Review: The Unbecoming Of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

Publisher/Date: Simon & Schuster – 9/11
How I Got It: Got an ARC at BEA!
Read a summary here.
Pre-Order It here.

I’m going to preface this with: I normally don’t write reviews like this. I mean,  my reviews tend to be more conversational and laid back rather than a literary analysis that is eloquently written with excellent usage of literary terms straight from your college textbook. But this review…I’ve tried to write this 10 times since I finished it and this is the only way it’s worked…to gush and then to rant like I’m calling up my sister and telling her about it.

Oh goodness. This book and I…we have a real complicated relationship. I finished this book in a day. To say I devoured it would be an understatement. It was like the kind of head-over-heels-and-so-deliriously-drunk-on-lust infatuation….you know the kind that might make you go and get hitched after a day together. THAT is how smitten I was with this book.

From the very first page I was undeniably locked in. The mystery and intrigue had me in its grips, I fell in love with Noah (who weirdly enough I kept picturing as a cross between Logan from Veronica Mars and Heath Ledger in Ten Things I Hate About You…more so Logan with his bad boy swagger and adorableness) and Hodkins unraveling of the plot and ability to balance the paranormal, romantical and realistic aspects of the story was brilliant.  There was some sexy, steamy tension and that was a nice distraction from the mysteries and general confused (in a good way!) state I was in.

I mean, there were some bizarre things going on in this book. Good bizarre…in a way that I was DYING to figure it out and trying to formulate guesses as to what is going on. I felt just as crazy as Mara felt trying to grapple with what I was reading — is this a dream? Are these ghosts? Parallel universes? Is she dead or something bizarre like that? WHAT IS REAAAAAL?!? WHAT IS HAPPENING?!? Freakin A. I felt like David after the dentist for goodness sake. Seriously. The screaming and all. AND THIS IS ALL IN A GOOD WAY! MIND-BENDING!

BUT I WAS LOVING IT ALL. I was getting ready to slap a “Jamie’s Pick for Best Book Of The Year”…and, friends, that carries more weight than the big O book club sticker…and mine are sparkly.

BUT THEN…about 3/4 of the way through..something happened. Some may call it a plot hole but I just call it plain old WTFery. It involves alligators and that’s all I’m going to say. But what happened is that it really deviated from what I had come to expect from the story…and not in a good way for me. The whole situation seemed illogical to me and I didn’t quite find it believable in the scope of the book. I can’t really explain it without giving things away but that scene and some of their decisions and conclusions afterward just really seemed off. I mean, maybe it’s just me. I still pressed on because I NEEDED and wanted to know what was going on. I read just as quickly through until the end….and the ENDING…OMG. Cliffhanger central. And a real doozy of a cliffhanger too. I will most certainly be reading the second book.

My other tiny gripe is that, while I really did love Noah because I’m always rooting for that bad boy who isn’t really bad, I found him to be a bit cliched in some ways…not too terribly..but I feel like I must note it. With his playboy, jerk ways…I didn’t ever really BELIEVE that just having met Mara was enough to change. I mean, I guess they have a different connection as you’ll find out when you read it…but I don’t know. There were also some whiffs there of instalove and you know that is one of my personal bookish pet peeves. But again with that…by the end I could kind of see why he might have instantly been drawn to her.

My final thought:  Mara Dyer was a riveting and hair-raising read that will have you turning the pages ravenously with that insatiable desire to know and understand all the little mysteries and the intricacies within the book. I really did enjoy the book but some of the bizarre plot holes and some directional choices of the story coupled with some personal pet peeves prevented me from slapping a “BEST BOOK EVAHHH” kind of label on it. I would highly recommend it for readers of YA who love to be on the edge of their seat trying to figure out a HUGE mysterious puzzle and are looking for well-written supernatural stories and can maybe turn a blind eye to some bizarre plot holes. I will definitely be reading the second book because I am wholly invested in figuring out what the heck is going on!!

Review On A Post It: 

Edit: I found out via Twitter from Michelle Hodkin that there are some  changes from the ARC (that I read) and the final copy…like one major sentence that was missing somewhere. Soooo we shall see if that clears some things up for me!

three-half-stars

Desires of the Dead by Kimberly Derting

Title/Author: Desires of the Dead by Kimberly Derting (sequel to The Body Finder)
Publisher/Year: HarperTeen – February 15 2011
How I Got This Book: It was sent to me for review from the publisher.

Violet, outwardly your average high school girl, has a secret that only a few close to her know. She has the ability to hear the echos of the dead whose lives were wrongly cut short at the hands of others. Their killers, unbeknownst to them, carry their own unique imprint that matches that of their victims that are also sensed by Violet. These bodies seek her out so that they can be uncovered and be at peace. Her unique sense has remained relatively secret as she’s used it to help the dead before but an echo of a four year old boy threatens to make her secret known to others outside of her family and her boyfriend Jay and somebody else’s secret threatens Violet’s life.

Desires of the Dead, the mysterious and thrilling sequel to The Body Finder (my review), is the perfect book to read curled up next to your fire with the wind howling and the fog settling outside your window. I couldn’t have asked Mother Nature for a better setting in which to read this book–although I really could have done without the freezing rain.

As someone who is just delving into the supernatural/paranormal world in my reading, this series is an excellent start for me. These books are more of a mystery/thriller book with an underlying dash of the supernatural. This series is especially good for those who are reluctant to read anything out of the realistic YA genre. This series has reminded me of why I loved reading both Nancy Drew and anything by RL Stine or Christopher Pike as a young teen. I liked the suspense and feeling like I just couldn’t read fast enough to figure out the mystery and I liked being creeped out. Ok, I lie. I slept with the light on most nights.

The first book ends with all the loose ends tied up so there aren’t any lingering questions nagging at you when you begin this book and it was kind of nice to start fresh and get to see how Violet and Jay were doing since all the events of the first book. I was anxious to see what sort of shenanigans Violet would find herself in during this book and Derting didn’t disappoint. She, again, had some alternating chapters written from the perspective of the “bad guy” but I honestly didn’t find it as effective and as chilling as I did in the first book and that was something I really found to add to the creepy factor of the first book. Overall, I thought the first book was a little bit creepier and a little bit more action packed as it practically gave me a blister from flipping the pages all day. There were some parts in the middle that I just kept dying for something to happen that would shock me but luckily I was so interested in the FBI plot-line that I kept moving along.

I don’t know if it was just me, because I am notorious for figuring out the mysteries in movies or who the killer is in shows like CSI, but I figured out everything pretty quickly in this book. I’d love to know if it was just me or if it was a little predictable. I also was getting a little irked with Violet for finding herself in bad situations and not telling anybody where she was going. It was like watching a scary movie and you are just screaming, “DON’T GO UP THE STAIRS!” or “DON’T GO OUT THERE ALONE!” I don’t think many girls her age would keep wandering off and putting herself in compromising positions although I wonder if it could be attributed to the pull of these bodies that makes her do these things.

I am beyond thrilled to see what Derting does with the rest of this series. The ending of this book leaves some really interesting possibilities for Violet that I think could make for a really great series. I think it will be interesting to see how Violet progresses with using her “talent’ to help people. I hope to see more of Rafe as he was a really intriguing addition to this book and I want to know more about him. I thought Derting added some really interesting and compelling characters to this book and I thought she integrated them very well so I’m hoping that some of them reappear in subsequent books. I’ll be really interested to see how Derting continues on and, as always, wanting to find out how Violet and Jay hold up.

My final thought: While I think I personally enjoyed The Body Finder a bit more than this one, I’d highly recommend this series if you are looking for a good YA mystery with some supernatural elements that will be thrilling, a little creepy at times and has a good romantic plot. If you enjoy shows like The Ghost Whisperer or Medium, this would be an excellent series to get into. The series is fresh and unique and Desires of the Dead is an intriguing sequel that explored Violet’s gift and made her question how she should continue to use it in the future as well as added a new dimension to the old characters and fascinating new characters. Needless to say, I’d like to hijack Derting’s brain so I can know RIGHT NOW what she is creating for Violet. I know it’s going to amp up the mystery and the chill factor—and not to mention the romance factor as she already did in Desires of the Dead.

three-stars

The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting

Title/Author: The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting
Publisher/Year: Harper Teen 2010
Where I Got It: I bought it on my Nook!
Why I read It: I heard it was so creeptastic.

Violet, outwardly your average high school girl, has a secret that only a few close to her know. She has the ability to hear the echos of the dead whose lives were wrongly cut short at the hands of others. Their killers, unbeknownst to them, carry their own unique imprint that matches that of their victims that are also sensed by Violet. These bodies seek her out so that they can be uncovered and be at peace. But what happens when a serial killer is on the loose too close to home? And if that wasn’t bad enough, now she is starting to have feelings for her childhood best friend who suddenly became eye candy at school overnight.

The premise had me from the moment I read it–hook, line and sinker. I was a little carp just flapping around on Derting’s line. I was intrigued by the fresh idea and got a wee bit giddy for some supernatural action and a good mystery. I like to try and guess whodunit because it makes me feel like Nancy Drew who I idolized as a child. However, I’m not sure that Nancy Drew ever had a connection with dead people.

I could not stop turning the pages of this one. I needed to know who this serial killer was and I just wanted to find out what was going to happen between Violet and Jay! So on one hand, you have this super creepy aspect of this book where there is a serial killer and a girl who hears echos of dead people and then you have this adorable budding romance where you just want to throw these two characters together and show them how obvious it is that they want each other. At every point there was something that interested me whether we were a step closer to finding out who the killer was or whether there was some drama with Violet or Jay. And the romance was not at all annoying (other than wanting them to just BE TOGETHER) and it was very much realistic and sweet. It was like watching two friends in high school who were so obviously into each other and you just wanted it to happen already. I would have been placing bets on how long it took them to realize this. Anyways, I was rather fond of them as a couple. The other characters in the book were not so memorable to me and actually Violet would have fallen flat for me at times if she didn’t have such an interesting “gift”. Hopefully in the sequel she’ll become a little more alive for me.

I have to say I was hoping for it to be super creepy and keep me up late at night to the point where every creak in the house HAD to be some psycho serial killer creeping around my house. Seriously, I get like that. I start sweating and thinking of what I could hit him with. Anyways, it wasn’t as scary as I thought it was going to be. However, Derting did something very effective to add the creepy element to satisfy me. She had some alternating chapters from the perspective of this unknown serial killer. Being in the serial killer’s head was CREEPY and added a whole other element to the story. Props to Derting for doing that because she pulled it off well! She must have been browsing the true crime section of the bookstore because I thought she captured the essence of the serial killer perfectly.  And props to Derting because I, the queen of figuring out the endings to things, didn’t even see that ending coming until nearer to the end of the book. That made me happy!

My Final Thought: Read this if you are looking for a YA book that will quicken your heart rate with its creepy plotline involving serial killers and dead bodies along with a romance that gives you butterflies. Derting creates the perfect novel for someone who wants to dabble in a little supernatural action but not fully immerse themselves. For lovers of the supernatural/paranormal scene, this one will definitely be one that will chill you and thrill you with its fast pace and its refreshing premise although it might be lacking in the paranormal creature department.

four-stars
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