The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer was nothing like I had expected. I went into it expecting an eerie story that would cause me to sleep with the lights on for the next little while; unfortunately, while the beginning started off on such a high note, it was quickly overshadowed by romance.
While the creepy parts lasted, they were done exceptionally well. From unexplained hallucinations to a disturbing event that no one could remember, it was easy to say that I was completely absorbed in determining what exactly had happened to Mara and what was still happening to her. Unfortunately, the last 100 pages or so were rather disappointing in that regard: while the paranormal elements that I had been promised finally kicked in at the end, it was unoriginal and predictable. I had so many great theories about what had been happening (my personal favourite of which was dissociative identity disorder), and these paranormal aspects felt incredibly out of place in a book that had read as a contemporary novel/psychological thriller up until that point.
The romance, which took over the majority of the story, was formulaic and cliched. The illustrious Noah Shaw is a prime example of wish fulfillment: he's gorgeous, intelligent, British, speaks multiple languages, lives in what can only be described as a "palace," and has eyes only for the new girl, Mara. He's overprotective and possessive, to the point where he fights to "defend" Mara's honour. All of this together made me dislike him for the majority of the book, but somehow - inexplicably - he started to grow on me, particularly when he let his guard down or uttered one of his many witty one-liners. I couldn't forgive the initial impression that he left on me, but I can (kind of) understand why other readers seem to be in love with him.
In terms of the other characters, Mara included, the characterization was a bit rocky and underdeveloped. I didn't feel as if I got to know any of them - and while it may be that Mara doesn't really know herself, it was hard to connect with her. Her brothers were just kind of there: one adorably trusting, and the other was the quintessential perfect child. I did appreciate that her parents were present, although they were prone to disappearing at the most convenient times. Mara's best friend, Jamie, seemed only to be included to diversify the cast, as he didn't receive much page time or development. The worst characterization, though, goes to Anna, the requisite "mean girl" who was subject to so much slut shaming.
However, despite the many reasons as to why The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer shouldn't have worked for me, I somehow found myself enjoying it. Here's hoping the sequel is just as addictive.