The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
Awaking from a coma, Mara remembers nothing of the accident that landed her in the hospital and killed her best friend, her boyfriend and her boyfriend’s sister. They had all entered the children’s ward of a derelict psychiatric asylum on a dare.
Mara has never been one for frightening adventures. Why did she go into a building she knew to be unsafe? People, including her kind and worried parents, tell her that her memories will come back as she heals. But as Mara dreams and hallucinates, she can’t separate reality from her visions. Her mother, a psychiatrist, feels that Mara needs additional help in the form of medication and hospitalization, but agrees to give her a fresh start by moving from Rhode Island to Florida.
Florida doesn’t seem like the answer, as the wealthy and privileged brats who populate Mara’s new school do not take to her. Except for Noah, the hunky boy with the English accent who acts like he knows Mara from the moment he sets eyes on her. Dream-come-true Noah may not be what he appears, and Mara tries to keep her distance as rumors about his ‘use them and lose them’ history with girlfriends grows.
Why then does Mara’s caring and decent brother believe in Noah? Mara, too, has a deep sense of a soulful Noah that others haven’t seen. And the more she connects with him, the more she remembers about the night of the accident. And nothing about it—or about events that follow her and destroy her enemies—help to assuage Mara’s guilt. She feels like a murderer. Maybe with good reason.
High school housekeeping: I’m late coming to this novel. It’s intrigued me ever since I ordered it for my high school library. Both the title and the cover design are so appealing that I figured it would check out regularly without my help. I was right. But some of my favorite readers have recommended it to me, and I so I finally had a go with it over the holidays.
Author Michelle Hodkin owes a debt of gratitude to both the genius cover designer and the title creator; they situate the novel as something wholly original. While this doesn’t turn out to be the case—you’ll find lots of the usual tropes of YA fantasy fiction (and to be honest, you’ll like that—they are fun, and they are why you are reading this book)—there are some original and quirky twists. Though some professional reviewers found the inclusion of a murder trial to be a bridge too far, I really enjoyed the switch and subplot. I wish that subplot had concluded more neatly, but this is a “Book One.’ Not a single plotline is concluded, and the reader has to jump into the second book to see what will happen to the emotionally and mentally-challenged Mara—and anyone who gets in her way.
If you are a fan of YA fantasy/supernatural fiction, don’t miss this one.