The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer | Review

Posted June 8, 2014 by Tara Gold in Review /// 3 Comments

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer | ReviewThe Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
Narrator: Christy Romano
Series: Mara Dyer #1
Published by Audible Studios, Simon & Schuster on 2011
Genres: Horror, Mystery, Romance, Suspense, Thriller, YA
Pages: 466
Length: 9:40
Format: audiobook
Source: Purchased from, Purchased from Barnes and Noble

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 many years of hearing about Mara Dyer, I finally broke down and read the book. I didn’t quite know what to expect. Was this going to be a paranormal book? A psychological thriller? A ghost story? A problem novel? The genre line is intentionally blurred in this, the first novel in the trilogy, because Mara herself does not quite know what is going on. There was a terrible accident, after which everything seemed to change for Mara. Strange happenings follow her.

BUT. Pause. There’s also a cute boy. Noah. Let’s talk about Noah. That kid was too perfect. Didn’t like him. Didn’t think he was a dreamboat. Found the whole relationship between Mara and Noah ridiculous. Did I get all of that in quickly enough? Good. Because that’s all I’m going to say about Noah. Noah aside, I did enjoy the psychological thrill of the book and really did not know where it was all going to go. It would be easy to say that I saw some of the plot coming, but, let’s be honest: I had more than one theory.

The romance elements did tend to overshadow the suspense at points, but I expected that based on the cover. The mystery is what hooked me. I kept reading because I just had to know if Mara was just crazy or if something more sinister was going down. For much of the novel, the reader’s confusion parallels Mara’s as Hodkin drops hints to slowly uncover the true evil at play. The biggest question of all was whether or not I could trust Mara. Is she an unreliable narrator? The mystery and the mysterious tone (and the frustration) were definitely done well and are clearly what has hooked other readers on this trilogy.

As for the audio, this is narrated by Christy Carlson Romano. Yes, Christy Carlson Romano like the the Christy Carlson Romano of early 2000’s Disney fame. It’s hard to take a suspense novel seriously when I’m thinking about Even Stevens and Cadet Kelly (and Kim Possible — call me, beep me!):

christy carlson romanoDoes anyone else have this problem with audiobook narrators who are also actors on TV? I’ve experienced this before with Maria Semple reading Where’d You Go, Bernadette? and Sarah Drew’s irritating reading of the Delirium trilogy. Romano was pretty good with the voices, so my issue wasn’t her fault. I just found her…distracting. Plus, this was the first audiobook that I’ve listened to where I heard actual recorded mistakes. Someone dropped the ball on the editing, it seems.


Giving Mara Dyer a C just seems unfair, as much of my score comes from a genre bias rather than the merit of the book. But ratings are never purely objective, are they? I did find it to be average. Nothing remarkable, nothing that I personally will think about beyond listening to those final minutes of the story. I’m not inspired to continue the series, but it’s not like I regret spending an Audible credit on the book. I got what I wanted out of this: ten hours of a book that I’ve heard enough buzz about to warrant me giving it a go. In true librarian fashion, I never consider it wasted time to read something outside of my personal taste. Mara Dyer would be a great pick for readers who like romance in creepy novels, and I can totally picture my middle school students going nuts over it. This series is quite popular with the actual teen set (you should have seen the girls in Barnes and Noble who excitedly helped me find the book and enthusiastically recommended it to me), so do consider adding it a classroom or school library.

What are your feelings on romance in thriller/suspense novels? Distraction or welcomed tension relief?

Tara Gold

Tara is a PhD candidate studying education. Her dissertation is on digital book communities as public pedagogy (ask her about it!), though she often takes a break from all of that to read books about oppressive governments and sassy teenagers. In a former life, she was a middle school teacher and middle school librarian. In her future life...well, that's yet to be determined, but it probably involves getting kids jazzed about books or research. In her free time, she drinks a lot of coffee while planning her next grand adventure (there's always something).

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3 responses to “The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer | Review

  1. EM

    I actually enjoyed this book when I read it last year. I agree with you about Noah haha! He did seem too good to be true but I did end up liking his character towards the end of the book. Even though the romance elements of the book did overshadow the mystery aspects at some parts, I still enjoyed the romance between Noah and Mara 😀 I liked her older bro as well 😀

    I hope you continue on with the series as I would like to see what you think about the second installment 😀

  2. I don’t think I would be able to take the narration seriously. Not Christy Carlson Romano. I would only think of Even Stevens and all the goofiness and antics that went on in the show.

  3. Oh my god, wow…I haven’t thought about that actress in a really long time haha. I had no idea she was even still around, doing stuff. That would’ve been super distracting for me as well. Last year I read Duma Key by Steven King and it was narrated by the guy who plays Roger Sterling on Mad Men and it took me until like halfway through the book to finally get used to it. But it still screws me up when we watch the show!

    I had the same opinion as you about this book basically. I decided to read the next one and I actually liked it quite a bit more. It still wasn’t amazing, but it had a lot more paranormal stuff, and most of my problems with Noah in the first book were almost completely gone. I’m actually kind of excited for the third one to come out in the fall.

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