review: the unbecoming of mara dyer
So I’ve finally made my way through this book. It took me a while because a) I keep failing at putting aside time to read and b) the book is MAMMOTH. I mean it’s just large, especially for a young adult book. But perhaps Harry Potter and Twilight set the trend for giant-ass YA books, as I’ve seen quite a few monsters out there.
Cover Girl: Before I dive in, I’d like to take a moment to complain. I put off buying and reading this book for the longest time because of the rather prominent endorsement by Cassie
Claire Clare. I dislike Clare on principle. Her fame is the result of blatant plagiarism and bullying people who state as much. She is a plagiarist. You can’t really erase the internet, Miss Clare. However, fandom seems to have selective memory on this and thus no one makes a big fuss over it. But people SHOULD make a big fuss over it, so I don’t understand why they don’t. I’m not going to support her, and I don’t quite get why others choose to, but their actions aren’t mine to control, so that’s that. Moving along.
Here we have an interesting twist on the whole “white girl goes to prom” theme that permeates young adult covers. She’s still in a fancy dress but–get this–she’s underwater! Eh? Ehhhh? *insert bad joke eel grin here* And there’s a dude holding her down! So it’s all mysterious, right? Kinda? Except she doesn’t appear to be struggling, and it really just looks like a super-artsy engagement photo or something.
The cover font is purdy, I’ll give them that. But I’m slightly irked by the fact that the F in “of” is so obscenely large. If it’s going to extend that far, I want it to connect to the R in “Mara,” not hang out just to the left of it. But this isn’t really anyone’s issue aside from my own weird compulsions, so no points deducted for that. Overall, I think the cover’s nice, I’m just not sure (again) what it has to do with the book.
Character Witness: Can we talk about Mara for a minute? Of course we can. Mara Dyer is weird. She is kind of neurotic, paranoid, not very trusting of people…She’s a real person. She’s a person affected by PTSD, and it shows. Despite my issues about her fast attachment to Perfect Love Interest (which I’ll bemoan later), I really didn’t mind her as a narrator. This is a pretty nice change of pace for me, since I keep finding books with narrators that I just want to hit in the face. Mara gets angry, she does irrational things, and it feels normal. Sometimes it seems like YA authors hesitate to make a main character that has emotions other than love/lust or blankness. Not quite the case with Michelle Hodkin. So hooray!
But, uh. Less hooray with Noah. Again with the Perfect Love Interest! Stop it, world! Noah is British, and rich, and beautiful, and almost immediately falls for Mara. SIGH. I just…I just don’t know. Noah has this distant weirdness that I don’t know if I like. But this is just my personal issue, and it’s not really about him as a character. It works, but mainly because it’s fairly consistent. I just get so bored with the whole playboy-except-for-the-main-character thing with these books that I don’t even know what to do with myself.
The rest of the people are fairly minor. Mara’s family has a good dynamic, and…well, that’s about it. She doesn’t have friends. Except for one guy who manages to be the token EVERYTHING. Oh, and the dead ones. Spoilers? (Kidding, it’s not a spoiler. It’s on the front flap.)
Plot Plot Fizz Fizz: Mara and her friends were involved in an accident, and Mara was the sole survivor. That’d mess with anybody’s head, right? So to lessen some of Mara’s anxiety, her family decides to move to Florida. At her new school, she meets Jamie, the token kid, and Noah. Meanwhile, she’s seeing things that she really shouldn’t be seeing, and she isn’t sure if it’s her PTSD or something fishy going on. Considering death keeps following her, it seems like the latter.
Initially, I wasn’t really sold on the plot. I didn’t know how it would really work, and how someone could toss romance into the mix and keep things interesting. I’ll eat my words, though, because I actually enjoyed this book quite a bit. The plot felt sort of clunky in some places, but on the whole, moved along at a steady pace, considering how huge the book is. Right, I keep mentioning that. Let me show you.
At 452 pages, it’s nearly double the size of most other young adult books. But unlike that behemoth Twilight, things actually happen in this book, and that made the pages (for the most part) fly by. A couple of plot points seemed irrelevant, but they’re a bit spoilery so I can’t quite get into them. Overall, though, I was invested in this plot, and I feel it holds up fairly well.
Aesop It To Me: There’s really not much by way of lessons to be found here. Which is good; if a lesson had been crammed in, it would’ve been overkill.
Say Something Nice: Everything I’ve said is nice! I really should be exempt from this when I’ve spent the entire time being positive. You know what? Instead, I’ll just share a bit of the book.
“Welcome to the private collection of Noah Shaw,” he said.
I stared at all of the titles. “You have not read all of these.”
I cracked a smile. “So it’s a tail-chasing tactic.”
“Pardon?” I could hear the amusement in his voice.
“Vanity books,” I said without looking at him. “You don’t actually read them, they’re just here to impress your…guests.”
“You’re a mean girl, Mara Dye,” he said, standing in the middle of his room. I felt his eyes on me, and I liked it.
“I’m wrong?” I asked.
“You are wrong.”
“All right,” I said, and pulled a random book from the shelf. “Maurice, by E.M. Forster. What’s it about? Go.”
Noah told me about the gay protagonist who attended Cambridge in turn-of-the-century Britain. I didn’t believe him, but I hadn’t read it so I moved on.
“A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man?”
Noah belly-flopped on to his bed, affecting a bored tone as he rattled off another synopsis. My eyes followed the thousand-mile stretch of his back and my feet itched with the confusing impulse to walk over and join him. Instead. I pulled another book without reading the spine first.
“Ulysses,” I called out.
Noah shook his head, his face buried in the pillow.
Satisfied, I smiled to myself, put the book back on the shelf and reached for another. The dust jacket was missing, so I read the title from the cover. “The Joy of…crap.” I read the rest of the full title of the thick, nondescript volume to myself and felt myself redden.
Noah turned over on to his side and said with mock seriousness, “I have never read The Joy of Crap. Sounds disgusting.” I blushed deeper. “I have, however, read The Joy of Sex,” he continued, a mischievous smile transforming his face. “Not in a while, but I think it’s one of those classics you can come back to again…and again.”
“I don’t like this game anymore,” I said as I placed the book back on its shelf.
Final Verdict: Mara Dyer is well-written, easy to follow, and rather entertaining to boot. It’s the first in a series, apparently, as the ending indicates that this is volume one. So, hopefully the next volumes arrive quickly, as I’m rather curious to follow what Mara and Noah will get up to next. 7/10 – go forth and read it! ‘Tis fun.