December 6, 2011

Book Review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
Genre: YA mystery with a touch of paranormal

I swallowed this book whole while down in Charleston and then got to go and see Michelle Hodkin speak about how she ended up writing this, her first novel. She was working as a lawyer in New York and happened upon a woman who was suing the owners of an abandoned house after said house collapsed on, and almost killed, her daughter. Hodkin referred them to someone who might be able to help them and went about her business. A long time later, she found herself wondering what had happened to the pair, so she Googled them and couldn't find one scrap of information. She kept asking herself what could have happened to them; this book is her fictional answer to that question.

The book opens up telling the reader that the main character is probably a killer, then sends us back in time to when she woke up in the hospital with no memory of the house collapse that killed three of her friends. The family pick themselves up and move from New England to Miami, hoping to give Mara a fresh start. But from the moment Mara starts attending her fancy new school, her PTSD--and the extremely sexy, extremely aggravating boy who seems to pop up everywhere--continue to haunt her. Until she starts dreaming about the night of the accident and realizes that she might not just be a victim; she might also be a killer.

First of all, look at that cover... outSTANDING. It sets the perfect tone for this fast-paced, surprisingly funny mystery thriller. This is a deliciously creepy story. I love the way Hodkin uses the horrors of PTSD to explore a young girl's search for meaning in a world that, for her, just isn't making sense. Her narrative voice is one of the best things about this novel: fresh, acerbic, witty and well crafted. And then you've got Noah, whose British accent and wayward rebelliousness make him a character after my own heart. Hodkin makes their relationship crackle with a sexual tension so taut that it almost leaps off the page at you. I tried not to rip the pages as I followed Mara through some pretty bizarre circumstances, trying to figure out whether what she was seeing was real or imagined.

I will say that there were moments where the love story bordered on becoming too big a focus: I'm not a fan of the whole "he is so pretty and suave, how could be possibly like me?" scenario. But overall, the connection between Mara and Noah makes for a fun ride. Be prepared for a mother of a cliffhanger ending, though: good thing she's got the sequel coming out in 2012. I'll be pre-ordering that one!

If you're not sold on this book yet check out the book trailer, which is definitely the best I've ever seen:

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