Convoluted plot & stereotypical romance disappoint, 1.5 stars
In Michelle Hodkin’s debut novel, [b:The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer|8591107|The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer|Michelle Hodkin|http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51k2qFJi4HL._SL75_.jpg|13460686], Mara wakes up from a horrible accident with no memory of what happened. All she knows is what her family tells her: that her best friend, her boyfriend, and her boyfriend’s sister were crushed to death in a collapsing house, but she somehow survived. Her family soon moves to Florida when the situation gets too much to bear, but little snippets of Mara’s memories start coming back to her, painting a disturbing image of what may have happened. When the beautiful but enigmatic Noah enters the picture, things get even more complicated.
Despite the book’s promise to be a paranormal thriller steeped in mystery and romance, [b:The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer|8591107|The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer|Michelle Hodkin|http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51k2qFJi4HL._SL75_.jpg|13460686] fell flat for me in many ways. Most notably, the novel got wrapped up in too many convoluted plot threads that didn’t coalesce into a coherent story. The paranormal aspect went mostly ignored after the introductory chapters, and when it reappeared 300 pages later, it was poorly executed. Much of the information revealed toward the end of the story was either completely out of left field and nonsensical or, alternatively, very predictable. Some of the reveals even contradicted earlier information.
The story also got bogged down in the romance, which dominated in lieu of the paranormal or mystery plotlines. The love interest, Noah, came across as little more than the stereotypical hot jerk: he’s full of sex appeal, arrogance, and a smarmy personality, and he only speaks in terms of sexual innuendo. Even when Mara inevitably found his softer side, it wasn’t convincing or swoon-worthy (and he still did incomprehensible things like beat people to a pulp regularly on her behalf). The story just relied too heavily on one cliché after another, like the bad but beautiful boy and made-up reasons they can’t be intimate. Characters were inconsistent in non-believable ways, and secondary characters felt one-dimensional (e.g., the minority as the token friend, the jealous mean girl). The dialogue and sentence construction also sometimes felt awkward in its attempts to come across as “teen speak.” Finally, while the ending could have been risky, the author took an easy way out and introduced a cliffhanger on which to pin the next book.
Despite all of these negatives, Mara’s character did show moments of spark, self-confidence, and foul-mouthed realism, and some of the opening scenes and flashbacks had genuine creep factor. There were even some good attempts at including more diversity than normally seen, such as Mara being half-Indian or the couple going into the barrios of Miami. Even such, I couldn’t enjoy a book that left so much to be desired in regard to the story and the romance. In the forthcoming sequel, I hope that Hodkin gives readers more in the way of a coherent plot and believable, likable characters.
Note: This review refers to an advance reader's copy.