Friday, September 30, 2011

Mara Madness Blog Tour: Review of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer


Michelle Hodkin
Young Adult
450 pages
Simon & Schuster
Available Now
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.

Rating: 5/5

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!



  1. Awesome review! I love your first paragraph, it fits the book to a tee. This was such an intense book, loved that I had no idea what was real or not, super suspenseful!

  2. Oh my friend! Wasn't this such an incredible awesome book???? Noah is truly one of his kind and everyone will simply fall in love with this boy! Did you btw see the trailer?? It is SOOO freaking awesome!!!!!

  3. This was an absolutely wonderful review Jenny. I can't wait to read this book. It sounds like one that's going to mess with my head a bit, but I love it!

  4. Just got my copy in the mail and cannot wait to read this one. I scan your review as I really want to go into this book without too many details in my head, but am so happy that you found this one a five.

  5. Wow! 5/5 High praise! I cannot wait to read this one and I'm especially excited to meet Noah Shaw! The book isn't released over here until March 2012 but I dunno if I can wait that long! Might have to make a trip to The Book Depository!;)

    Gorgeous review!

  6. Love the review! I actually hadn't heard of this book before now and your review definitely peaked my interest. I will most definitely be looking into it soon.

    Jex @ Everything and Nothing

  7. Great review Jenny! You have me wanting to read this book now for sure.

  8. Oh my gosh, how can I possibly be more excited for Mara Dyer than I already am?? My copy is on its way through transit right now and I'm scheduled to receive it in a few days, but I really wish I had it now (especially after reading your raving review)! x)

    And I swear, with each review I read, I develop an even bigger crush on Noah Shaw (and I haven't even met him yet)!

    AMAZING review, Jenny! I'm so glad you liked it! :)

  9. Wow. I am definitely excited to read this one now after reading your review. Noah sounds like my kind of guy. I have a feeling that I am going to really enjoy him. I will have to pick up a copy of this one. Thanks for the great review, Jenny!

  10. Great review Jenny! Once again you managed to write a deeply intellectual review that's extremely easy to understand and a joy to read. Your especially beautiful language here actually seems to capture the essence of the book itself. When I read it, I got a feeling of slowly steeping grace, of beauty, and of something Other. Thanks again for the review! :)

  11. The mind is a crazy thing, I think some of the scariest books Ive read have been about people going mad...(eke)

    I cant wait to meet Noah, Im hearing really great things about this book- super review Jenny

  12. Laura - Thank you! I loved how I never really new which end was up with this book:)

    Danny - I did see the trailer and almost died. SO GOOD! Where was I for the auditions for that?

    Jennifer - Thank you! And it messed with my head a whole lot:)

    Jan - YAY! Can't wait to see what you think:)

    Leanna - I absolutely adored it:) I have a feeling this one is going to be pretty split with people that didn't care for it, but it was strange and quirky and bizarre and I couldn't get enough.

    Jex - Glad I could put it on your radar, it was one of my favorite reads this year:)

    Jordan - Thank you! I hope you give it a try soon so we can compare notes:)

    Mimi - My crush on Noah Shaw is pretty epic. I loved that he wasn't perfect, he had an attitude and blurted out suggestive remarks but it made him so believable as a character:)

    Christina - I loved him:) And when things go from weird to weirder, he's right there with Mara and you constantly wonder how Michelle is going to tie everything together. It's awesome:)

    Kris - Thank you so much, your comment completely made my day. Grace, beauty and Other is a perfect way to describe this book:)

    Tina - Seriously. I wanted to believe in Mara but you just can't fully trust her mind so things are crazy tense and interesting the entire time:)

  13. I've heard so much buzz about this book that I can't wait to get my hands on a copy. Sounds like a trip.

  14. As usual... FABULOUS review chick!!! I am absolutely DYING to read this one!! I can't wait!!

  15. The opening sentence of your thoughts has me DYING to read this one!! I picked it up yesterday, so it's sitting at the top of my TBR pile!! (I have two to finish up before it, so hopefully this weekend I'll get to it.)

  16. I must meet this Noah Shaw. Everyone has been gushing about him and I have no clue as to why. I love the haunting cover and your terrific review. I'm craving for this book!

  17. Noah Shaw, womanizer extraordinaire! What a way to sell a gal. Heh. J/K. I'm sure once I meet him, I'll be able to settle him down. *wink, wink*

    And if you want to see a scary beautiful mind...look no further. I've got it right here, baby.

  18. Amanda - It is a trip, I loved it to pieces:)

    Ashley - Thanks! Looking forward to seeing what you think of it!

    Jac - I loved how I couldn't be sure of anything because Mara's mind was all over the place - super interesting.

    Rummanah - I really enjoyed him! He was kind of deliciously imperfect and I couldn't get enough.

    Missie - Right? And you never really know for sure whether or not that reputation is truth or rumor, so it's fun to try to figure him out.:)

  19. Awesome review, I am even more excited to read it now!

  20. Great review, Jenny! So beautifully written and captured in a way that only you can do! I must admit, Noah did get under my skin-Big Swoon, there's just something about Noah...

    I haven't written my review yet, LOL, not sure I can now!

    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, I loved it!

  21. What a great review! Oh I so need to read this one just to know Noah. You already have me wanting him. *swoon!* You so bad (but in a good way!)! :D

  22. Love this line "fascinating testament to how scarily beautiful the mind truly is–limitless in its capabilities and dichotomous in its nature. "
    Just awesome

  23. Woo-hoo, review twins! Beautifully written, as always, Jenny. You make such excellent points! Noah Shaw was definitely a highlight of the story (swoon!) but I almost enjoyed the guessing game more! Glad you loved this one as much as I did. :)

  24. Jenny!! I feel like going back and rereading it!! That was seriously an amazing review. You made me remember everything I loved about the book and why I loved Noah as much as I did. *big sigh* I really can't wait for the next book so we can see what happens next. :D

  25. YES YES YES YES. I love MARA almost as much as I love you, and that's saying something!

    Gah, this book had me spinning out of control, and Michelle is an absolute genius. As is your review :)

  26. I don't think I've seen a bad review for this one yet. Everyone seems to love the way it's written and Noah. This one doesn't appear to be huge on action but it still sounds intense, and I can't wait to read it myself.

  27. I really want a copy of this one! It sounds awesome - plus everyone's raving about it! Great review, Jenny :)

  28. Seriously this book blew me away! I am excited and can't wait for the next one. And I totally agree. Noah is the highlight. His character brought so much freshness to the story that it only made me want to read more. Nice review Jenny!

  29. SIGH. Noah is totally the highlight of the story. OMG I love this book so much. I give props to you for not having a total fangirl review like mine. LOL.

  30. Mara Dyer is such an awesome read! I love Noah, and I agree, he definitely is the high spot in the book. :) So glad you enjoyed the book as well! I'm dying for book #2. :)

  31. Ooh, sounds like a good read! I have a weakness for stories with amnesiac narrators. Don't know why, but I'm definitely looking forward to reading this one!


  32. Loved the clash of imagination and reality! You describe so well that feeling of being utterly confused by the story and yet needing to read more, only to end up being even more confused the more you read. Psychological thrillers are likely the only instance that I love being confused.

  33. Wow. You just catapulted this book up the ranks for me. I am VERY curious about Mara's history and the opening of the book sounds like such a brilliant way to hook you in. Thanks for the great review!

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