The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer (by Michelle Hodkin)

6 04 2012

Don’t believe the hype! The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer popped up so many times in the cat’s Amazon’s recommendations (though why is beyond me now!) and there’d been all this gushing over the oh so beautiful cover and the oh so incredible booktrailer… but seriously? This has got to be the  letdown of the year! It’s not so much that it’s not the type of book I expected it to be (ok, so it wasn’t), it’s that there are so many things wrong with this book that I just don’t know where to start.

The story starts off fine enough with a ‘Before’ scene that is creepy enough – though seriously, a Ouija board, that is like so passé! – to get you going, after which there’s an ‘After’ scene in which Mara, the main character, wakes up in the hospital after being the apparent sole survivor when an abandoned asylum collapsed. The victims: her best friend Rachel, her boyfriend Jude and his sister Claire. After these scenes Mara moves to Miami because her mother – a shrink – decides she needs to get away to cope with the grief. Fine, sure, whatever. Except not, of course, right? Because Mara starts seeing dead people. “To be psychotic or not to be psychotic?”is the question.  Or rather that would have been the more interesting question, if Hodkin hadn’t decided to focus on the romance part of the story… Like, please, that is just so Twilight!

Speaking of Twilight, I guess my major irk with the characters is the total stalker-sociopathic behavior of the main characters – except for Jamie, the first friend that Mara makes when she’s at her new school, and who’s just completely underdeveloped as a character. Mara, on the other hand, borders on the pathetic with her ‘I want to resist you Noah Shaw’, ‘you are of no interest to me Noah Shaw’…but then of course she secretly smiles at his actions, she almost obsessively draws him in her sketchbook, and it doesn’t really take all that much for her to go on a date with Noah Shaw, God’s gift to womankind…

Anyway, Noah, the lurrve interest: he’s know, ‘cuz he’s British and Britishness equals hotness for the American female teen target audience. We get it. But Noah is also an ass: he secretly investigates Mara. He has a bad rep for being the worst player at his high school (or is he?). He’s pushy and annoying – and yet Mara cannot seem to resist him. Mara thinks and says so many cringe-worthy things that the only possible thing I can think of is that Michelle Hodkin – a female writer – must have been suffering from temporary insanity while she was writing the character of Mara.  Ugh! And double ugh!

Because again, seriously? Let’s talk about language and style. This is probably the worst aspect of the book… bordering on fan fiction level of badness. I’m sure that the gushing Twilight crowd will call this style haunting and atmospheric, while in actual fact it’s just not good enough to make this a standout book – a first in a series even!

What is especially bad here is the almost amateur dialogue between the protagonists. Here’s a sample for you:

“How did you get my phone number?” I blurted, before I could stop myself.
“It’s called research.” I could hear him smirking over the phone.
“Or stalking.”
Noah chuckled. “You’re adorable when you’re bitchy.”
“You’re not,” I said, but smiled despite myself. (p. 178)

Or also:

I sighed. “Why do you insist on making me hate you?”
“I’m not making you hate me. I’m making you love me.”
Damn him for being right.
“So you’re giving in?” he asked. “Just like that?” (p. 266)

Or what about:

“That’s my girl.”
“I’m not your girl,” I said with more venom than I’d intended.
“Right, then,” Noah said, and looked at me with a curious stare. He raised an eyebrow. “About that.”
I didn’t know what to say, so I said nothing.
“You like me,” he finally said. “You
like me, like me.” He was trying not to smile.
“No I hate you,” I said, hoping that saying it would make it so.
“And yet, you draw me.” Noah was still smug, completely undeterred by my declaration.


What could I say? Noah, despite you being an asshole, or maybe because of it, I’d like to rip off your clothes and have your babies. Don’t tell. (p. 172)

Seriously, those are the things our female protagonist thinks and says. Besides this, there’s also a whole lot of blurting out, sighing, feeling, doing things despite themselves, and of course being inevitable drawn towards each other throughout this book. Again, Twilight much? Oh and the comparison doesn’t really end there… what with the whole ridiculously chaste sort of romance Mara and Noah are bound to have, of course.

I guess, the whole paranormal romance thing just isn’t what makes the cat go all twirly inside. I mean, damn, if I’d known that this is the direction the book would take, I probably wouldn’t have started it in the first place. So many good books, so little time. The sequel – yes, of course there is going to be a sequel – is not something the cat will be waiting for.



2 responses

24 10 2012
The Diviners (by Libba Bray) « Ringo the Cat's Blog

[…] Her newest exploit, The Diviners, was a hit even before it reached the shelves. There’s also a great advertising spielgoing on, which – although probably necessary in this day and age of dwindling book sales (e- or otherwise),  you gotta grab’em any way you can, right? – seems as over the top as an author walking around Manhattan in a cow suit. So hypes get built, great expectations arise which may or may not be met once you finally get your hands on the book. Every time a novel is built up like this, it makes the cat very wary… […]

24 09 2013
The Raven Boys (by Maggie Stiefvater) | Ringo the Cat's Blog

[…] than enough here to get the cat interested in the rest of the series (which couldn’t be said of other firsts in a series…), especially the somewhat unusual male protagonists (I feel Adam and Ronan will become quite the […]

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