Oh, Mara Dyer. You win, you win. The publisher’s summary was just amazing. The cover? Drop dead gorgeous. Mara, you left me pinning, literally begging, and, later on, you tricked me into buying you. Shoot me, but I judge books by their covers. It’s a bad habit, I know. And, if I hadn’t already learned my lesson, Mara? You’ve taught me that for sure. Because you left me oh so disappointed in you, Mara. You win. You’re officially one of my biggest bookish disappointments this year. You win.
Where to begin? Shall we start with the plot? The romance? The characters? The un-necessary things that somehow made their way into this edited, published copy? The writing? The alligators? I’ll start with the plot. And the alligators. The rest will follow.
I get it. There are some books with plots that are character-driven. There are some books based on the romance, with a sub-plot hovering on the side. There are some books containing a few smaller, somehow related sub-plots that then tie together at the end. There are some mystery plots that span over several books, with the solution/thief/person responsible/etc revealed at the very, very end. But if you’re going to write a book like that, you have to make it work. With Mara Dyer, I wasn’t even sure of which category this belongs to. Let me explain. I’m going to have to break this down into smaller, separate paragraphs, so bare with me.
First, we have the romance. We have a guy-meets-girl story. Mara’s a new girl at a new school, and she meets Noah Shaw, the boy every girl wants, the boy who sleeps around, but the boy who no one can keep. But (surprise!) Noah likes her. Really, really likes her. As in I’ll-believe-anything-you-say likes her. As in I’ll-tell-the-world-that-you’re-my-girlfriend-although-I’ve-never-told-anyone-else likes her. And Mara? She all but throws herself at him. After she meets him, we literally read about nothing else but their relationship. Oh, and the alligators. But they’re still together in that scene. I think a better word for their relationship would be: obsessed. They’re definitely obsessed and infatuated with each other to a point in which it’s embarrassing to read about – even for the reader. But Mara? She isn’t embarrassed at all.
Then there’s that delicious murder story we were promised in the publisher’s summary. Mara, oh Mara. You’ve definitely fooled me here. The prologue was pure awesomeness. It gave me the chills, and was just… wow. Eerie, creepy, mysterious. I kept reading faster and faster. You sucked me right into the story, Mara. I thought this was going to be amazing. Chapter one was great, too. Until… Mara met Noah. That’s right. Because, from there, all that eerie, creepy, and mysterious stuff that was built up before? It all but dissolved. Faded away. Instead, we were left with a high-school romance story. Sure it popped up a few times later on. But it wasn’t as strong anymore. I thought this was supposed to be a eerie book. A horror book. A thriller. Congratulations, Mara. You definitely had me fooled right there.
Then there’s the smaller scenes. There’s that high-profile criminal case that her father was apparently working on, the random dog rescue scenes, flashbacks, a seminar, and that one alligator scene. The high-profile criminal case seemed to have been written there only as an excuse for Mara to move. After she moves, the case all but disappears. And, don’t get me wrong. I hate seeing those poor, thin, homeless animals out on the streets or being abused, too. But the random dog rescue scenes in The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer? It seemed so irrelevant to the plot. It was just another thing to dilute the already weak mystery. The flashbacks, I know, were put there to add suspense and to build-up on that mystery surrounding Mara’s friends’ deaths. But… they didn’t seem to do anything. They didn’t drive the plot forward. Granted, it didn’t slow the plot down, either. The flashbacks were just… there. Then, of course, we have the alligators. In a way, it kind of amused me that the author put a scene like this in her story. Like the dog scene and the flashbacks, it didn’t seem to serve any purpose to the story.
The publisher summed up the story in six sentences. I summed it up in three long paragraphs. That alone should tell you something: it’s misleading. That wonderfully compelling story is misleading. Mara, oh Mara, you’ve managed to fool us again.
And Mara, it wasn’t just the characters that made me disagree with this book, was it? Let’s talk about Mara and Noah Shaw. And their relationship.
Okay, maybe I’m a little biased when it comes to Noah. He has a British accent. I’m part British, and I have a British accent, too. Maybe it’s just me, but I really don’t see what’s so fascinating about accents. I don’t see what’s so sexy about a I-just-rolled-out-of-bed look, or a playboy guy whom you can’t tell half the time if he’s joking or not. And, again, this might be just me, but I like characters with flaws. Noah’s ‘flaw’ is that he smokes. Anything else? Nope, not that I can see. He speaks many different languages, has a huge house, is rich (at one point in the story, I do recall him casually pulling about $5000 dollars from his wallet), is pinned for by all girls, composes music, and he gets perfect grades without even studying. Oh, and The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer? Twilight called. They want Edward Cullen/Noah Shaw back.
Of course, Mara’s infatuated with him. She just about forgets everything else in her life and flings herself at him. Drawing perfect pictures of him in class? Thinking about him 24/7? Dropping everything in her life to pine for him? And when Noah’s the same (minus the drawing – see my rant on their relationship at the beginning of my review for more)? Ladies and gentlemen, this isn’t a romance. This is an obsession.
Of course, this also means she hangs on to every word he says. So when he says creepy things about him owning her, she doesn’t find it creepy. And when she goes to some Santeria priest and has a wrong drink and blanks out? She wakes up in Noah’s bed. Naked. With no memory of what had happened between then and now. But, of course, she doesn’t run away. Instead, she makes out with him. He could’ve lied. He could’ve messed with her when she wasn’t thinking right. He could’ve done something to her – anything. But she doesn’t think about that possibility. No, she makes out with him. Well, at least she has some sense as she puts on some clothes – his clothes – first.
Mara, you sounded amazing. But upon reading, I discovered a tangled web of multiple confusing, different plots, a messed up obsession between two characters, and alligators. All I wanted was a thrilling mystery. I think it’s safe to say that I was very, very disappointed.
Will I recommend this to anyone? I don’t think I can. Sorry, Mara. I just couldn’t enjoy you enough. However, go check on Goodreads. There’s plenty of five/four star, raving reviews on there to change your mind and coax you into taking a peek at The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer. Meanwhile, I’ll be off. There’s a certain vampire-boy that doesn’t belong in The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer. I’m off to take him back to Forks.