Title: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer #1)
Author: Michelle Hodkin
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Children's Publishing
Released: 27th September 2011
Well, that was different.
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is definitely unlike any other YA book I can remember reading. It's darker, creepier, and there are abolutely no mythical creatures to speak of. That's not to say the only YA books I read are supernatural, but you get what I mean. That difference made itself known from the very first page - the very first sentence, in fact. And with that sentence, igniting that first spark of curiosity, of a need to know more, you find yourself trapped in Mara's world.
Mara Dyer wakes up in hospital to learn that her three friends died in an accident - an accident which should have killed her, too. The price of living is that she can't remember anything about what happened. To get away from it all - or rather, to ease the weight of Mara's mother's constantly watchful gaze - the family move. But it's not the new beginning they're hoping for. Instead Mara finds herself haunted by nightmares and hallucinations that aren't actually nightmares and hallucinations. And that's not even counting the dead bodies.
The first thing I liked was the way the author interwove the past and present. I loved seeing the flashbacks, acquainting us with her past and memories as she herself recalled them. It gave a more complete view of the situation and Mara's life without feeling disconnected or disjointed. Mara's state of confusion also came across really well, right from the beginning. We were able to empathise when she didn't understand what was going on. When the lines between reality and dream blurred, I felt just as confused as she did. I say confused like it's a good thing, although for me there were times when it also made my enjoyment for the book slip. Sometimes the transitions didn't work, instead making me wonder what just happened. However, generally the panic and uncertainty was really well crafted. Something that bugged me was the way her family treated her. While I understood their concern, what I didn't understand was their need to treat her like she couldn't make her own decisions or be her own person. They didn't trust her strength or ability to handle things. The way Daniel intersected with his private conversation with Noah meant that he was giving away a piece of her that wasn't his to give away. Between him and his mother, I felt very frustrated.
I didn't feel any connection to Noah at first - and when I say at first, I mean at least the first half of the book. He was just an arrogant guy. Who smoked. Who was nowhere near as amazing as Jamie. But then we get to know more about him, about the guy he really is, about the fact that despite his reputation, this time it's different. He had his own vulnerabilities, his own insecurities. And while I didn't agree with some of the things he'd done, he also recognised that they weren't exactly things to be proud of. It was sweet to see how his feelings for Mara changed him, and touching to see how much he cared for her. I loved that he was so willing to be there for her and to help her where others would simply have been disgusted. I loved that he tried to reason with Mara and keep her from changing herself irrevocably. The last few scenes between them were heart-rendering. In the end, he turned out to be strong, serious and adorable.
The end. How. Amazing. Was that. Like a few others, I found my attention waning for a chunk of it, but then BAM! Out of nowhere comes this...this...awesomeness. First there's this incredibly intense scene between Noah and Mara, and then confusion and stuff is happening and you're wondering what's going to happen now. Then this beautiful presentation of Mara, detached, but broken, her voice coming across perfectly. Then her heart-breaking sacrifice, and then that cliffhanger. Where did that come from?
There. That wasn't too spoilery, was it? ;) (I hope not, anyway.)
Overall, this was an intriguing read. I did toy with the idea of giving it 3.5 stars, but then the ending came along and upped it. It's dark, engaging, and perfect if you're looking for something different to read.