Contradicting what I just said, the opening of Unraveling definitely made me think of the television show Roswell, in which Max saves Liz's life. Later, he's able to show her his memories of her and she can see how he feels. I imagine that the show must have served at least somewhat as an inspiration, and, if not, Norris should probably go watch it now. Anyway, cheesy at is, I enjoy Roswell, and Unraveling is better and more intense than Roswell.
The countdown opening each chapter is a device that has been used before, and I think Norris uses it quite effectively. There was an immediacy to all of the events in the book. At pretty much no point in my reading was I bored or not reading as quickly as I could because I needed to know.
I love Janelle from the outset because of her independent mindset and how she doesn't let the high school drama get the better of her. Plus, she judges her boyfriend for sending a grammatically incorrect text message (grammar is hot!). I would judge her for liking the guy, but she mostly doesn't; she just wants to have fun, which I can respect so long as she does so responsibly.
YA heroines are known for doing a lot of really annoying stuff. One such thing that particularly aggravates me is just accepting huge news without any curiosity OR being super curious but not asking anything, and generally acting in a stupid banner based on completely absurd guesses. If they do ask and are rebuffed, they usually give up. Janelle, however is totally unlike those heroines. Janelle pesters people for information until she learns what she wants to know; even FBI agents have trouble not spilling the beans to her. Thank goodness for a heroine who's proactive!
Another thing I really appreciate about Unraveling is in the details. We really get to see Janelle's life, rather than solely focused on romance or the mystery plot line. I know who does the laundry in what way in her household and mundane facts like that. I also really enjoyed the school scenes, such as one in which the AP English class dissects a scene from a novel. Most books skip over the actual learning part of class, but Norris didn't, and I loved how much it felt like one of the good discussions from my AP class. Rather than school just being a place for romantic drama to happen, it's also a place to learn. Props.
With all of the dystopias out there right now, I'm really surprised the publisher or Norris herself didn't try to make this into one. Certainly, it's counting down to an apocalypse, but the book definitely comes off more as a science fiction detective story than a dystopia. Also, the science in this was SO COOL.
Another thing that I loved about Unraveling, because I really seriously don't have anything not loving to say about this book, is the humor throughout. Although the book is seriously intense all the way through, like holy-shiz-what-just-happened-oh-snap intense, Norris has woven humor throughout the whole book. Janelle and most of the other teens are snarky wise-cracking sorts who deal with the shit that is GOING DOWN through jokes. Of course, the book might not be as humorous to people who don't love sarcasm, but I do, and I think everyone should.
I should really wind up this review, because I've stayed up til 1 already finishing (because I HAD to) and my alarm's going to go off at 6:30. So here are the final points:
1) Elizabeth Norris rocks my socks and I will be reading everything she writes subsequently.
2) Unraveling is amazing. You should go buy it/borrow it/cajole someone into buying it for you/find one of the copies that was rock-the-dropped and read it ASAP.
3) Unraveling comes out April 24. You have two weeks to figure out where you can get a copy. The 24th is a good release date for Unraveling, since that's the number of days Janelle has to save the world. Funny that.