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  The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

  An imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10020 www.SimonandSchuster.com This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  Copyright © 2011 by Michelle Hodkin

  All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. is a trademark of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

  Book design by Lucy Ruth Cummins

  The text for this book is set in Caslon.

  Manufactured in the United States of America

  2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3 1

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Hodkin, Michelle.

  The unbecoming of Mara Dyer / Michelle Hodkin.—1st ed.

  p. cm.

  Summary: Seventeen-year-old Mara cannot remember the accident that took the lives of three of her friends but, after moving from Rhode Island to Florida, finding love with Noah, and more deaths, she realizes uncovering something buried in her memory might save her family and her future.

  ISBN 978-1-4424-2176-9

  ISBN 978-1-4424-2178-3 (eBook)

  [1. Supernatural—Fiction. 2. Murder—Fiction. 3. High schools—Fiction. 4. Schools—Fiction. 5. Post-traumatic stress disorder—Fiction. 6. Family life—Florida—Fiction. 7.

  Florida—Fiction.]I. Title.

  PZ7.H66493Unb 2011

  [Fic]—dc22

  2010050862

  For Grandpa Bob, who filled my imagination with stories, for Janie, who made all the other kids jealous; and for my mother, who loves me too much.

  Contents

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Chapter 31

  Chapter 32

  Chapter 33

  Chapter 34

  Chapter 35

  Chapter 36

  Chapter 37

  Chapter 38

  Chapter 39

  Chapter 40

  Chapter 41

  Chapter 42

  Chapter 43

  Chapter 44

  Chapter 45

  Chapter 46

  Chapter 47

  Chapter 48

  Chapter 49

  Chapter 50

  Chapter 51

  Chapter 52

  Chapter 53

  Chapter 54

  Chapter 55

  Chapter 56

  Chapter 57

  Chapter 58

  Chapter 59

  Acknowledgments

  My name is not Mara Dyer, but my lawyer told me I had to choose something. a pseudonym. a nom de plume, for all of us studying for the SATs. I know that having a fake name is strange, but trust me—it’s the most normal thing about my life right now. Even telling you this much probably isn’t smart. But without my big mouth, no one would know that a seventeen-year-old who likes Death Cab for Cutie was responsible for the murders. No one would know that somewhere out there is a B student with a body count. And it’s important that you know, so you’re not next.

  Rachel’s birthday was the beginning. This is what I remember.

  “Mara Dyer”

  New York City

  Date

  BEFORE

  Laurelton, Rhode Island

  THE ORNATE SCRIPT ON THE BOARD TWISTED in the candlelight, making the letters and numbers dance in my head. They were jumbled and indistinct, like alphabet soup. When Claire pushed the heart-shaped piece into my hand, I startled. I wasn’t normally so twitchy, and hoped Rachel wouldn’t notice. The Ouija board was her favorite present that night, and Claire gave it to her. I got her a bracelet. She wasn’t wearing it.

  Kneeling on the carpet, I passed the piece to Rachel. Claire shook her head, oozing disdain. Rachel put down the piece.

  “It’s just a game, Mara.” She smiled, her teeth looking even whiter in the dim light. Rachel and I had been best friends since preschool, and where she was dark and wild, I was pale and cautious. But less so when we were together. She made me feel bold. Usually.

  “I don’t have anything to ask dead people,” I said to her. And at sixteen, we’re too old for this, I didn’t say.

  “Ask whether Jude will ever like you back.”

  Claire’s voice was innocent, but I knew better. My cheeks flamed, but I stifled the urge to snap at her and laughed it off. “Can I ask it for a car? Is this like a dead Santa scenario?”

  “Actually, since it’s my birthday, I’m going first.” Rachel put her fingers on the piece. Claire and I followed her.

  “Oh! Rachel, ask it how you’re going to die.”

  Rachel squealed her assent, and I shot a dark look at Claire. Since moving here six months ago, she’d latched onto my best friend like a starving leech. Her twin missions in life were now to make me feel like the third wheel, and to torture me for my crush on her brother, Jude. I was equally sick of both.

  “Remember not to push,” Claire ordered me.

  “Got it, thanks. Anything else?”

  But Rachel interrupted us before we could descend into bickering. “How am I going to die?”

  The three of us watched the board. My calves prickled from kneeling on Rachel’s carpet for so long, and the backs of my knees felt clammy. Nothing happened.

  Then something did. We looked at each other as the piece moved under our hands. It semi-circled the board, sailing past A through K, and crept past L.

  It settled on M.

  “Murder?” Claire’s voice was soaked with excitement. She was so sketchy. What did Rachel see in her?

  The piece glided in the wrong direction. Away from U and R.

  Landing on A.

  Rachel looked confused. “Matches?”

  “Mauling?” Claire asked. “Maybe you start a forest fire and get eaten by Smokey the Bear?” Rachel laughed, briefly dissolving the panic that had slithered into my stomach. When we first sat down to play, I had to resist the urge to roll my eyes at Claire’s melodramatics. Now, not so much.

  The piece zigzagged across the board, cutting her laughter short.

  R.

  We were silent. Our eyes didn’t leave the board as the piece jerked back to the beginning.

  To A.

  Then stopped.

  We waited for the piece to point out the next letter, but it remained still. After three minutes, Rachel and Claire withdrew their hands. I felt them watching me.

  “It wants you to ask something,” Rachel said softly.

  “If by ‘it’ you mean Claire, I’m sure that’s true.” I stood up, shaking and nauseous. I was done.

  “I didn’t push it,” Claire said, wide-eyed as she looked at Rachel, then at me.

  “Pinky swear?” I asked, with sarcasm.

  “Why not,” Claire answered, with m