Book Review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer #1) by Michelle Hodkin

2/5 stars **

Premise- (4/5) I wanted to like this book a lot. It was dark, mysterious, and creepy. The premise doesn't give too much info, but sets up the basics: a tragic accident, the girl who inexplicably survived, and the fallout. I was definitely intrigued, though had a little trepidation about the way the hallucinations were going to be dealt with, in regards to mental health. 

Characters- (2/5) Meh. There's a whole list of stuff here. I really did like Mara, until she succumbed to Noah's 'I-really-am-a-good-guy' revelation and they started having...whatever their relationship was, I don't even know. Didn't like Noah. Guy's super possessive, doesn't know when to take a hint, and still an asshole, even if he's not the same kind of asshole he pretends to be at school. Side characters were pretty shallow, with the usual pretty, popular school bullies--though I did like Jamie quite a bit. Unfortunately, he exited mid-book and we didn't see him again afterwards. Maybe he reappears in the next book. I liked Mara's relationship with her brothers, though I thought that was going to be a little more filled out than it actually was. We didn't see her parents as much, except mostly for her difficulty confiding in her mom, the psychologist. One other thing to note: Mara's half-Indian, which would be cool if it didn't sorta feel like a copout. She mentions that she has her dad's white skin, and there's pretty much no familial cultural connection to her mom's Indian roots mentioned, except for when Mara considers wearing a sari. So, that was not great. 

Plot- (2.5/5) I liked the plot, but it dragged. There was a lot of setting-up with Mara's hallucinations, her trouble at school, her building relationship with Noah. And it was really intriguing for the first hundred or hundred and fifty pages. But then the visions started losing their punch a little because we'd already seen so much of them and things got sort of slow for a while. There were kind of a lot of things where I was like, "this didn't really need to happen," which was frustrating. I did like the twist at the end, though I thought the climax was sort of difficult to identify and short. Also, I'm really bothered by the fact that we didn't get a real explanation for WHY or HOW Mara and Noah can do what they do, just that they can. I'm sure it's coming, but I definitely wanted that from the first book. 

World- (2.5/5) Um, not much to say here. Miami felt real enough, I guess? But Croyden was pretty much like any other school in this type of novel where our not-like-other-girls protagonist struggles with cliques and such. The brief glimpses into Little Cuba were kind of cool, though Noah's rich-boy-ness felt a little uncomfortable and patronizing in that setting. 

Writing- (2.5/5) The writing was fine, pretty typical YA-style, but got a little heavy on the romance and self-punishment near the end. Mostly, I didn't like the characters, and I didn't like Mara and Noah's relationship, so that made the writing rough for me. 

Overall- (2.7/5) I wanted to like The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, but unfortunately, I wasn't impressed. Though Mara is an intriguing take on the unreliable narrator, her love interest embodies the entitled asshole "good guy" that shows up in YA literature so much, so that really bumped things down for me. The plot had a lot of potential, but left me unsatisfied and the pacing wasn't well done. Maybe I'll pick up the sequel at a library, but I won't be looking for it at any bookstores.

Trigger Warnings: sexual assault, misdiagnosed mental illness (psychosis), death, kidnapping, animal abuse