The Unbecoming of a Reader

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The thing about sleek and sexy covers, like pretty faces, is that the attraction comes too easy. There’s not really much of a struggle, more so if you are plain clueless about what it’s all about—you’re just lured into wanting it, blind to its contents. The thing is, we were warned, to never ever judge a book by its cover, but we still do, despite. And the worst part about it is that we hope—that it’ll be just as pretty inside.

The gorgeous book design of Michelle Hodkin’s ‘The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer’ is a prime example of why beautiful book covers are my kryptonite. Right off the bat it hands you the promise of a good old paranormal romance: the essentially troubled heroine, the possibly broody but definitely sexy and all-kinds-of-impossible lover and ultimately, the  eerie supernatural backdrop of the world they live in.  I am smitten, no questions asked. But did it sweep me off my feet and had me marching into the sunset of happily ever after? Did I love it?

THE GOOD:

To be fair, this novel gets brownie points for its efforts to really place the emphasis on its female protagonist, Mara Dyer. It has to, because they had her name on the title, right? If I may be so bold to say, the reason why I really stay away from YA paranormal romances is because of the tendencies of stories falling under this genre towards male bias. The lead guys are always central to the plot because they’re always the paranormal other-half (Vampires, wolves, angels, demons, faeries, whathaveyous) whereas women are always the plain-janes whose only roles are to be the quintessential damsel-in-distress. It’s formulaic and it’s wearisome in a sense because there’s really not much room for some character development, right? So I appreciated that the author went out of her way to shake things up a bit by turning the tables around this time: the hero is the one at the mercy of the heroine, which is come to think of it, quite refreshing for a change.

I loved the author’s little touches on the secondary characters, particularly the quirks of Mara’s family. I especially adored her little brother Joseph’s affinity for reading WallStreet journals and the stock market. Hee, cute. There were also glimpses of humor that had me laughing and there were even moments when I thought I’ll finally find a connection with the characters.

Also, Noah Shaw, Mara’s love interest is SMOLDERING HOT in all capital letters. He’s your usual most popular guy in high school, sure. But then he’s also the SMARTEST guy in class and speaks several languages fluently, secretly lives in a mansion-cum-palace, son of a multimillionaire, great kisser and as if he’s not yet perfect at that, he also has a freaking library in his room. Of course he has to be perfect, or this is not YA paranormal. Excuse my jadedness, friends. Haha. But aaaah Noah Shaw, you make me feel like a hormonal teenage girl again! I know it’s fluff but I said (and admitted to myself) not too long ago that I need fluff in my life too, sometimes.

THE BAD:

I tried, I really did, but it still feels like Twilight vibes all over. Girl moves to a new state and transfers to a new school, becomes a walking freakshow that everyone ogles on her first few weeks, meets hottest and most elusive school heartthrob, and then the instant attraction that draws them together like magic. And then they run into some creepy, paranormal hijinks together that place both their lives in danger and then at the end they’ve got no one but each other to survive and fight for. Different characters but same old plot. The book tried too, and I give it credit for that, but it just sort of complicated things further in the end to the point of confusion. The second half of the book went in an oblivious blur because of reality and hallucinations overlapping each other. Or maybe that’s just me, being too slow on the uptake to keep up with the direction the story wanted to take. Oh, and it’s also the first book in– yes, you’ve guessed it right–a series. Of course we saw that one coming.

Reading this felt like being on a summer fling in so many ways, or at least how I am imagining it will feel like: It was sweet, sexy fun but I never really took it seriously. It is, to be consistent with my choice of metaphors, a steamy yet brief one night-stand; it didn’t take my breath away nor had me professing undying love.  Ask me now how it felt when it ended, and I’ll probably stare into space, pondering plenty of what-could-have -beens and I’ll smile and tell you, ‘Well, like what they all say, it’s only good while it lasted.’

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