Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, by Michelle Hodkin

There were a lot of things I heard about this book--creepy, funny, sexy--and really, when I finally discovered a copy in a nearby library, the last thing I expected to take out of this book was boredom.

It wasn't just a "sagging middle" sort of boredom. I was pretty much bored throughout. The "mysterious" elements were fairly predictable, and far too much time was spent on lukewarm romance. And don't get me started on the romance. (Too late.) Remember that list I compiled a while back? (Things I never want to see in YA romance again) I wrote that list while reading this book. And it's guilty on all counts.

We can start by discussing the first: "Girl meets boy. Boy starts off acting like a jerk." My problem with this book isn't the "douchebag, semi-abusive boyfriend" trope. At least that would have a sense of consistency--as in, guy acts like a jerk because he is a jerk. Is Noah a jerk? I have no fucking clue. Sure, we're supposed to believe this at first, but by the end of the book, he might as well be a fucking preacher. In which case, he has no plausible reason for acting like a jerk.

My main issue with Noah is that he has no consistency. Sure, nice guys sometimes act like jerks, (and vice versa), but his change in behavior seems to follow nothing more than the author's whims. His entire character feels like a bunch of wish fulfillment tropes thrown into one:

1. Nice boys are boring, so we can't just have a love interest walk onto the page and help the protagonist carry her books. No, we need to show that he's a bad boy. Because bad boys are hot.

2. But of course, he's not actually a bad boy. He has a heart of gold. Animals love him, and he cares about his family, and he would never take advantage of the protagonist. Oh yeah, and he's a virgin (if I remember correctly.)

3. And of course, Mara is the only girl he ever cared about. So it's okay that he's a jerk to the token jealous bitch-slut and a handful of other girls he dated, because they're all air-headed bimbos who don't deserve a guy's respect.

(Note: There is mention of him doing something really dick-ish to this one girl, but the story is never fully resolved. Despite being previously pissed at him over it, Mara seems to forgive him after almost no explanation of the incident.)

4. Oh and he's hot. And rich. And British. And multilingual. And funny. (I will give him that. Noah is occasionally hilarious. But the occasional funny quote is not enough to redeem an otherwise boring relationship.)

5. And just for kicks, we'll throw in an angsty past.

And the other characters? I already mentioned the token jealous bitch-slut who apparently has nothing better to do than bully the protagonist. And then there's the token multi-minority best friend who had the potential to be a great character, but was conveniently dismissed about halfway through the novel.

The only well-formed characters in the book were Mara's family. Especially her older brother. But that was about it.

As to the ending? It was a mixture of "cop-out" and "to be continued."

So in short, this book involves sitting through 400 pages of boring dates and cliche high school drama just to come to the very obvious conclusion that Mara can [insert River Tam quote here].

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