The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer
By Michelle Hodkin
Published on September 27, 2011
Published by Simon & Schuster
Published by Simon & Schuster
Mara Dyer doesn’t think life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.
She believes there must be more to the accident she can’t remember that killed her friends and left her mysteriously unharmed.
She doesn’t believe that after everything she’s been through, she can fall in love.
When Coranne bestowed upon me an ARC of The Evolution of Mara Dyer, it meant I finally had the excuse I needed to dive into the first book of the series. Woo, backlogged reading!
And so I read it, and, well, I’m ambivalent about it. At the end, I sort of sat back and said, “what in the world did I just read”? It was a lot of pages and a lot of things happened but I still was mostly like “wait, what?” I want to give this book five stars for the sheer creepy factor. I love a good horror story, and The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer has that in spades. Mara experienced a horrific tragedy, which she has repressed all memories of, except for some truly scary hallucinations and experiences that leave her and everyone else in her life thinking that she has lost her mind.
But I want to give it one star for douchebag-with-a-secret-heart-of-gold Noah Shaw and the crappy message this sends to the teen girls who are the target audience of these books. Ladies! Stop letting books like this tell you that the hot, mysterious bad boy is suddenly going to change his a-hole ways just because he suddenly decides he’s in looove. That is not the way the real world works. 99% of the time, someone isn’t going to change because you want them to. Even if you ask them nicely. Sure, Noah might be a dream boat, but he is super possessive of Mara, spends a lot of time outright telling her what to do or contradicting her wishes and basically conspiring with other people to run Mara’s life for her. That is not sexy. That is not attractive. That is creepy and if a guy were to try that crap on me, no matter how pretty and rich and artfully disheveled he was, I would run the other way. Noah went from being “hmm” to “ugh gross” in no time flat, and even his “reformation” in later chapters as he begins to reveal his secrets to Mara didn’t do much to change that in my mind. When Mara does get around to standing up to Noah and doing what she thinks is right, it’s in one of those cheesy “I have to do this alone, you’d never understand” scenes that made me want to throw things.
A lot is made out of the fact that Mara may or may not be having a breakdown after the trauma that she experienced, but I had a hard time mustering up a whole lot of sympathy for her because she just turned into a completely lovestruck fool whenever Noah was around. I wanted to get to the bottom of Mara’s visions, I wanted to know what happened to her, I wanted to know whether what she’s seeing is real or fake or the product of a disturbed mind. I got all of that, but I got a whole side helping of things I didn’t like, too. I didn’t want to read about her being controlled by her maybe-boyfriend who is keeping secrets, or having her well-meaning but comes-off-as-smug older brother who conspires with Noah and constantly runs interference between Mara and their parents. I want Mara to come into her own and stop letting other people control her.
I don’t know, that’s a lot of negative points about a book that I thought was ultimately okay. The sheer creepy/horror story vibe will keep me going as I read the sequel(s), even if I will do a lot of eye rolling about whatever happens next with Mara and Noah. I want to know how her story ends, I just wish I didn’t have to endure so much douchebaggery to get there.
A note, in addition to scenes of violence, assault, general creepy/scary scenes, and a lot of sexual innuendo, there are also several scenes involving animal cruelty which could be disturbing to readers.