Review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
Author: Michelle Hodkin
Series: Mara Dyer #1
Publisher: Simon & Schuster BFYR
Publication Date: September 27, 2011
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.
She’s wrong. (Cover and synopsis from Goodreads)
*Warning: I really do not like spoilers, but I’m finding it hard not to include a few spoiler-ish things in this review. If you haven’t read this book, read on at your own risk.*
First, a Little Note…
I’ve had The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer on my bookshelf now for over a year. My husband read it before I did. And he really didn’t like the end but that wasn’t enough to sway me, because I was convinced that this was going to be MY KIND OF BOOK. I knew I’d be fangirling all over my notes, fangirling all over my review, and getting every one of my friends to read it. That is, those who hadn’t already read it.
And why, you ask, was I so sure that I would absolutely LOVE this book? Well, for one thing, I really just love that cover. And second, I read somewhere (I can’t remember where and can’t find it now) that this was like Inception meets Memento, which are two of my most favorite movies. And one of the other reasons that I thought I was sure to love Mara Dyer was the little fact that 34 of my Goodreads friends rated it 4 or 5 stars. 34! And there were only like 10 other ratings from my other Goodreads friends.
So yes, I went into this book thinking that I was going to LOVE it. And maybe that’s why it ended up disappointing me as much as it did. Because now I’m having to write my first 1-star review. And while I normally try to make my reviews as positive as possible, this book made me pretty angry so this may get a bit ranty.
A Bad Start…
I had issues with this book right from the beginning. There’s a part where Mara goes to a funeral and because she’s not from a religious family she doesn’t know what to do when everyone prays. Really? I’m not religious at all and yet I know what to do. I think everyone who isn’t religious still knows that you act respectful and bow your head when everyone else prays. Seriously, who doesn’t know that, except for little kids?
Then it gets into the fact that Mara is going crazy and although her psychologist thinks she should be put into a facility, Mara makes the decision that her whole family should MOVE INSTEAD. And what does her family do? They pack up and move. And then she says, “It was too easy to forget that my parents were leaving everything behind too; my father’s law practice, my mother’s patients. And Joseph, though only twelve, accepted without much explanation that we were moving and agreed to leave his friends without complaint.” Um, first of all, I call BS. A 12-year-old moves without complaining at all? Doubtful. And secondly, how selfish is this girl that she just completely disrupts her whole family’s lives without even thinking it will actually help (“‘I really think it will help,’ I said, not believing that at all.”) and then forgets that the move affects them, too?
And another thing with this whole moving situation: as a parent, I know that you want to do what is best for your child. I get it, completely. But her mother is a psychologist, too, and I think she should realize that maybe Mara’s psychologist might know what she’s talking about. And if you don’t want to send her into a facility, get a second opinion. Maybe a third, or a fourth. And if it gets to the point where moving is the ONLY option, then do it. I understand that in this story the character needed to move, but this could have been handled so much more realistically. And did she really need to move? I know in the prologue it says that she has made up the name Mara Dyer for herself, that it’s not her real name, so I thought that maybe she needed to move because she’s part of the Witness Protection Program or something, but it’s possible that Hodkin could have just moved them to a close suburb or something, and that way the family wouldn’t have had to sacrifice SO much. (Oh, and it really annoys me that there wasn’t any closure with the prologue at the end of this book.)
It got pretty dark in this book and some people might think that’s why I didn’t like it. And to be honest, I wasn’t a fan of some of the parts (like the whole dog part), but the fact that the book was dark was really the least of my problems with it. Another thing that really bothered me was there were lots of little irrelevant things thrown in. For example: “There were a few girls in the bathroom of indeterminate age, but they paid no attention to me as they left.” What does their age matter? There were tons of little instances like this, and it just kind of drove me crazy. Also, at one point, Mara “absentmindedly” draws a PERFECT picture of Noah. I’m sorry, but I don’t think even the best artists could draw a perfect picture of someone without even realizing they’re doing it.
I also just really didn’t like the characters. I didn’t like Mara from the beginning, and I didn’t like Noah much, either. I don’t mind the fact that Mara’s an unreliable narrator–in fact, if the story is done well, I love an unreliable narrator–but I just never really liked her at all. I kind of liked Noah a little until it got to the part where they hear a chicken get its head cut off and Mara freaks out and then Noah calls her a hypocrite because she eats meat. Just because you eat meat doesn’t mean you want to hear or see an animal get killed. And I just feel like they were such jerks to each other. I’ll never really understand relationships like that.
And that teacher who throws things at her students–what??? They go to a PRIVATE SCHOOL. There’s NO WAY that a teacher could get away with that with all the kids who would report it to their rich parents! There would be lawyers getting involved so fast…
I know that these are all little things, but they just all add up to so much that bothered me. Plus, I really felt like I didn’t know what was going on throughout most of the book. There was a change and I did not know that the book was actually paranormal. I was expecting something Sci-Fi or at least something like Dexter. I guess I kept expecting it to be like Inception and Memento, because of that one review I read a long time ago. And yes, I understand that those movies are not the easiest to follow, and can be very confusing. But when those kinds of stories are done well, you understand at least most of it at the end. I still really have no clue what’s going on in this book.
A Couple of Redeeming Factors…
I do like that a lot of this book talks about The Three Theban Plays, because I love those! And I enjoyed one of the twists at the end of the book. I didn’t see it coming, but then again I didn’t see a lot of the book coming, but this was the only one that was a surprise and didn’t confuse me. And there were some Harry Potter references and a Willy Wonka reference, so I was happy about that.
And I also really liked this line: “I twisted my arm to curl him behind me and he unfolded there, the two of us snuggled like quotation marks in his room full of words.” Unfortunately, these factors weren’t really enough to bring up my overall opinion of this book.
My rating for The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin:
I hate to do it, but it must be done. You may wonder why I didn’t just DNF it, but I just wanted to love it so much and so many bloggers loved it that I was just holding on to hope that I would end up loving it. Instead, I took two weeks to read it and wrote 14 pages of ranting notes. I’ve heard the second book is much better, and I’m willing to give it a try, but only if bloggers REALLY think I will enjoy it despite all my issues with the first book.
Be sure to check out some other reviews that I’ve listed below–I’m definitely in the minority when it comes to my opinion of this book.