Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer Book Review

Author: Michelle Hodkin. Release date: 2011. Publisher:  Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 9781442421762.

Annotation:  Mara Dyer can’t explain how she survived the tragic accident that took like lives of her boyfriend, Jude, best friend, Rachel, and Jude’s sister Claire. After her family moves to Florida to help her cope with the loss, Mara soon begins to wonder if she was responsible for the death of her friends.

Personal thoughts:  I wasn’t sure what to make of this novel at first, but after the first five or six chapters I was hooked. The novel is very original and intriguing. I was very impressed with the author’s skills at building suspense and mystery in the plot. I also really enjoyed the romance between Noah and Mara. I am really looking forward to this series!

Plot summary: Sixteen-year-old Mara Dyer is struggling to cope with the loss of her best friend, Rachel. Mara can’t remember what happened: only that her boyfriend, Jude, his sister, Claire, and Rachel were killed in the collapse of an abandoned asylum near their Rhode Island home. Mara was in the building too, but somehow managed to survive. Now her parents and doctors have diagnosed her with post-traumatic stress disorder, and move her and her two brothers to Miami, Florida to get a fresh start. Mara hopes that being in a new place will rid of her the visions that plague her, visions of her dead friends and crumbling buildings. As she tries to remember the details of the fateful night, Mara discovers that her new school might not be the most therapeutic environment: mean girl, Anna, is intent on embarrassing Mara after she attracts the attention of the popular and handsome, Noah. Mara couldn’t be less interested in dating, especially someone with a reputation like Noah. But as she learns more about him, and herself, Mara wonders if Noah might be the key to unlocking the mystery surrounding the tragedy that changed her life forever.

Review:  This intriguing debut novel from author Michelle Hodkin keeps the mysteries flowing from start to finish, making for a page-turner that is difficult to put down. Understanding what is happening to Mara Dyer is not an easy task for the character or for the reader. It’s difficult to determine what in the novel is real and what is imagined, but this only adds to the story: Mara can’t figure it out either. The novel acts as a bit of a theme chameleon as the plot progresses: part mystery, part tragedy, part romance and part supernatural thriller, Hodkin keeps the reader guessing throughout the novel. The result is an utterly original story that truly needs to be read to be understood. A very promising start to an intriguing new series.

Genre: Mystery

Reading level: Grade 8+

Similar titles: Soul Screamers series by Sarah Vincent.

Themes:  Death, grief, loss, post-traumatic stress syndrome, sanity vs. insanity, murder.

Awards/Reviews:  Positive reviews from best-selling teen authors Cassandra Clare, Veronica Roth, Kristin Miller and Beth Revis.

Series Information: First installment in Mara Dyer series.

Discussion questions:
-     -  Research post-traumatic stress syndrome. Do you think it describes Mara’s condition?
-      - Why do you think Mara is so reluctant to date Noah?
-      - What do you think is the truth about Mara, Noah and their relationship?

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