Thursday, April 19, 2012

Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris

Title: Unraveling
Author: Elizabeth Norris
Publisher: HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray
Release Date: April 24, 2012
Pages: 445 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: ARC through Amazon Vine
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon; Barnes & Noble; Book Depository

Two days before the start of her junior year, seventeen-year-old Janelle Tenner is hit by a pickup truck and killed—as in blinding light, scenes of her life flashing before her, and then nothing. Except the next thing she knows, she's opening her eyes to find Ben Michaels, a loner from her high school whom Janelle has never talked to, leaning over her. And even though it isn't possible, she knows—with every fiber of her being—that Ben has somehow brought her back to life.

But her revival, and Ben's possible role in it, is only the first of the puzzles that Janelle must solve. While snooping in her FBI agent father's files for clues about her accident, she uncovers a clock that seems to be counting down to something—but to what? And when someone close to Janelle is killed, she can no longer deny what's right in front of her: Everything that's happened—the accident, the murder, the countdown clock, Ben's sudden appearance in her life—points to the end of life as she knows it. And as the clock ticks down, she realizes that if she wants to put a stop to the end of the world, she's going to need to uncover Ben's secrets—and keep from falling in love with him in the process. 



Lately, my forecasts for books have been spot-on; books I forecast as one, two, or however many stars by the halfpoint often end up being worth that many stars. My forecast for Unraveling was two stars by the halfpoint of the novel and I'm happy that my forecast was off.

Give me a few seconds so I can recover from the whiplash because wow. One minute I'm reading a book that's speeding along at ninety miles per hour and the next, I'm back to a leisurely stroll down the street. I don't get that feeling very often. -breathe in- -breathe out- Okay, I'm good.

Unraveling is fast-paced and it's not just due to the storyline; the format helps too. Whoever came up with the idea of mixing short chapters (some are just one page) with chapter headings counting down much like the clock mentioned in the summary? They deserve some extra money for that. If the plot itself and the immediacy of what is coming doesn't keep the reader going, the psychological effect of the formatting might help.

Everywhere else is where the book starts falling apart. Ben and Janelle's connection begins with a shot of insta-love, the revelation that Ben has loved Janelle for a very long time (no, that's not spoiling anything, don't worry--you find this out in the first forty pages), and a comparison of how Ben says Janelle's name to how her family members say it. Am I the only person who is put off by those kinds of comparisons? A guy who is in love with a girl and the girl's little brother are going to say her name in very different ways and comparisons make me go eugh. Personal thing.

Moving on! For about half the novel, I disliked Janelle, Ben, and their romance, but I grew apathetic to it and then a little fond of it, though not much more than that. Their love starts to feel genuine toward the end of the novel and how it ended for them made me sad for them, but I'm certain the insta-love start is what kept me from becoming fully invested in their relationship.

Some of the twists and turns of the novel were a little too easily called. Conversations Janelle eavesdropped on were easy to figure out, but the truth isn't revealed for another hundred pages or so, leaving me impatient. I called BS on the right ones, stuck with the right ones, knew exactly how one would be turned around--a little boring, really. It's not a mystery novel and it never tries to be, but I don't want to figure it all out that easily.

What it does try and succeed at being is sci-fi, a genre I can read but do not overly enjoy because science and I are mortal enemies. It's not deep, deep sci-fi, though; it seems like it is once all the talk of Wave Function Collapses came in, but the technical aspects of how everything is done are only lightly discussed. By the end, it becomes more about the necessary science the characters know but the reader doesn't (and doesn't need to). It really depends on what kind of reader you are as to whether or not that is a good thing, but it worked out for me.

One scene in particular made me smile: the discussion in Ben and Janelle's AP English Language class about a prompt. It was a man's marriage proposal from a Charles Dickens novel and the way the two of them argued about how the guy was obsessively in love with the woman, what kind of proposal Janelle would like, etc. really connected with me. Maybe I'm just that nerdy. Maybe it's because it's a scene I can actually see happening because I'm taking the same level English class and that's the same kind of work we do in preparation for the big test. Either way, there's something I love about it.

The novel's close is enough to keep it a standalone, but goodness knows whether or not it will stay a standalone since books that were intended as standalones often have sequels and companion novels coming out the wazoo. Unraveling hits most of the notes it should as a YA debut, the rough beginning being where it falls out of tune, but that is not necessarily a compliment. Either way, I think Elizabeth Norris is an author I want to keep an eye on.

3 stars!

What am I reading next?: Awake at Dawn by C.C. Hunter

1 comment:

  1. Hooray for fast reads! I also really like that the headings match the countdown aspect of the book. Very nice. :) Great review. I'm already aware of the instalove thing, so I'm mentally preparing for it haha. Glad that it started feeling real for you!


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