doesn't really seem to do it justice to me, simply because it's kind of all of these things. It's a word potpourri made of all things awesome, beautiful, chilling, startling, and deeply intimate.
The three main aspects of this book that stood out to me are its characters, the overall story (both the story on the surface and the one pulsing underneath it), and the romance between Mara and Noah.
The characters in this book seem perfectly developed and balanced. And by balanced I mean that they're never too much or too little; they're close enough to the realm of stereotypical to feel comfortable and familiar, but far away enough to be refreshing and hard to ignore. What I loved about Hodkin's characters is that they're predictable when you need them to be, yet always surprising. The book is told from Mara's perspective, and there's a truly intimate connection developed between Mara and the reader, at least this reader. Mara has a sharp and sometimes biting wit, she's observant, smart, thoughtful, and not afraid to speak her mind. She's also conflicted, confused, lost, and scared. In other words, she's real and she's relatable. Noah Shaw, Mara's love interest is, on the surface, arrogant, confident, careless, charming and too smart for his own good. He's also everything and nothing that you expect him to be at any given moment. His flaws, insecurities and depth are slowly revealed throughout the novel, and both Mara and the reader get to know him at the same time...and this reader also fell for him right along side Mara. The "supporting" characters- the Dyer family, school peers, teachers, ect- are all well developed and add a layer of realism and familiarity that I think both readers and Mara need.
The romance between Mara and Noah is anything but cliché. This romance is intense, sexy, real, and a little twisted. I appreciate how Mara and Noah's relationship progresses naturally; I was actually able to witness and feel them fall in love and wasn't just told that they were in love. The chemistry and sparks between these two are palpable and really jump off the page. I think the emotional and physical aspects of this romance were written in a very smart and sensitive way.
The story itself blew me away with its originality, emotional layers and explosive ending. The story moves at a nice, natural pace and has a real lyrical flow. I liked that the story was told from Mara's perspective and that I was, essentially, in her head, seeing things unfold through her eyes, because it is Mara's story, it's the story of her unbecoming. There's a haunting beauty to the paranormal and romantic aspects of Mara Dyer, while there also exist a startling, yet irresistible pull that I felt from the emotional aspects of this book. The actual paranormal aspects are different from anything I've ever read, and there's a real dark, dangerous edge to them that make them exciting and intriguing. But it's the emotional and psychological aspects of this book, the unbecoming or really the unraveling of Mara Dyer, that kept me captivated. Hodkin's depicts the unraveling, the coming apart of Mara in such a realistic, honest and stripped bare kind of way that it was, at times, almost relentless with its stark emotional onslaught, but in the most breathtaking and impossible to ignore kind of way.
I think there's a certain universal, but rarely confessed, perversion that people have for peeking behind other people's proverbial curtains and getting a glimpse of the "real" picture behind the surface perfection, and I think as readers we kind of get to do this in this book. We get a glimpse inside families-like the Dyers and the Shaws-that seem very together, happy, and even perfect to the rest of the world, but behind closed doors they are anything but perfect with their secrets, lies, and fractures. Behind closed doors we get to see them for what they are- fathers who work too much, mothers who are controlling or too self involved, kids who are cracking under pressure-and I really think this is kind of the story beneath the story, kind of an underlying layer.
I don't want to spoil anything for anyone, but I will say that Mara's story is one that will leave you reeling and will have people talking. You'll want and need to talk about Mara's unbecoming, her unraveling, her romance with Noah, and her choices because they are all thought provoking and unforgettable.
MY FINAL THOUGHTS: I was captivated from beginning to end, and the ending left me breathless, wide eyed, and longing for more. I love this book and HIGHLY recommend it to all of you...seriously, you MUST read this book!