Saturday, April 7, 2012

Review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

This book is nothing special. You'd think, from all the hype leading up to its release, that it was groundbreaking. Thrilling. Mysterious and tightly-plotted and exhilarating like the jacket copy. You would be wrong.

Why do I constantly get pulled in by the hype? I've been bitten so many times that by now I should learn to adapt my expectations and stop being so "omg have to buy all the new books rite naaoooo." I'm getting better. I think. But the Mara Dyer hype bug bit me so hard and now here I am, months later, still scratching at the itchy bite it left behind.

I'll start with the good, because there are some things I liked here.

The cliffhanger chapter endings

They really made me want to read more more more. If there's one thing to learn from this book, it's how to hook a reader into turning each page. I finished the book pretty quickly and never felt like the story dragged.

Mara was an okay protagonist

I remember chuckling at some of her jokes. I thought she was fairly spunky, and downright dynamic compared to the Bella Swans of the world. But spunkiness doesn't excuse her from some of her graver transgressions, as I'll talk about.

The cover is pretty

Because, let's face it, we all read this book because of that cover. More on this later too.

So, that's basically it. A handful of good things. Now, the not-so-good...

A certain misogynist doucheshit named Mr. Noah Shaw makes everything turn to shit

Mara was spunky on her own, but once Noah makes an appearance on the page, it's ALL ABOUT HIM AND YOU NEVER HEAR ABOUT ANYTHING ELSE.

I'm okay with romance. I write a great deal of swooning over dreamy love interests, myself. But this character is not real! He is the biggest cardboard cutout I've ever read in my entire reading life.

If you're anywhere from a novice to halfway decent writer, or an avid reader, you can probably craft an okay character, or at least conceptualize what makes a good one.

Flaws. Realistic traits. A believable, sympathetic backstory. Believable physical description. A certain pinch of magic to make it all jive and come together as the soul of a person in your mind.

Now, let's list some points about Noah Shaw and discuss.

-- He's rich.

Okay, I've written rich characters before. I've read about plenty. Sometimes you have to work a little harder to make people who seem like they have it all seem real and actually like people you'd want to know. Noah Shaw? Arrogant douche. He's the kind of rich we all hate. He peels a couple thousand dollars off a wad of cash in his wallet at one point in the story and acts as though it's nothing. He lives in a palatial mansion and gives no real acknowledgement that this isn't normal, or that he's lucky, or anything. His wealth could easily be used as a tool to characterize him. He could come from a long line of hardy people who worked like dogs for their money. He could be a spoiled rich boy trying to transcend his privileged background and do good for the world. A million other options. But Noah Shaw is just rich for the sake of swooniness. His wealth isn't used to say something about him, it's simply a reason for female readers to fawn.

-- He's arrogant.

How do you think someone with his head stuck so far up his ass would be treated in the real world? I'm going to let you in on a secret: my best friend is kind of a douche. He's pretty arrogant, seems to think he understands everything about everybody, and assumes things all the time about people he doesn't know. It infuriates and embarrasses me sometimes. And when he vocalizes how damn arrogant he is, people don't like it. His boldness drives a lot of people away. So why is Noah Shaw so universally liked?

This is more a comment on the douchey love interests in YA in general, but seriously. In real life, when people act like jerks, like "bad boy" love interests do with the drippy female MCs, it doesn't make you want to sleep with them. It makes you want to go stabby-stabby.

-- He's British.

Oh, this is the worst one.

I'm not going to mention Jamie, Mara's token bisexual-black-Jewish-adopted friend (his existence just insults me), because it's been talked about by better reviewers. But something that isn't talked about as much is Noah Shaw's British accent, even though it's the same kind of tokenism at work.

Noah suffers from a condition running a little rampant in YA... BFNRS, or British For No Reason Syndrome.

This book takes place in Florida. All the characters are American and the story has no ties, whether literal or thematic, to England. SO WHY IN GOD'S NAME IS NOAH BRITISH?!?!?!

Same thing as his wealth: swoon factor.

GOD! This irritates me to no fucking end.

...what was I talking about again?

The story sucks.

What the hell actually happened in this book? Some mysterious stuff happened to Mara, then she met Noah and there was much sexual chemistry, then a bunch of romantic shit happened interspersed with some mysterious bullshit... something about voodoo... some random crocodiles... someone got kidnapped (wtf was that, seriously)... and then lame-as-shit cliffhanger that didn't make any sense?

The main reason this book pisses me off is that it's bloated.

Noah's Britishness.

The crocodile part.

The kidnapping, which I barely remember because it was so random.

The voodoo part.

Most of the stuff with the dog.

All of these things could be sliced right off the manuscript without any damage to the actual story. I felt like this book was a lump of half-plots that didn't really connect to form a whole, complete arc. I'm just left shaking my head and asking how the heck this got published.

Let's play a game!

I challenge you to come up with a story that would suit that gorgeous cover. I bet you almost anything it would be better than this one.


  1. I picked this book up a few days ago and started reading it and I hate to say this because I was looking forward to this book too, but I never got hooked into the story. I was interested but not enough to keep reading. I didn't get far enough to meet Noah or Jamie, who now that you mention it, both seem like people I'd like to roll my eyes at.

    The cover is so PRETTY, though. Surely that makes up for Noah's British accent/douchey-ness/wealth and Mara's very convenient bisexual/black/adopted/Jewish best friend. I mean, we don't have to read it, we can just stare at it.

  2. I picked this up because of the cover, definitely... but I pretty much had the same reaction as you to it. Boy did it ever bug me by the end... you're definitely right that there's no plot. Although by the end of the book I was kind of annoyed at the cover because I felt like it didn't even have anything to do with the book. Curse you, cover!

    Also, haha Brittany.. "we don't have to read it, we can just stare at it". Yes, let's just do that. :D Haha.

  3. If I were to take that cover and write a blurb based on it, it would go like this...

    Girl in abusive relationship feels like she is drowning. But she loves him so she doesn't leave. She struggles with what the right thing to do is while accepting her place in society. And oh yeah it takes place in the North or South Carolina cause I feel that is underrated place.It is also a cool place.


    I read maybe the first...30 pgs of this and sadly could not get through it, which is really too bad because I like snarky and I really like Death Cab for Cutie (i.e. Mara says a line about wearing a DC shirt lol).

  4. Also Becca I found you through the college YA board at AW. I'm smiley0501 :)

  5. Thanks for doing an honest review! I do love the cover too, but I haven't gotten around to reading it. It's in my school's library, and I've seen one or two of my students with it, but I'm not sure what they thought.

  6. Dear Becca who I've never met before,
    I somehow avoided all the hype about this book, and I'm glad I did. Because what the fu was with that kidnapping tangent? And the crocodiles? And Noah just 'happening' to be the yin to her yang? I put it down and thought, "That was sort of stupid"... then I find out that there's a sequel... and a movie... and a fan club.. good grief.

    Thank you for your honest (and accurate) review.