My rating: 5/5 Stars!
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (2011)
Length: 466 pgs
Series: Mara Dyer Trilogy, #1
Format: Paperback, purchased from Amazon
Mara Dyer doesn’t think life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.
She believes there must be more to the accident she can’t remember that killed her friends and left her mysteriously unharmed.
She doesn’t believe that after everything she’s been through, she can fall in love.
Warning: This review may contain mild spoilers.
This book has given me my biggest book hang over of 2014. I finished it about three days ago and I don’t know what to do with myself. I can’t read, I can’t sleep, I can hardly manage to hold a conversation with someone regarding anything other than this book. This magnitude of a book hangover is annoying yet fantastic, because it means the book really got under my skin and made me think.
I’ll admit, I spent a great deal of this book being confused. Most of my Goodreads status updates while reading this had many incoherent capital letters and question marks, because just when I thought I was beginning to understand what was going on, I got thrown for a loop. I’m still not sure whether this book is “paranormal fiction” or a “psychological thriller,” because Mara is a truly unreliable narrator, and she’s very candid about this fact. I thought it was really intriguing to see her struggle with PTSD and the lengths she goes to to avoid being medicated, and having a mother as a psychologist and a father as a criminal defense lawyer add multiple layers to the family dynamic as well, and how that may or may not be influencing her hallucinations and visions. I also really liked that Mara is a biracial child, and how hints of both of her cultural backgrounds (European-Caucasian and Indian) are subtly integrated into the story.
While reading this book I appreciated Hodkin’s ability to make me care so much about multiple aspects of Mara’s life. I was dying to receive more clarity about her traumatic accident that could help to explain her PTSD and hallucinations, but at the same time I was just as interested in her school and domestic life, finding empathy or hatred for her schoolmates who (as of now, anyways) seem to be unrelated to her potential paranormal powers and strange “episodes.” (I was SO MAD when I found out what happened to poor, poor Jamie!) Yes, there is a romance, and yes, the way it is introduced is not the most original (bad boy in the school seems to single out the main protagonist for no reason other than she’s the only one not interested, pursues her even though she refuses at first, turns out to have some sort of tortured past and is really just a misunderstood soul, etc). Yet I found I liked the verbal sparring between Noah and Mara and their raw teenage humor and interactions were uncensored and therefore rather realistic. Despite telling myself that Noah is a cliché, I can’t help but like his character, and Hodkin keeps me interested in him because I never quite know what his angle is, because I never quite know if the interactions Mara has with him are real or not.
And the plot twists! While I was reading there were multiple instances when I was thrown by where the story was headed, and the twist and the end was more than I could bear, when the reader finds out something Mara thought was real then realized was a hallucination was actually real feeding off her belief that she was having hallucinations (are you confused yet?) It was so eerie and I literally gasped out loud and cried “WHAT!” much to the dismay of my startled cats. This book keeps readers on their toes, and the final reveal at the end made me want to go back and reread the book immediately just so I could try to dissect fact from fiction, real from paranormal from psychotic episode.
I admit there were some issues with this book. The “paranormal” revelations (aka certain abilities the main character’s may or may not have) seem a little disjointed with all of the PTSD induced symptoms Mara is having, and I’m still not sure what to believe. There were a lot of plot devices introduced that were not explained (like the link between the missing Florida girl and Mara) and sometimes the dialogue made me wince a little, and it almost seemed like Hodkin was breaking the fourth wall and having Mara think something for the benefit of trying to make the audience aware of her teenage-self. But reviews are subjective, and this book stayed with me, had so many layers and twists that I never got bored, and I just cannot wait to read the next book (I immediately ordered the sequel from Amazon upon finishing and was informed it would take 1-3 weeks to ship. Why, Amazon, WHY?) The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer seems to be a book readers either hate to love or love to hate, but I found myself drawn in to Mara’s eerie, unreliable world, and I loved it!
What I Loved:
- The psychological thriller elements
- Hodkin’s ability to set an eerie tone
- Not knowing who or what to trust while reading
- Mara and Noah’s relationship (which I know is kind of cliché at times but hey, I’m not claiming to be a literary elitist)
- I just could not put it down!
What I Didn’t Care For:
- I was somewhat confused 99% of the time to be honest (it kind of made me feel the way I feel after I watch the movie Inception, which to this day after countless people trying to explain to me, I do not fully understand)
- Some of the dialogue was a little cheesy
- There are some holes in the plot but I’m chalking that up to more mysteries to be explained in the next two installments!
Overall: I’m not quite sure what happened, but I loved it. Buy it. Read it. Love it. And then come back and talk to me about it! I’m obsessed and I can’t stop thinking about it!