Book Review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michele Hodkin

Mara Dyer can’t remember anything about the accident that killed her friends and left her alone in an abandoned building.  Her family moves from Rhode Island to Miami in hopes of leaving the past behind, but it’s hard when Mara keeps seeing her dead friends.  Then she meets the gorgeous Noah Shaw, and things get even more complicated.

Hodkin’s much-hyped debut novel seems to be fairly divisive amongst readers.  Reviewers seem to either love or hate Mara’s (questionable) story.  I’m sorry to say that I fall somewhere in the middle.  A muddled direction, too many subplots, and in need of some desperate editing, Hodkin’s psychological-supernatural-crime story will resonate with fans of Hush, Hush and Hourglass but will leave other readers out in the cold.

There are elements that work in Hodkin’s book.  She manages to set up the story so that as Mara remembers details about the past, readers are jarred into Mara’s darkness.  The snippets of memories are creepy, slightly sinister, and absolutely engaging.  However, as Mara becomes more embroiled in her romance with the rather bland Noah Shaw (seriously?  British and rich do not characterization make), the story loses steam and moves away from psychological thriller to limp supernatural romance.

Strong prose dominates the novel.  Much of Mara’s story is engaging, and Hodkin has definitely created some strange, attractive characters for readers to latch onto.  However, Hodkin is also guilty of providing too much detail, which adds to the book’s excessive length (it could easily have been 100 pages shorter).  The book’s twist near the end sets it up for a potentially entertaining sequel, but it might leave readers scratching their heads in confusion, too.

Overall a very ambitious debut with enormous potential, this book will work best for those who like their supernatural reads a little creepy with a healthy dose of romance.  Once the series figures out what it wants to be, it could end up being great.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin.  Simon & Schuster: 2011.  Library copy.

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