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

This book was a powerful and creepy read that fits perfectly into the YA paranormal genre.

3/5 stars

cover the unbecoming of mara dyer

Amazon Description

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.
After Mara survives the traumatizing accident at the old asylum, it makes sense that she has issues. She lost her best friend, her boyfriend, and her boyfriend’s sister, and as if that weren’t enough to cope with, her family moves to a new state in order to give her a fresh start. But that fresh start is quickly filled with hallucinations—or are they premonitions?—and then corpses, and the boundary between reality and nightmare is wavering. At school, there’s Noah, a devastatingly handsome charmer who seems determined to help Mara piece together what’s real, what’s imagined—and what’s very, very dangerous.
This fast-paced psychological—or is it paranormal?—thriller will leave you breathless for its sequel,The Evolution of Mara Dyer.

My Review

I used to be really into YA paranormal books, but I fell out of that phase a few years ago, and since then, I’ve been more focused on fantasy and contemporary stories. I’d always seen the series in bookstores but I’d never bought it, so when I received it as a gift, I decided I could return to the paranormal genre for a little while.

Mara was a good protagonist. I clearly understood her personality and I enjoyed her voice. The PTSD she faced affected her severely, but her character had other facets as well. While I usually don’t like PTSD-dominated stories, the hallucinations and other inexplicable oddities that occurred around Mara were so creepy and thrilling that I actually loved them. After the mysterious trauma that pushed her family to move to Florida, it was obvious that Mara was damaged, but there was always the question of where the mental illness ended and the truly supernatural weirdness began. I couldn’t stop reading; I had to know what was in her mind and how the rest of it could be explained. (But more on that later.)

Like most paranormal stories, the romance is a driving force of the plot. Noah was a great character–hot, mysterious, supportive, flirty. From the first scene with him, I knew that he was going to be a strong love interest; scenes with him were easily my favorite scenes in the story.

However, his relationship with Mara had a heavy dose of Instalove. Noah went from being this bad boy (and I honestly believed him to be the player that everyone said he was) to the ultimate caring and compassionate boyfriend for Mara. He made sweeping declarations of love and stood by Mara even as corpses appeared around her. I understood why Mara loved him and needed him in her life–he helped her heal, he believed in her, he added normalcy to her life–but I didn’t understand why Noah suddenly dropped everything for this girl. (Even the explanation given later in the book–spoilers–didn’t satisfy me.)

The romance was swoon-worthy and addictive, but if you are looking for a developed or complex relationship, this book does not deliver. Noah was a great character to read about, but the mechanics of why he was even part of the story (before certain things are revealed) are vague and unrealistic.

Like the romantic subplot, the plot of this book is fast-paced and gripping. The plot grabbed me from the early chapters and didn’t let me go; I had trouble falling asleep because I couldn’t stop thinking about what was going to happen next. The battle between insanity and paranormalcy was dark and haunting, and I genuinely had moments where I wondered if Mara was insane.

Unfortunately, this became a problem. The paranormal elements were revealed too late in the story, leaving the plot arc feeling unbalanced for me. The “is she crazy” aspects could have been toned down more to allow the paranormal side of the story (which was remarkably interesting) to stand out more. As it was, the story ended with me unsure of what Mara’s paranormal skills actually were. I love understanding the mechanics of a book’s magics, and this book left me unsatisfied and confused.

Overall, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is a solid paranormal story. It doesn’t have any plot elements that set it apart from other books the (in my opnion) “meh” genre. If you love insanity/paranormal stories, then this book is a must-read. I will definitely finish the series, but I don’t expect the later books to be anything other than creepy stories dominated by romance.

8 thoughts on “Book Review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer #1) by Michelle Hodkin

  1. I completely agree with your entire review! I loved Mara, and while I loved Noah as well and they’re relationship, you definitely got that sense of instalove. I still have to read the last book but I enjoyed the second one as well 🙂

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  2. I completely agree with you! I thought the entire story was just okay, but what kept me interested was the romance between them. I kind of got addicted to it(haha) I did finish the trilogy last month. I’m looking forward to hearing what you think of the next book.

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