Friday, April 26, 2013

Michelle Hodkin, THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER (Young Adult Mystery)

I picked up this book for the same reason that I picked up the first in the Twilight series -- because a YA expert (librarian this time; bookseller last time) said she'd loved it and so did the teens (AND their mothers, said one of them!). The funny coincidence is, there turns out to be something paranormal involved in THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER, which is normally something I'd avoid. But with my earlier experience, I dipped into Twilight before I quite realized how much it depends on vampires, and the plot kept me reading anyway.

With Hodkin's book, though, it was the character of Mara Dyer that compelled me to stick with it after I realized the creepy aspect. Dyer's doubts about what she's experiencing make the creepiness much deeper. And the powerful resonance of Mara's version of courage and her stubborn refusal to give in to bullying drew me into the story. I've found very few books this year that struck me as so accurate about human nature and the emotions of newly forming independence -- not to mention that first uncertain taste of the perils of sexuality.

Mara Dyer wakes up in a hospital bed with no idea why she's there -- and when her parents yield to her frantic insistence and tell her all three of the friends with her on an adventure three nights ago are dead, her waking nightmare has just begun. A swift move to Florida, the agonies of a new school, an adorable boy who persists in courting her (not a great idea when he's ruined a lot of reputations already), and the threat that she's losing her mind: Mara's coping skills are only human, so how can she endure so much? And what will collapse first? Is it Mara's own self?

This is book one of a trilogy, and when I turned the last page, I knew I wanted to read the next one, and the final one. I exerted enormous adult self-control and waited 20 hours before ordering a copy (!!) of The Evolution of Mara Dyer. The third book, The Retribution of Mara Dyer, won't be available until October 2013. (Here's the author's website:

No, this doesn't have the long-term resonance of the Harry Potter series; on the other hand, it has way more depth than Twilight (no offense, Twilight can be good beach reading, but it's not going to pull me into re-reading that first volume, reading the others, or reviewing them). But it's a true mystery, with layers of revelation, agonized searching for the truth, and a dogged insistence on facing reality, no matter how strange that reality may become. Many thanks to the Maine librarian (nameless in the blog post) who wrote this list last fall -- I've consumed four of the titles this week, and will draw on the experience further, I'm sure.

But this above all: It's character that makes a book unforgettable. Michelle Hodkin knows how to craft character. I'm hoping (fingers crossed) that she can pull it off in all three books. I'll let you know later.


Joy Choquette said...

Sounds really good! I will add it to my To Be Read list. Thanks for another helpful review.

Joy Choquette said...

Sounds interesting; will add it to my To Be Read list. Thanks for another helpful review!