“I don’t have feelings.”
― Michelle Hodkin, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer
I wasn’t around the blogging block when buzz for this book began (holy alliteration, Batman !), but I can see why people were so excited. The cover is just beautiful, the name is wonderful and the synopsis is haunting. Unfortunately, what started as a chilling read quickly, turned into a lukewarm novel that disappointed me on one level.
This novel starts with a mysterious handwritten prologue, an intriguing first chapter and then dives right in the story with Mara waking up in a hospital after being in a building collapse that killed her friends.
With this start, I was hooked, but the story started to teeter and after a while, the whole thing collapsed, as it took a backseat to our British, smiling and beautiful friend Noah Shaw.
There is no way around it–Noah Shaw is one of the biggest jerks I’ve read in YA literature and not in a charming way. Having to spend so much time in the head of someone obsessed with him takes a toll.
I was so confused as to why readers were fangirling over him. I thought I was over analyzing something, but then I read Jennie over at My Cute Bookshelf’s review and she describes Noah best:
From Mycutebookshelf: Even though he was gorgeous, had a sexy accent and was rich, he still had one big flaw– his personality.
Jennie also talks about how parts of this book are slut-shaming. Anna, the mean girl is a specific example of this:
“Anna used to be the abstinence poster girl, but post-Shaw, you could write a comic book about the many adventures of her vagina. It could wear a cape.”
From Mycutebookshelf: But get this, Noah is described as a player in the beginning of the book and for most of it. He’s a guy who supposedly sleeps around with a ton of girls. And that practically makes him sexy. Mara and all the girls are dying for this guy. This guy who supposedly sleeps with any girl. And that’s… HOT. Because really, when a guy does it, it’s ok. Yet this girl who apparently had sex with Noah and then they broke up– she’s now considered a whore.
I’d like to expand on this because it’s not just Anna. Here is a quote from Mara’s male friend Jamie describing Noah to Mara to warn her about him:
“Noah doesn’t date. He’ll screw you–literally and figuratively. Everyone knows it–his conquests know it–but they pretend not to care until he moves on to the next one. And then they’re alone and their reputations are shot to hell. Anna is a prime example.”
So, to put it the way Jamie does, Noah treats girls,” like condoms” and they get their reputations ruined. Meanwhile, Noah Shaw gets the celeberity treatment.
All the single girls in the novel are like this.
All of them.
I’m not saying slut-shaming doesn’t exist in real life. It does, but I feel like Hodkin used it in the novel to elevate Noah and bring all the other females down.
On this note, there are a few other convenient misogynistic quotes in the book. Mara has a Spanish teacher who hates her for no reason, except to be a plot device and Noah brings the gem “Today’s Spanish class, brought to you by the letter C”. Also, there is the random male character who exists to cat call to Mara “I’d hit it so hard whoever pulled me out would be King of England”.
Obviously, this creates the perfect opportunity for Noah to defend Mara’s honor and beat someone up. Don’t worry Noah doesn’t get into any real trouble--Noah is rich and gets out of things. I think when making this book, they wanted to make the book feel edgier. Yeah, there are a lot of awkward sex jokes in this book.
If that’s not bad enough there is the other story about a guy who made out with Noah’s sister, so to get back at him Noah humiliates the guy’s sister. Because girls are like objects and property. You’d think that would be enough to turn Mara off, but it doesn’t. Also, no there are no specifics on how he humiliated her, but c’mon. He calculated it.
Noah is controlling and tells Mara what he wants and expects her to be obey him. He keeps Mara in the dark about where they are going, what they doing or who they are seeing. He likes to keep control of the situation and Mara is so obsessed with his hotness, she just goes along with it. I mean, He says he is taking away the word “why” and she is no longer allowed to use. And he isn’t saying it for some philosophical reason it; he says this so she will tell him how many other guys she has kissed.
Also, Mara falls in love with Noah after a few weeks. I get if she just is physically attracted to him, but I have no idea why she loves him.
I don’t care how sexy you look smoking cigarettes (while driving a Prius so it cancels out, lol !), how British your accent it or how rich you are. Noah is a jerk. I think he’d make a great villain or something but, as the love interest, it did not sit well with me.
And when you do get the final reveal from Noah, his behavior makes less sense. And considering the things Mara discovers about her past, it makes you really think about her and Noah’s relationship.
In theseTumblrpostspeople ask Hodkin if ethnicity of the characters comes into play. Now, Noah is British and Mara is half-Indian Um, I don’t know much about British history but didn’t the British colonize India for a long time ?
I do think this book has potential, I feel like Hodkin has an interesting story going with this and knows where she is going and how it will end. I just wish she had stayed close to the paranormal-ish, mystery plot, kept it linear and more concise. This could have been a story about a journey of discovery and budding romance instead of a Noah Shaw is a hot jerk fest–it would have been a much more compelling novel.
I’m a lifelong reader who started blogging about YA books in 2011 but now I read in just about every genre! I love YA coming of age stories, compelling memoirs and genre bending SFF. You can find me talking all things romance at Romance and Sensibility.