Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on November 7th 2017
Genres: Paranormal, Young Adult
Pages: 384 •Format: eARC •Source: NetGalley
Everyone thinks seventeen-year-old Noah Shaw has the world on a string.
Mara Dyer is the only one he trusts with his secrets and his future.
And both are scared that uncovering the truth about themselves will force them apart.
*MASSIVE thank you to Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers for providing an ARC via NetGalley*
I do not know how I was #blessed enough to get approved for The Becoming of Noah Shaw on NetGalley, but the bookish gods must have been smiling upon me because I was- and almost screamed out loud at work when the approval email came through on my phone. The original Mara Dyer trilogy is absolutely one of the best series I’ve read, YA or otherwise, and the eerie, haunting feel of it is unmatched. It’s committed to its aesthetic, from everything to the writing style to the cover designs to the titles. So of course when I heard their was going to be a spinoff series from Noah’s POV, of course I was going to read it, even if I wasn’t sure how the tale was going to continue after the revelations in The Retribution of Mara Dyer. However, Michelle Hodkin continues her unsettling series seamlessly in a new state with a new plot and new supporting characters, while still pulling the frightening threads that wove the first three novels into such a haunting tale like a masterful puppeteer.
First and foremost, The Becoming of Noah Shaw carries the same dark and eerie vibe that the original series is so well known for. Reading it felt like a thick fog of an ominous, overcast day was hanging over both the characters and myself as the reader- which is the perfect atmosphere you want when reading a paranormal thriller! While the tone of the writing style was consistent with the original books, the script was flipped getting to read from Noah’s first person POV. While Noah doesn’t feel like quite as an unreliable narrator as Mara, it was fascinating seeing her through a narrative’s eyes that weren’t her own (and she was totally, totally creepy). Noah’s POV was also brasher, sexier, and more reckless than Mara’s- pretty much everything you would expect from a British bad boy with a supernatural chip on his shoulder. I applaud Michelle Hodkin a thousand times over for being able to write such distinct POVs between Mara and Noah.
There was also, thankfully for me, a good amount of recap from the previous series (while not feeling like an info-dump). I didn’t have time to reread the original trilogy before reading this (though I most certainly will be soon) but enough reminders about key events were worked into the narrative naturally that I didn’t feel lost even though it’s been about three years since I read the original trilogy. I was able to comfortably fall back into the universe Hodkin created, revisiting old favorite characters (Daniel! Jamie!) and meeting new ones who both repulsed me and who I adored (Goose is my new favorite character, I want a book just about him! I loved how he just rolled with everything). While the mystery and plot of this book builds off of the previous installments but is definitely still new, I appreciated elements from the original trilogy that made their way into this book, specifically the focus on different types of archetypes. In the original trilogy there is discussion surrounding Carl Jung and his famous psychological archetypes, with Mara notably being assigned the role of the Shadow Self. In this novel, the characters discuss the Dungeons & Dragons archetypes and how they relate to the members of their group and how they may influence their motivations (lawful good, chaotic neutral, chaotic good, etc.- this stuff is really fascinating, I highly recommend checking it out) and I found this to be so interesting and also helpful, as it helps the reader to make sense of characters who are sometimes so unsettling and unpredictable.
In order the stay away from spoiler territory, I’ll refrain from discussing plot specifics too much. However, I will say that just because we’re not reading about creepy Horizons and crazy Dr. Kells doesn’t mean that this book doesn’t have its own scare factor that can hold its own against the others. There’s a lot of build up from the events that happened in the previous novels, and we start to learn even more about the manifestation of the characters’ powers and meet more teens with them and learn about an even wider variety of their “gifts.” Readers also get a glimpse into how other teens have coped with their paranormal abilities and how its impacted their life, which was an element I was really fascinated by and appreciated, that Michelle Hodkin writes about such unsettling and extreme circumstances yet doesn’t pretend they exist in a vacuum and thinks about the real ramifications they would have on the characters’ lives, even off what we see on the page. The epilogue of the novel was also incredible to- shocking and crazy yet it felt so perfect too, like I was just WAITING for this reveal to happen since book one. There were also a lot of letters and journal entries peppered throughout the story that helped tie past and present together, and I’m really excited to see how they look in a finished copy.
Overall: The Becoming of Noah Shaw was incredible. It kept the unique and unsettling aesthetic of the previous three books while also doing justice to a new narrator and letting the reader see Mara from outside her own head, which was so interesting because readers of the original trilogy were with her through so much. While I at times missed the Florida setting and Mara’s family, I loved getting to learn more about Noah’s past and learn more about his family and estate in the UK. The ending of the novel has a worthy plot twist, and though it left me reeling and almost a bit unsure of what I read, I loved that I can still be surprised by this series, and in a big way. If you’re a fan of the original Mara Dyer trilogy, The Becoming of Noah Shaw will be a HUGE highlight of your 2017 reading year.