At BEA, there was one author and one book that I kept seeing over and over again. Jackie, our comics blogger, even commented to me that Michelle Hodkin was everywhere. We got free ARCs, free t-shirts, heard her editor talking it up at a panel, and noticed Michelle herself getting interviewed on a stage… All because of a little book she wrote called The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer.
Curious? I was. That’s a lot of hype around a brand-new author. I guess her publicity team did their job correctly, because all the while as I was working through the stacks of advanced copies I got at BEA, my mind, my curiosity, kept returning to that book.
The story starts out like oh-so-many YA books do these days, with the protagonist starting a new school and a boy popping up into her sites. But whereas in a lot of these books the boy becomes the obsessive focus, Mara is just trying to stay sane. Now living in Florida, Mara and her family moved from New England after a tragic accident took the life of three of Mara’s friends, including her best friend Rachel and her then-boyfriend Jude. Mara, there with them, was the only one to survive. Suffering from what the doctors’ diagnosted as PTSD, they moved to help Mara and start a new life.
Things keep popping up and freaking Mara out, however, even in her new home. She keeps thinking she sees her newly-dead friends behind her, in mirrors, and hearing them laugh over her shoulder. It’s really starting to mess with her mind. Even worse, horrible things keep happening when she’s around, and she doesn’t understand how she’s tied to them.
This whole book was brilliant. I thoroughly enjoyed following the story as it was slowly revealed over the course of the entire novel what really happened that night with Mara and her friends. Hodkin stretches it out perfectly, mixing the revelations up with the current story. And then there’s Noah. God, I’m a sucker for an accent (he’s British), and though he was the book’s hot brooding man, he was written in such a way that he felt fresh. Yes, he definitely had me swooning once or twice, as much as you can swoon over a character in a book, anyway!
The hardest part of the book for me was waiting. I read this while on a road trip, and my poor friend Maria had to put up with me yelling at the book numerous times, asking it to just “tell me what’s going on!” It was killing me, not knowing what Mara was, if she was even anything, and why all this stuff was happening around her. My book-sharp brain ran through every possibility in my head—vampire? Fairy? Wizard? Spirit? Something else?—and it was so incredibly hard not to read ahead to find it out. The ending was great though, and I’m glad I didn’t jump ahead as the story is presented itself in such a way that it would have ruined the pacing and the way that the author reveals the truth.
Was it worth all the hype and publicity? I’d say yes. It was excellently written, thought-provoking, created tension, had great back-story, and included a lovely romance element to wrap it all up into a perfect little book bow. You’ll find yourself asking, just as I did, “Who is Mara Dyer?” Which, incidentally, is what is written on the free shirts they were giving out. Yeah, they nailed it on the head with that one! Definitely worth the read, and one of the most interesting, non-traditional YA books I’ve read in a while.
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is out today, September 27th, 2011.