The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin (Simon Pulse)
Michelle Hodkin’s The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is one of the most intense and creepiest books that I’ve read in a long, long time. It’s a compelling and engaging story made all the more chilling by the fact the book, in some parts, are inspired by real events.
Having said that, you should probably know that The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea.
The reason for this is that, Mara Dyer, for all of its gritty and edgy storytelling, is not a straightforward read.
The book has a habit of moving between what’s real and what’s not, so much so, that you’re often left feeling utterly bewildered by many of the events that take place within the book.
The novel kicks off when Mara, who is a high school student, wakes up from a horrific accident in which her boyfriend, her best friend and her boyfriend’s sister have all died after an old, abandoned building (once an asylum) collapses on them.
With no recollection of the events that led to the demise of her friends, doctors suggest that she and her family move to a new city to start over in the hopes of helping her to deal with her trauma, her memory loss and the constant reminders of what she’s lost.
But starting over is anything but easy for Mara. For one, the dead faces of her friends start showing up wherever she goes and, for another, she seems to have developed an ability to see people’s deaths right before they actually happen.
It’s not long before Mara starts skirting on the edges of a breakdown, questioning her own sanity as she tries to decide what’s real and what’s not. To complicate matters even further, her new school’s resident bad boy (who may have a few interesting secrets of his own) refuses to leave her alone.
What’s happening to her? Is she going crazy? Is there something more sinister at hand and most importantly, what is her fractured mind trying to hide regarding the truth of the events that led to the death of her friends?
Call me twisted, but I get a huge kick out of reading books that mess with my mind. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer? It’s definitely a book that plays on your senses and keeps you on edge throughout the entire novel.
The brilliance of this novel lies in the fact you as the reader, are every bit as unsure of where the lines between reality and hallucinations blur as Mara is. Just when you think things are clear-cut, reality shifts and makes way for disturbing revelations that are, in fact, not always hallucinations.
What’s even better is, that when you realise that some of the hallucinations are in fact an actuality, the book takes on a completely different dimension, adding a paranormal element that’s both insidious and fascinating in its pervasive and sinister creepiness.
To be fair, I do think Mara is character that’s not necessarily easy to like. Personally, I loved her, but the fact that she’s a broken, angst-filled, tormented and at times, angry character who is given to bouts of woe-is-me moments, won’t win her much sympathy with a few.
Also, you should be warned that because the subject matter is dark, and we’re dealing with the unravelling of a young girl’s mind, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer does not make for a happy read.
Of course, I am a firm believer that books that border on the twisted side, should have a little light in them to balance things out and luckily for us, Michelle Hodkin more than obliges when it comes to the romantic element of the story.
Boy, were some of those scenes just swoon-worthy! And Noah Shaw, Mara’s love interest, is a bona fide bad boy completely worth crushing on. I love a good, realistic pacing of romantic moments between characters, and Michelle has managed to pace the romantic sub-plot in a way that’s funny, realistic, steamy and sweet.
The most interesting aspect about the novel is Mara. Her journey isn’t just fascinating because she seems to be falling apart, but when the reason for the deaths of her friends are revealed, you’re left reeling because the twist that comes with the revelation is definitely not what you’ll be expecting.
Of course, the fact that she’s based on a girl that’s very real will have you wondering, just what part of the book is the closest to the truth and what part is fiction (Michelle is very clever in the sense that she doesn’t reveal all about what is true and what’s not, leaving the reader to decide between that which is fact and that which is fiction).
So, does the revelation about herself make up for the moments of Mara perceives as insanity?
Well, based on the cliffhanger ending, I’d say that the reader will only find out how Mara deals with everything she learns and has learnt about herself, in the next book, The Evolution of Mara Dyer.
Do yourselves a favour and get yourself a copy - this may prove to be one of the most disturbing and interesting books you’ll read this year. I can’t wait for the second one!
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