The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer Trilogy Series #1)

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer Trilogy Series #1)

by Michelle Hodkin

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Overview

Mara Dyer doesn’t know if she is crazy or haunted—all she knows is that everyone around her is dying in this suspenseful and “strong, inventive tale” (Kirkus Reviews).

Mara Dyer doesn’t think life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.
It can.
She believes there must be more to the accident she can’t remember that killed her friends and left her mysteriously unharmed.
There is.
She doesn’t believe that after everything she’s been through, she can fall in love.
She’s wrong.

After Mara survives the traumatizing accident at the old asylum, it makes sense that she has issues. She lost her best friend, her boyfriend, and her boyfriend’s sister, and as if that weren’t enough to cope with, her family moves to a new state in order to give her a fresh start. But that fresh start is quickly filled with hallucinations—or are they premonitions?—and then corpses, and the boundary between reality and nightmare is wavering. At school, there’s Noah, a devastatingly handsome charmer who seems determined to help Mara piece together what’s real, what’s imagined—and what’s very, very dangerous.

This fast-paced psychological—or is it paranormal?—thriller will leave you breathless for its sequel, The Evolution of Mara Dyer.

Editorial Reviews

Vampires, werewolves, and other members of the mainstream supernatural club do not appear in this debut novel. Yet Mara Dyer, a "B student with a body count, " is plagued by vaguely unbranded mysterious -- and murderous -- events. Psychosis, ESP, or PTSD? Hard to say.

Mara's troubles begin after she wakes up in the hospital, the only survivor of an accident at an abandoned New England lunatic asylum that killed her two best friends and her then-boyfriend. Her parents move the family to South Florida for a fresh start. Our romantic hero, when he appears, wears "Chucks with holes worn through, no laces, " likes dogs, hates yellow, and stands out for his English accent and notable lack of an orange complexion. His name is Noah, and alas, according to the school gossip, the man is a whore. Are the tales true, or is their teller -- a suitably fake-baked blond named Anna who dresses like "an accountant's mid-life crisis" and has a novel evil sidekick, Aidan, a gay, meathead bully -- just jealous? As Noah charms her mother with lilies, her older brother with discourse on the "Kafka-Nietzsche nexus and the parodic sonnets of Don Quixote, " and Mara herself with Jeff Buckley, Camus, Cuban food, and a costly yet thoughtful birthday exorcism, the two engage in the kind of Hepburn-Tracy-esque banter that makes their mutual intentions clear.

The last-page cliffhanger leaves the nature of Mara's troubles unresolved and a sequel all but guaranteed. While the dead bodies, when they appear, can sometimes feel like an awkward intrusion into an otherwise witty and cosmopolitan novel, many background narratives -- Mara's matrilineal connection to India; an Animal Liberation Front subplot, her "token black Jewish bi friend" -- promise some interesting real-world possibilities.

Amy Benfer has worked as an editor and staff writer at Salon, Legal Affairs, and Paper magazine. Her reviews and features on books have appeared in Salon, The San Francisco Chronicle Book Review, The Believer, Kirkus Reviews, and The New York Times Book Review. Reviewer: Amy Benfer

Publishers Weekly

When 17-year-old Mara wakes from a coma, she learns she was in an accident; her best friend, boyfriend, and his sister were all killed when an abandoned asylum collapsed on them. But Mara has no memory of why she was there. Hoping to escape her hallucinations and nightmares, she moves with her family from Rhode Island to Florida, and on the first day of school meets a handsome boy "miling at me like he knew me." Even as Mara's romance with Noah starts to simmer, her stress boils over, especially when her fantasies about bad people dying start coming true and she starts remembering the fateful night. There are plenty of haunting, cinematic images to capture readers' attention, but first-time author Hodkin has packed too much into this mystery, including a murder trial in the background and Noah's own secrets. Readers may enjoy drawing their own conclusions about what is real, but they will have a hard time tracking all the possibilities. And after so much windup, they will certainly feel let down by the scripted conclusion. Ages 14–up. (Sept.)

From the Publisher

"Haunting and dreamlike, the intrigue and romance of Mara Dyer will inescapably draw you in." —Cassandra Clare, author of the New York Times bestselling Moral Instruments series

"The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer strikes a rare balance of darkly funny, deliciously creepy and genuinely thoughtful. One minute I was laughing out loud, and the next, I was so scared I wanted to turn on all the lights and hide under the covers. Michelle Hodkin’s talent and range are obvious, from her chilling descriptions to romantic scenes that almost crackled on the page. I’ve never read anything quite like it."—Veronica Roth, New York Times bestselling author of Divergent

"A clever, captivating thriller, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is perfect for those (like me) who like their heroes dark, their heroines dangerous, and their romances seriously twisted."
—Kirsten Miller, New York Times bestselling author of The Eternal Ones

"WOW. Michelle Hodkin's debut will keep you guessing until the last page—and long after."
—Beth Revis, New York Times bestselling author of Across the Unviverse

"As spooky and twisty as it is lyrical and beautiful, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer grabbed me and wouldn't let go. Read this one with the lights on." —Rachel Hawkins, New York Times bestselling author of Demonglass


"A strong, inventive tale."
Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2011

Hodkin's debut is witty and thought-provoking and will have readers captivated until the very end. It takes readers through constant chaos, wonder, and bewilderment...The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer will satisfy mystery lovers, dark fantasy seekers, horror believers, and readers who have a knack for romance.
VOYA, October 2011

There are echoes of Stephen King's classic Carrie in this young-adult series kickoff...Written from Mara's perspective, The Unbecoming deftly melds alternate realities. Hodkin's transitions from the mundane to hallucinated horror are unexpected, seamless and creepy, packing the same sort of cinematic punch as scenes from The Blair Witch Project....Discerning the truth is just part of the pleasure of reading the delightfully bent reality in The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer.
Los Angeles Times


"Anyone who thinks old-fashioned romantic scenes can’t move teens today will be proven wrong here. This boy will make readers swoon. The characters are real and wonderful, and the supernatural story is riveting. Expect this book to fly off the shelves."
SLJ

"Creepy, haunting, addictive and surprisingly romantic, Mara’s story is beautiful and complex...Hodkin has elevated the teenage paranormal romance into something completely her own."
Romantic Times

"First-time author Hodkin has paired a steamy romance with a paranormal mystery that will cause teen readers whiplash as they jerk from one plot twist to another."
Booklist

"It's the story of a girl trying to piece together what happened the night she, her best friend, her boyfriend and his sister spent the night in an abandoned asylum and only she survived, unscathed but traumatized…And it's the story of a girl falling in love…Be careful, 'cause you'll fall right along with her."
MTV's Hollywood Crush

Kirkus Reviews

A girl tries to cope with her own survival after the deaths of her friends in this psychological—or is it paranormal?—debut suspense tale.

Mara understands that she's suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after having survived the collapse of a building that killed her best friend, her boyfriend and his sister. To escape constant memories, the family moves from Rhode Island to Miami, and Mara enrolls in a pricey private school populated by spoiled rich kids. She falls for Noah, ultra-wealthy, British, handsome and perhaps untrustworthy girl-magnet. Her relationship with Noah comprises much of the story, even as Mara keeps seeing her dead friends in the mirror. Meanwhile, Mara tries to cope with a nasty student couple bent on destroying her and with a teacher who hates her for no discernible reason. Add to that her defense-lawyer father, who's taken on the high-profile trial of the day and the book has one too many subplots, which, along with a bit too much description, leads to its excessive length. Hodkin writes strong prose that engages readers and creates some unusual, attractive characters. She designs an absorbing story that appears to be heading toward an interesting sequel. By the end, readers may be wondering if this is a psychological, paranormal or crime story, adding to the intrigue.

Even without advisable cuts, a strong, inventive tale. (Suspense. 12 & up)

School Library Journal

Gr 7 Up—Mara Dyer, 16, and three of her friends were in an abandoned building that collapsed; the friends died, and Mara escaped with no memory of the accident and, other than a bad case of PTSD, no real injuries. Her family moves from Rhode Island to Florida to help her heal, but that doesn't go very well. Mara is having nightmares and increasingly frequent horrifying hallucinations. Or are they? Her private school is populated with mostly snotty rich kids, with the exception of her one friend, Jamie Roth, and Noah Shaw, a gorgeous guy with a British accent who has both a dangerous attitude and reputation. As Mara tries to figure out whether or not she is crazy or if there is something more to her strange connections to people who have died, she and Noah become closer, causing other students to assume that he is using her like he supposedly used other girls. There is no graphic sex in this book, only some language, and anyone who thinks old-fashioned romantic scenes can't move teens today will be proven wrong here. This boy will make readers swoon. As her love life heats up, Mara remembers more about the night of the accident and learns more about her abilities. The characters are real and wonderful, and the supernatural story is riveting. While the ending seems a little forced to make the various pieces fit, the final pages leave some mysteries unsolved and hint at a sequel. Expect this book to fly off the shelves.—Jake Pettit, Thompson Valley High School, Loveland, CO

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781442421769
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Publication date: 09/27/2011
Series: Mara Dyer Trilogy Series , #1
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 378,310
Product dimensions: 5.86(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.46(d)
Lexile: HL600L (what's this?)
Age Range: 14 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer ;BEFORE
Laurelton, Rhode Island

T;HE ORNATE SCRIPT ON THE BOARD TWISTED in the candlelight, making the letters and numbers dance in my head. They were jumbled and indistinct, like alphabet soup. When Claire pushed the heart-shaped piece into my hand, I startled. I wasn’t normally so twitchy, and hoped Rachel wouldn’t notice. The Ouija board was her favorite present that night, and Claire gave it to her. I got her a bracelet. She wasn’t wearing it.

Kneeling on the carpet, I passed the piece to Rachel. Claire shook her head, oozing disdain. Rachel put down the piece.

“It’s just a game, Mara.” She smiled, her teeth looking even whiter in the dim light. Rachel and I had been best friends since preschool, and where she was dark and wild, I was pale and cautious. But less so when we were together. She made me feel bold. Usually.

“I don’t have anything to ask dead people,” I said to her. And at sixteen, we’re too old for this, I didn’t say.

“Ask whether Jude will ever like you back.”

Claire’s voice was innocent, but I knew better. My cheeks flamed, but I stifled the urge to snap at her and laughed it off. “Can I ask it for a car? Is this like a dead Santa scenario?”

“Actually, since it’s my birthday, I’m going first.” Rachel put her fingers on the piece. Claire and I followed her.

“Oh! Rachel, ask it how you’re going to die.”

Rachel squealed her assent, and I shot a dark look at Claire. Since moving here six months ago, she’d latched onto my best friend like a starving leech. Her twin missions in life were now to make me feel like the third wheel, and to torture me for my crush on her brother, Jude. I was equally sick of both.

“Remember not to push,” Claire ordered me.

“Got it, thanks. Anything else?”

But Rachel interrupted us before we could descend into bickering. “How am I going to die?”

The three of us watched the board. My calves prickled from kneeling on Rachel’s carpet for so long, and the backs of my knees felt clammy. Nothing happened.

Then something did. We looked at each other as the piece moved under our hands. It semi-circled the board, sailing past A through K, and crept past L.

It settled on M.

“Murder?” Claire’s voice was soaked with excitement. She was so sketchy. What did Rachel see in her?

The piece glided in the wrong direction. Away from U and R.

Landing on A.

Rachel looked confused. “Matches?”

“Mauling?” Claire asked. “Maybe you start a forest fire and get eaten by Smokey the Bear?” Rachel laughed, briefly dissolving the panic that had slithered into my stomach. When we first sat down to play, I had to resist the urge to roll my eyes at Claire’s melodramatics. Now, not so much.

The piece zigzagged across the board, cutting her laughter short.

R.

We were silent. Our eyes didn’t leave the board as the piece jerked back to the beginning.

To A.

Then stopped.

We waited for the piece to point out the next letter, but it remained still. After three minutes, Rachel and Claire withdrew their hands. I felt them watching me.

“It wants you to ask something,” Rachel said softly.

“If by ‘it’ you mean Claire, I’m sure that’s true.” I stood up, shaking and nauseous. I was done.

“I didn’t push it,” Claire said, wide-eyed as she looked at Rachel, then at me.

“Pinky swear?” I asked, with sarcasm.

“Why not,” Claire answered, with malice. She stood and walked closer to me. Too close. Her green eyes were dangerous. “I didn’t push it,” she said again. “It wants you to play.”

Rachel grabbed my hand and pulled herself up off the floor. She looked straight at Claire. “I believe you,” she said, “but let’s do something else?”

“Like what?” Claire’s voice was flat, and I stared right back at her, unflinching. Here we go.

“We can watch The Blair Witch Project.” Claire’s favorite, naturally. “How about it?” Rachel’s voice was tentative, but firm.

I tore my eyes away from Claire’s and nodded, managing a smile. Claire did the same. Rachel relaxed, but I didn’t. For her sake, though, I tried to swallow my anger and unease as we settled in to watch the movie. Rachel popped in the DVD and blew out the candles.

Six months later, they were both dead.

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