The last words on the last page of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer say, "End of Volume One."
And thank goodness, too.
Because I really liked this book a lot. And, the entire time I was reading it, I kept thinking, "There is no way that this author can finish this story in the short amount of pages left!"
The rundown of the plot: A sixteen-year-old girl going by the fake name of Mara Dyer starts her story by telling us how she survives a tragic accident that killed three of her friends. Seeking a new life, she and her family move to Miami, and Mara starts to suffer hallucinations. Post-traumatic stress disorder? Ghosts? Who knows? Even Mara tries to ignore the tormenting visions when she becomes the new flame of school bad boy, Noah. But there are things she can't ignore...things like the visions, the fact that other people she comes in contact with start dying, and the strange connection and intensity that keeps building between herself and Noah.
Am I being vague? Yep. And that is because the mystery of what the heck is going on is a huge part of this book...and it isn't even entirely clear at the end.
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, I suppose, would be categorized under "paranormal YA romance," but this book is not so cut and dry. There are no sparkling vampires, and besides the creepy visions...well, there doesn't seem to be much in the way of "paranormal" actually happening. There even comes a point in the book where I wondered why I was still reading. I mean, not a whole lot was happening...but there is something about this book! The writing is excellent, and Hodkins keeps your attention easily. All of the characters are so interesting. There is a bit of cliche in the portrayal of Noah, and the way he seemed so typical of this type of book really bummed me out for a while--until the end. The end is amazing. And Noah became so much more interesting to me in the last few chapters because the stakes are so high.
That doesn't sound good, does it? I mean, it doesn't sound good that the male lead in the book doesn't become super interesting until the last forty pages or so? Again, it is another odd quirk to this book. He is a complete cliche until the end (at least in my opinion). Rich, beautiful, devoted to the girl, etc., etc., etc. Sometimes, I thought that I was reading a new version of Edward Cullen. But...no. The tension between good and evil is super complicated at the end, and I love it.
Mara is more believable. Her circumstances and vulnerability (not in the way you would imagine) make her incredibly interesting. She is a fighter in so many ways, and the author seems to really understand her. (I don't find that to be true in a lot of novels, you know? Especially in teen novels.) I LOVE her friend Jamie. He is one of the most interesting people in the book...and I hope he will be back. Most of the secondary characters are simplistic, but there are a few who could be really interesting.
My hope for this series? My hope is that the author planned it well. This is Hodkin's first book. It was great. But if she didn't plan the series well, then it could totally bomb. (I am thinking about my reaction to the second book in the Hush, Hush series...ugh...I can't even think about buying the third right now. Yes, I know some people loved it, but I just didn't like it at all. Worst of all, it has kept me from reading the second book in the Fallen series--and I liked Fallen so much better than Hush, Hush. I just can't bear to be disappointed!)
Now, then...a warning: this book might be marketed for teens, but the only thing YA about it is that it involves teenagers who go to high school. The humor is completely adult--over and over again. That being said, I probably wouldn't have gotten much of it at age sixteen. Maybe I was just sheltered, but I was considerably older than sixteen before I even knew what the term "safe word" applied to. (And, no, there is none of that taking place in the book.) It is just the humor. I am not one to censor books, but I know that I have several teenagers who read this blog. So, you have been forewarned! Just be aware that we are dealing with lots of sexual references in this book. Like I said, I loved the story, and I don't care about these references other than feeling like I need to say something here for readers who want to know these kinds of things ahead of time. The only drawback for me had to do with the believability of it all. I have known super smart, savvy, and sophisticated teens...and none of them were this adult or sly in their humor.
All of that being said, I really enjoyed reading this book and I can't wait for the next one to come out!