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Review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

This book first caught my attention in an online ad many months before it came out, though I can’t remember where. I’m the sort who finds cover art critical in influencing my fiction choices–which some may say is superficial, but I find that a good cover just sets the mood like candles might do for a romantic dinner–and this one had me hook, line and sinker.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

It’s lush, angsty, mysterious, dark and beautiful all at once. There was so little information available about the book (probably intentionally) that it only added to the mystique. I added it to my amazon wish list so I wouldn’t forget about it. It’s been at the top of my “books I will pay full price for” list ever since the release date, and last night I broke down and downloaded it to my Kindle Fire.

The $199 price tag of said device is the only thing that kept me from throwing the bloody book across the room when I finished it tonight.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer starts off flawlessly. The first chapter features Mara, her best friend and a not-so-best friend playing with a Ouija board. This is a flashback, so we already know that Mara killed (or believes she killed) these girls, so you won’t be surprised when the board spells it out for them. But WOW is it still creepy. (Go ahead, read the sample. I dare you. And then you’ll want to read this book, and boooy you might regret it. But the prologue was magic.)

After the accident (or was it??) that claims the lives of her friends, Mara and her family move to a new city, and she starts a new school and attempts to make new friends. Which is all well and good, but the story slowly becomes more and more confusing from here on out. I get that we’ve got an unreliable narrator here. The girl has serious blank spots in her memory and might just be delusional and/or psychotic. One minute we’re going along perfectly normal, and then she sees a dead girl’s face in the mirror, or imagines (or does she??) something happening, or the dogs are afraid of her, or her brother is conspiring with her to keep her mom from having her committed….

The flow just didn’t work for me. Even when Mara was telling us that she thinks she’s hallucinating or that she’s not, to theoretically give us some guideposts, I sometimes had trouble keeping up. It was more confusing than it needed to be to get the point across. The result was that I started skimming whole pages, trying to get to information that mattered.

Mara meets a guy, and he’s one of those slightly snotty, slacker-y rebel types who just happens to be gorgeous and have a really rich family. All of the popular girls hate her because the guy, Noah, likes her where he’s never truly liked any girl before her. Now, don’t get me wrong. I can dig this sort of hero, given the right novel. Archer in Hex Hall, for instance, was fabulous. I gave Noah a real fighting chance to win me over, and while I can’t say that I hated him (he was likeable enough, I suppose), he never really came to life. His relationship with Mara seems to happen because the plot mandates it will happen, not because of any real chemistry.

Some may lambast me for saying this, but…at least Bella and Edward had chemistry. *ducks*

Eventually, you learn that Noah has some secrets of his own, but I almost skimmed right past them, honestly. The revelation didn’t blow me away, and neither did the subsequent pages as he and Mara try to figure out what’s going on with her. Again, the flow was off. It felt disjointed, like each piece of the plot was a puzzle piece forced into place even though the shape wasn’t quite right.

I was still dying to finish the book, because I kept waiting and waiting for the big reveal. I was trying to put all of the important bits together into all of the possible solutions, to see if I could guess it before the book was over.

What I figured out was that very little of that “important” stuff actually mattered, because the story stopped before it actually managed to use any of it.

That’s right. It’s a cliffhanger.

Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that it’s the first in a series? Well, APPARENTLY SO DID THE AMAZON PAGE. Sneaky bastards. I know I shouldn’t be surprised, but COME ON. I’m getting really sick of young adult novels that give us no (and I do mean NO) resolution. Up until now, I thought it was relegated to Meg Cabot novels (Airhead pissed me off, but Abandon nearly made me give up reading her, for real) and a few others that I managed to avoid thanks to kind amazon reviewers, but this one caught me off guard. It really looked liked a standalone sort of novel.

Le sigh.

So. Long story short. I’m pissed off that it was a cliffhanger, and without any of the resolution that made me stick through an oddly confusing narrative, I’m not sure why I bothered. I’m pretty sure I won’t bother with the sequel.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars (the half star for its potential and the cover art)

*

And the tally now is:

  1. The Fairy Godmother by Mercedes Lackey
  2. One Good Knight by Mercedes Lackey
  3. Fortune’s Fool by Mercedes Lackey
  4. The Snow Queen by Mercedes Lackey
  5. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
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