ARC Review: The Becoming of Noah Shaw (The Shaw Confessions #1) by Michelle Hodkin

becoming of noah shawI received this book for free from Simon & Schuster in exchange for an honest review.

Review by: Paige

Rating: ★ ★ ★

Publication: November 7th, 2017

Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal

Synopsis: In the first book of the Shaw Confessions, the companion series to the New York Times bestselling Mara Dyer novels, old skeletons are laid bare and new promises prove deadly. This is what happens after happily ever after.

Everyone thinks seventeen-year-old Noah Shaw has the world on a string.

They’re wrong.

Mara Dyer is the only one he trusts with his secrets and his future.

He shouldn’t.

And both are scared that uncovering the truth about themselves will force them apart.

They’re right.

Review: I was a big fan of Mara Dyer when the series was at the height of its popularity, but I wasn’t so sure about the necessity of a spin-off series. I came into this book very wary, and quite honestly, I feel I was justified in being so. I never found Noah as interesting a character as Mara, and I just didn’t know what his perspective on any new events could add to this world. This story is compelling, and I most certainly could not put it down. For a college student to be able to finish a book for pleasure in essentially a day, it has to be pretty damn engrossing and easy to get into. And this was certainly so.

The biggest problem I faced with this installment was the feeling that it lacked intention and trajectory. In the Mara Dyer Trilogy, everything had a purpose. The puzzle pieces fell perfectly into place, and though some questions were left unanswered, the reader ultimately found the plot to be concluded. Now I know this is only the first of this new series, but the plot seemed surprisingly messy – and is it really new? I don’t think Hodkin herself knows where this story is going, and that makes it really hard for the reader to deduce any direction. Only so much discovery can happen in one world, and there is beauty in leaving some stuff to interpretation.

This book was ultimately character driven, as opposed to the original trilogy having been plot driven. As a result, it felt way less intense, dark, and dangerous. There was a feeling to Mara Dyer of always being on the verge of something, of the stakes being raised at all turns. While I loved getting to know Noah’s point of view, nothing really drove this story or the discovery these characters were trying to make. They’re all just existing in this space, trying to feel their way through a newfound dilemma, but nothing is actually happening.

Noah and Mara remain frustrating, unlikable characters in a toxic relationship. While that was endearing in the original trilogy, I attribute that attraction to their relationship to Mara’s unreliable narration. When you lose the appeal of the wholly unreliable narrator by switching to Noah’s perspective, it makes it a lot harder to excuse and empathize with problematic content and horrible actions. In a way, it became almost stale. I wanted to get to know the supporting characters so much more, and I hope the following books delve into them and flesh out the new (and old!) far more.

I firmly believe that this series will get better with future installments. This book functions an adjustment of narrative, plot, and character. Once the awkward, clunky recounting has passed, I think these books will find their footing and amp up the action. For enormous fans of the series, I think they’ll find this a fitting return. But after a couple of years, despite being an engrossing, interesting read, The Becoming of Noah Shaw seems ultimately lackluster in comparison to the Mara Dyer Trilogy.

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