Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

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.

This book left me with such mixed feelings. The story starts out well, with a mystery as to how Mara survived an accident that killed her friends. She’d blocked out the memory of that night, and I liked how it gradually came back to her in pieces. I really like it when I get to discover the story right along with the character, so I had high hopes this was going to keep me intrigued. And it did, for the first half or so.

After that, things started getting…strange. The paranormal aspect was introduced, but it conflicted with Mara’s real world problems. As a result, I didn’t know what to think about any of it, and not necessarily in a good way. I don’t mind not knowing, but I love it when I find out the big secret and then all of the clues suddenly fall into place. That didn’t really happen in the story.

The twist on the last page wasn’t as shocking as Mara makes it out to be. Sure, she’d been questioning everything since page one, and she explained away her glimpses to her own doubts. That makes sense on its own, but there were other clues that she just kept explaining away. There was too much of that, for my taste. I wanted to see her question her questions, and throw herself into complete confusion. Then again, if she had done that, it probably would have changed the ending.

Which brings me to the ending… I really, really didn’t like Mara at the end. She takes a 180 degree turn and does something that doesn’t fit her character, especially for the situation, and I lost pretty much all sympathy for her after that. I understand that we all make bad choices, and she made the worst choice that anyone can make. If she’d been caught up in a highly tense and stressful situation, her actions would have, understandably, stemmed from that. But she wasn’t. She was calm and made a conscious decision to do what she did, ruining three lives in the process instead of one. Well, four if you include Mara. That’s a disturbingly cold thing she did, and I didn’t particularly care as she realizes the huge mistake she’d made. I felt she deserved her suffering. Perhaps that’s how the title fits in with the story—Mara becomes Unbecoming. For me, it didn’t work at all and brought my enjoyment down several notches.

The rest of the book is okay, mostly saturated with a romance between Mara and Noah, the typical hot-jerk-boyfriend. I wish there weren’t so many stories with this kind of boyfriend, but there you go. There’s nothing really new with their romance. I liked watching Mara sort through her memories and try to figure things out, though I do wish that we’d have gotten a clear image of the single most important memory in the story. The fact that we didn’t makes me feel like I’m being manipulated into buying the next book. Not the way I want to end a story.

So, I don’t know. I guess I see this as a story that had a huge amount of potential, but didn’t live up to it. I might give the next book a 20-page try, but I honestly won’t know until it comes out. Until then…


Kelly Hashway said...

Hmm, I've heard good things about this book. Everyone seemed to be anticipating its release, but then again no one knew the ending before reading it. I think I'm going to read this and see what you are talking about.

Tabitha said...

Glad to hear it! I love it when I write a less than glowing review, and people still want to read the book. :)

There have been lots of responses surrounding this book. Some people love it, and some hate it. There aren't many in between. A few of us have been having an interesting discussion about the end of this book on Goodreads. That discussion is what's prompting me to give the next book a try. :)

Matthew MacNish said...

Interesting take. I haven't read it.

Anne E. Johnson said...

I haven't read this, but you make a really interesting point about the paranormal elements conflicting with the real-life problems. Something for authors to be conscious of!

Jean Henry Mead said...

An intriguing book and definitely on my TB list.

Ruth Schiffmann said...

My daughter had been caught up in the hype around this one too, but was disappointed with it as well. She really didn't enjoy it at all - until the twist at the end. She also posted a less than glowing review on her blog. I'll pass on this one.