Simon & Schuster
Received from publisher for review
Upon waking up in a hospital bed with needles in her arms and fog in her brain, Mara Dyer learns she is the sole survivor of a building collapse that took the lives of her best friend Rachel, her boyfriend Jude, and another friend Claire. She can't remember anything about the accident or why she and her friends were in an abandoned building at night, she only knows she keeps seeing Claire and Jude when they're not really there.
In an attempt to return her life to normal, Mara asks her family to move so she can start anew, but she quickly realizes that a change of location isn't helping her cope. She's still seeing things. Things that no one else can see. Sometimes awful things.
The one highlight of her new school is Noah Shaw, a young man who charms her despite herself and wiggles his way into her unbalanced life before she even knows what happened. Though Noah is a bright spot in her darkness, Mara continues getting worse instead of better, catching snippets of her parents' conversations that include words like "institution". Mara finally decides to unburden herself to Noah, relaying to him everything that's happened including the small pieces of memory that have come back to her from the accident, and, in doing so, discovers her world will never return to normal.
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is a fascinating testament to how scarily beautiful the mind truly is–limitless in its capabilities and dichotomous in its nature. Our minds can be both our greatest assets but also our worst enemies, able to shield us from tragedies and horrors by blocking our memories while being equally capable of corrupting the foundations of our reality so what once was safe and comforting becomes questionable and terrifying. While reading this story we find ourselves in a perpetual state of anticipation, hovering on the precipice of discovering what is reality and what is hallucination for Mara, and wanting to take that final step that will catapult us over the edge into understanding only to find the edge moves farther from us with each step we take closer to it. Thus we are left in a spectacularly fluid limbo with Mara, the boundaries of our own minds the only parameters present as we float blissfully in a world rich with such delicious possibility.
We have a rather uneasy introduction to Mara, a handwritten note at the beginning explaining she is in fact not Mara Dyer setting an eerily mysterious tone as we find ourselves instantly determined to find out just what that means. Given that Mara remembers nothing of the accident initially, we all start out with our minds wiped clean except for the simple desire to piece together what's missing, and we can't help but wish for Mara's sake as well as ours that her memory will sort itself out and grant us the glory of concrete knowledge. Mara has a good sense of humor despite the difficulties of her past several months, opting to bypass melancholy and fight for normalcy at her new school, and she provides us with plenty of displays of personality to earn our affection even as we question her sanity.
Noah Shaw is a true highlight of this story, a young man who exists outside of classification and tidy labels, and much like the rest of the story, leaves himself open to interpretation. We can choose to believe the reputation he's fostered at school for being a womanizer of rather epic proportions–allowing the words of others to paint our portrait of him–or we can choose to bide our time, allowing his actions to guide the paintbrush that brings his image into startling focus. Each gesture becomes a corresponding stroke in the creation of his likeness, building his personality slowly and carefully until we see him clearly and feel our connection to him is a precious and intimate thing shared between us alone. Ms. Hodkin impresses us with her ability to make him feel so very real, not censoring him or attempting to wedge him into a predetermined young-adult-male-hero box, but rather letting the gorgeous chaos of realism emanate from him with authenticity. He's a character about whom we could easily read an additional four hundred pages and still crave more, and one we know we'll have at the forefront of our minds and the tip of our tongues for a long time to come.
A labyrinthine tale where reality and imagination clash on each and every page, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer keeps us guessing, theorizing, and questioning as we read, developing into something we never see coming and promising to continue blazing its enigmatic trail in future installments. Not everyone will find this story suited to them though, it has a quietness about it that may be unappealing for some as the psychological ramifications of Mara's accident become the focus and the physical action remains more at a minimum. We stumble through Mara's life unsure, a little off balance, and completely unprepared for the gargantuan puzzle that is her existence, yet we remain tethered to safety by the blossoming of a beautiful romance that has the potential to shatter just as easily as the other tenuously constructed illusions of this world, leaving us with an intense desire to flip back to the beginning and start the journey again just to see what we discover a second time through.
It's the very last day of the promotional tour for The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer! Each of the 20 previous stops have each had a single letter included in their posts, and all of those plus the one you'll find below are pieces of a puzzle that, when placed in the correct order, spell out a very important line from the book. Don't worry if you haven't read it yet, you should be able to figure it out without any insider knowledge. Now, what do you get for going through all this effort you ask? Two very lucky people will win signed, finished copies of the book! YAY!
To enter, piece together the phrase with the letters found on each of the blogs (you can find the complete list of participating bloggers HERE) and when you have the it figured out, submit your answer using THIS FORM. As I said, today is the last day of the tour so your chance to enter ends tonight (9/30) at midnight. The correct answer will be posted Monday, October 3rd on Books Complete Me. Good luck everyone!
YOUR LAST LETTER: