Mara Dyer doesn’t know if she is crazy or haunted—all she knows is that everyone around her is dying in this suspenseful and “strong, inventive tale” (Kirkus Reviews).
Mara Dyer doesn’t think life can 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 mysteriously unharmed. There is. She doesn’t believe that after everything she’s been through, she can fall in love. She’s wrong.
After Mara survives the traumatizing accident at the old asylum, it makes sense that she has issues. She lost her best friend, her boyfriend, and her boyfriend’s sister, and as if that weren’t enough to cope with, her family moves to a new state in order to give her a fresh start. But that fresh start is quickly filled with hallucinations—or are they premonitions?—and then corpses, and the boundary between reality and nightmare is wavering. At school, there’s Noah, a devastatingly handsome charmer who seems determined to help Mara piece together what’s real, what’s imagined—and what’s very, very dangerous.
This fast-paced psychological—or is it paranormal?—thriller will leave you breathless for its sequel, The Evolution of Mara Dyer.
1. Although she is the narrator, we get to know Mara Dyer as a character rather gradually in The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer. What were your first impressions of Mara? How did your opinion of her change from the beginning of the book to the end? Can she be considered an "unreliable" narrator? Explain.
2. What do you know about post-traumatic stress disorder? Do you think Mara is experiencing conditions associated with this disorder, and how so? Perhaps it's something else? Explain using specific examples from the book.
3. Noah Shaw has a bad reputation around school, though Mara sees a different side to him. Why do you think Noah cultivates this reputation? Do you think he is right not to correct other people's assumptions?
4. What are the qualities of Noah that attracted Mara? Did Mara fall in love with Noah at first sight, or did it happen over time? Was there a particular turning point that seemed to signify a shift in their relationship? Do you believe in love at first sight?
5. Mara asks Noah, “Are you afraid of anything?” and Noah replies, “I’m afraid of forgeries.” What does he mean? What does his response say about him? What are your own fears?
6. Often we’re faced with discrepancies between reality and illusion in The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer. It isn’t always easy for us, as readers, to determine what was real or not. What clues did you look for—or observe, in retrospect—that helped you determine what was really happening in Mara’s life? Do you think the author deliberately intended for there to be a discrepancy? Is this why Mara is an unreliable narrator? What does this accomplish?
7. What does “real” mean to Noah? Consider the following excerpts: • Noah: “I’m afraid of forgeries.” • Noah: “No matter what, I’m an imposter. An actor in my own life.” • Mara, talking about Noah: “And that made him real.” • Noah, to Mara: “You made me real.”
What makes a person “real” to you?
8. Mara thought Noah's surprise tour of the art exhibit was a perfect date. Describe the ingredients of your perfect dream date, and the significance of each detail.
9. What happened at the conclusion of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer? Explain. Use evidence from the text to support your theories.
10. Now, looking back at the very beginning, how would you explain Mara’s situation when the story first opened? What did you learn, later on, that helped make sense of the story’s initial disclaimer? Why do you think Michelle Hodkin chose to introduce The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer in this manner?
11. Define “unbecoming,” as it relates to Mara Dyer.
Guide written by Catharine Sotzing, an elementary school teacher at the Dalton School, New York City.
This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.
Michelle Hodkin grew up in Florida, went to college in New York, and studied law in Michigan. She is the author of the Mara Dyer trilogy, including The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, The Evolution of Mara Dyer, and The Retribution of Mara Dyer. Visit her online at MichelleHodkin.com.