[Review] The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer: A Dark, Horrific Mystery Thriller That Tackles Mental Illness In Teens

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer blew up in the kind of way every debut author dreams of and after reading it's easy to why. It's gripping and intense. It's a dark, creeptastic, haunting tale that doesn't treat teens as stupid babies.

Mara makes this book. She has to, since it's all about her. And her love affair with Noah, but I'll tackle that in a minute.

We only pick up pieces of her though like The Velveteen Rabbit being her favorite book. Music is brought up occasionally but it's general, besides Death Cab being a jackass's favorite. But that's at least something. Mara's personality though is in the spotlight and nails it.

Her voice is authentic and I love her fucking language. The teens feel realer because of this addition, the tale more grounded. That's no hyperbole either. There's still that made-for-viewers, all too on-point conversation but that's a necessary divergence. However, these teens I could see, believe and hear speaking as they did out in meatspace.

Mara's experience and narration is intense. She's unreliable (beyond being human) but unintentionally. She's telling the truth...as she knows it. It's fascinating. It works building the suspense and horror. Add in the writing creating a creepy, dark atmosphere and it's a smash hit.

Trigger Warning for Rape.

Highlight For Details:There is a very descriptive and disturbing scene. Then there's dealing with the after effects. It lies at The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer's core and is laced throughout, there's no way to avoid or deny it. Reading was occasionally hard (the scene and flashbacks) and often frustrating (her denial: “He's not a rapist because he didn't succeed in raping me!”). End.

Series: Mara Dyer #1
Age: YA
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Recommendable? Yes
CW: Rape, Mental Illness,
Mara Dyer believes life can't 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 strangely unharmed.
There is.

She doesn't believe that after everything she's been through, she can fall in love.
She's wrong.

The Good The Bad & The Other
Great atmosphere: creepy, dark, haunting Insta-love is strong and saturates
Intriguing mystery: Mara, The Asylum, Noah without a clue with what's going Cliffhanger is effective and irritating, gives no resolution and creates more questions
Mara's narration: her down to Earth language (fuck yeah), makes you feel like you're losing it with her, not a full unreliable, untrustworthy narrator but she's got the standard human limitations and mental health issues. Mara repeats herself. As in, “I feel cold. I said,'I'm cold.'” Then it'll happen again several pages later. Annoying but not a big deal.
Love the way it dealt with mental illness and PTSD. One token character and one ignorant side trip into Santeria.

Trigger Warning IconYoung Adult IconMystery Icon paranormalRomance IconCliffhanger IconDark IconHorrific Icon
Insta-Love IconPage-Turner PostrsSnarky IconTokens Icon


A rich, handsome genius with a smart-ass mouth. He's the player of their high school and oh so too cool for anyone. Except Mara, who he globs onto quickly. They make a rather big mess of the whole thing, jumping from one misunderstanding to another.

I have no idea what to think about him. There are moments of greatness, with the dog for instance. Then there's the whole “not listening and hiding shit” thing. Mara's undoubtedly attracted him and doesn't know what to think either. It's just one more thing where she's in over her head.
I'm no fan of insta-love and though she's got the hots early, she resists and doesn't swoon immediately. But Soon. However, it saturates as quickly as Mara falls and I wasn't entirely pleased, given how her and the horror was my favorite part. I'm willing to cut the girl who's losing her mind some slack though. And...

Later in the series...Well, he shaped up nicely. It is what it is, but it's a better than a lot of couples I've read at least. Hard to stay made at 'em. ;)

World Building:

Remains to be seen in the important ways, like the who, what, when, where and why regarding their powers. Otherwise, it's just our world. Well, unbalanced, ass-backwards as fuck Florida but this is the white upper class so it's subdued enough to seem normal. :D


Jamie. That's about it, and he acknowledges the cards he's dealt in a sarcastic way. Is he a token? He didn't feel like one (subjective as fuck) but his solo status can't be denied. I don't know but I loved him, he's hilarious and straightforward, which was very much needed in this twisted tale. Of course, it might just be he's a great character or loving the one token is how it's supposed to work. Most likely both.

The one side trip involving SanterĂ­a shows how little our cast knows. So sheltered and oblivious, though I know that's true to life. Doesn't mean I have to like it. This next part will sound random if you haven't read the series, but it's the only way to explain without spoilers.

Of course, his fucking name was a fake, FFS. That piece of the puzzle was fucking obvious and outrageously stupid that they figured it out with a random clue that just so happened to be there, instead of you know, research. (BTW, they seriously sucked using Google when they did. And if you expect to get your school work done with elementary use of Google, you're fucked.)

The Handling of Mental Illness In Teens

It's not the most sensitive regarding ablism. There's lots of “crazy” and such thrown around but it's done self-referral and deprecation. I do love Mara's dealings with psychologists and the mental health treatment in our country though.

Like in every other way, her voice and experience rings authentic. I've dealt with my own shit as a teen and kept tabs, lies, and secrets to remain sane while dealing with adults trying to help. I've never met a kid who didn't, and I've met plenty in group, shelters, programs, etc. And none of us had psychiatrists as mothers either. But it's a system and you learn and adapt or get crushed beneath it. Hell, sometimes you still do…

Even though Mara and crew's families had far more money than anyone I've known, there's only so much money can get you out of and you'll end up coping in much the same destructive ways. You'll just get a cushy cell and a more flamboyant spiral. See: Noah.

The Ending:

There isn't resolution or anything, just a cliffhanger. A very gripping cliffhanger that works and I was too busy getting my hands on the next book to gripe about it. But if I was stuck waiting? I'd be complaining.


4.5 Stars: For Mara's voice, narration, and tale. I fucking loved it.

Recommended For:
those looking for a dark, creepy and mature YA novel that reads like a psychological horror show.

After Finishing The Series…

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer is the strongest of the trilogy. The middle book, The Devolution of Mara Dyer, drags and sags. I was about to quit given how little progress was made and how frustrating it became. Then the climax happened and I finished it with a “Finally!”. The Retribution of Mara Dyer had pieces I was waiting to drop, and shit coming from a mile away. No doubt better than the second installment but not as strong as the first. I'll have full reviews posted shortly but those are always treacherous when you're trying to check out a series without spoiling anything. So, if you're deciding to dive in, there ya go.

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