The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, by Michelle Hodkin

This book has such a fantastic hook. Narrator Mara Dyer wakes up in the hospital with no recollection of how she got there. After sneaking into an abandoned asylum with her boyfriend and two friends, the building collapsed, and she’s the only one who not only survived but is physically unharmed. Why was she spared? As part of her post traumatic stress disorder, she has hallucinations about her dead friends. Or are they? Can she piece together her repressed memories about that fateful night?

Seriously, doesn’t that sound awesome? Couple that hook with the stunning cover, and it’s clear why people would want to read this book. So I picked up a copy when the Kindle edition was on sale—as first parts of a series are often sold at a discounted price—and finally got around to reading it.

There really is a lot to enjoy in this book. The set-up is fantastic. Her hallucinations—or whatever they may be—are definitely chilling. Some of the other weird things that happen around her add to the mystery. But not everything else worked for me. Let’s itemize here, doing the best I can to avoid spoilers.

After she’s released from the hospital, her family packs up and moves from Rhode Island to Florida. Maybe a new change of scene will help with Mara’s PTSD and help jog her memories. Conveniently, her father’s a successful defense lawyer and gets a job in Miami defending an unsavory character who committed some pretty high-profile crime. This was the first thing that bothered me because it just happened, seemingly without any fuss from the rest of Mara’s family, particularly her two brothers, one of which is a senior in high school.

What bothers me more about this relocation is that it makes Mara the new girl at school—and not just any school, but a private school filled with snotty, rich one-dimensional characters who all seem to despise her. Well, almost all of them, with the exception of Jamie, the black, bisexual, Jewish boy who befriends her. Though Mara’s mother is of Indian descent, talk about wrapping up most of the book’s diversity into one character. Even worse, is that Jamie is removed from the story and never heard from again.

Then there’s Noah Shaw, the perfect, British, perfect, rich, perfect, handsome, perfect, smart, cocky, perfect man-whore who sets his sights on Mara, much to the chagrin of many of the other girls that he’s slept with and dumped at this school. A little too much perfection renders him somewhat unbelievable. Of course, Mara alternates between hating him and being interested in him. Ultimately, the reason he’s so adamant about dating her is revealed, and within the world of the story, it actually makes a lot of sense. But there’s a lot of wheel-spinning in their relationship, and after a big reveal near the end, there’s a little too much will-they/won’t-they stay together questioning.

I’ve mentioned there’s a big reveal; it’s when Mara fully remembers what happened at the asylum. It’s kinda dark, I didn’t see it coming, and I absolutely loved it. It connects really nicely with the memories that are teased out along the way and with some of the other gruesome occurrences that Mara encounters. It also connects very well with why Noah’s so obsessed with her. There’s a subplot regarding her family and her father’s client that also gets connected into this with some success. The unexpected resolution of all this shows Mara’s growth as a character, but it leads into a whopper of a cliffhanger with a final line that made my jaw drop.

I’ll probably read part two, The Evolution of Mara Dyer, eventually, but I don’t feel like I need or want to read it right away.

There’s some great suspense and chills at times in this book, and its underlying mystery has an amazing resolution, enough to earn about 4.5 stars. However, there’s a lack of fully believable characters, particularly Noah. Even Mara waffles and wavers between character types. Their relationship is less romantic and fluctuates between creepy and illogical. These flaws are unbecoming in the 2.5-star range. So I’m going with an average and giving The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer THREE AND A HALF STARS.

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The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is available at Amazon.

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