This book totally deserves a 5 star rating. I am not much into sci-fi and i picked up this book thinking it was a standalone story. I have to say - it totatlly blew me away. After the Pittacus Lore series, I think this is my favourite sci-fi book.
When the heroine gets killed in the first chapter, you know this is going to be exciting...
(Updated: December 08, 2012)
When the heroine gets hit by a truck and killed in the first chapter, you know this is going to be an exciting book. Don't worry, it's not one of those that tells of the afterlife and how much it sucks and so on. I'll explain....
As I said, 17-year-old Jannelle Tenner gets hit by a truck on the way back from the beach. Here's the thing, though. She definitely knows she was dead, at least for a few seconds. But, she wakes up, pretty much unhurt, staring into the eyes of a boy she barely knows. In the 24 days that follow, Jannelle needs to unearth the plot behind a mysterious countdown, find out what the hell is going on with Ben, and try to stop the end of the world. Yeah, I think that's enough for 24 days.
I really liked Jannelle's character, because it was easy to relate to, and you could really understand why she did stuff. Like, when she was leafing through her father's case files, I could definitely understand why, because I would too, if my father were an FBI agent and if I'd found reports on radiation poisoned, melted humans. Yep, melted. As in, skin melting off melting bones (yeah I know, nasty image. You're welcome :P).
I also loved Jannelle's dad, because his relationship with Jannelle was definitely plausible.
The relationship between Jannelle and Ben was good, as well. At first, I thought it was going to be another one of those "lets-rush-into-it-because-we-are-going-to-be-seperated-anyway" relationships that I don't like, but it wasn't. I gradually warmed to their relationship. I think the first cute moment was when we realised that Ben knew what books Jannelle read and what she ate for lunch. I think that was a definite sign of his affection.
Even the family drama was realistic. Jannelle's father is a workaholic, and her mother is bipolar and unreliable, so Jannelle pretty much has to take care of herself and her younger brother. The family dramas and complications added more tension and interest to the story. It was also great how Jannelle's school life wasn't just skipped.
I think there is a little too much crammed into 450 pages. All the subplots and stuff should have been a bit more compelling, because they didn't really add much to the book.
The secondary characters didn't stand out as much as I would have liked.
It kind of flipped theme in the middle of the book. Maybe I'm the only one who feels this way, but for the first half of the book it was kind of a murder mystery: lots of unidentifiable dead people, a girl and her best friend trying to find the culprit, and all that, but then suddenly in the second half we've got all this stuff about aliens and parallel universes and all that. There should have been more hints that it was going to have aliens, or at least more hints that it was in the future (was it? Everything seemed pretty... normal. But there aren't any aliens right now (or are there?! :D) Did I just miss those hints or were they not there???
Despite all these criticisms, I really enjoyed this book, it was a great blend of sci-fi, mystery, and romance.
I definitely recommend it.
- Realistic main character
- Realistic family dramas
- Good love interest
- Interesting plot
Unraveling was among the books where I at first imagined it would have an overwhelming romance, with only a small touch of sci-fi. Instead, it had a ton of sci-fi, plus an adequate amount of romance within.
The cover, oh the cover. It is cool, absolutely sci-fi, and badass. It completely matched the story mood and plot. If you look carefully at the background of the original cover, you can see little numbers which I suppose signifies the countdown. Even the UK version's awesome. I especially like the little countdown and how the face looks like it's slowly breaking apart.
As the synopsis says, Janelle gets hit by a truck and dies. Dies. Right in the beginning of the story, it smacks you in the face with this HUGE gamechanger. I know some books where the plot doesn't pick up until halfway through the story, and this is definitely not it. Already, you have this amazing initiating event and you're not even ten pages in. The plot got better and better throughout the story, building up to the climax. It wasn't too slow to make me lose my attention, but not so fast that I was tripping over my laces to keep up. In the ending, it had such amazing twists that I couldn't predict and all I could really think was Wow. Elizabeth Norris, you are a genius in plot twists. All of that leads up to a bittersweet, yet awfully right ending.
At the beginning of the book, I already liked Janelle a whole awful lot. Before the truck incident, she has her tires slashed and I just have to pull a few quotes from there.
Kate would know I have a spare in the back of the jeep. She knows my dad wouldn't let me get my license until I'd successfully demonstrated I could change a tire, check my oil, and jump-start the car.
But being a damsel in distress isn't really my thing.
I am not only computer-illiterate, but I don't get machines either. First of all, she drives a jeep. And she knows how to change a tire, check her oil, and jump-start her car. Which is the epitome of awesome to me. And she's not a damsel in distress. Point to Janelle for demonstrating her competency in being strong, cool, and independent. Throughout the story, Janelle faces several different conflicts. Like extra-terrestrial/human beings destroying the earth, however accidentally. And family conflicts that she has to handle on her own. But she has to fight through it all, because she's pretty much the backbone of her family. Her father, someone high up in the FBI, doesn't have much time to spend at home, so she steps in as caretaker to both her mother and little brother, with only the support of Struz, co-worker to her father, and Alex, who deserves the title Best Friend of the Entire Galaxy. Or Universe.
Ben is awfully sweet. He gives Janelle even more so support, which would mean a whole lot considering that she doesn't receive a whole ton of it. He fixes people's class schedules, and although it sounds weird, the way he does it is criminally wrong but with an honour code. His initial meeting with Janelle, although neither knew the other, was awfully cute. He thought the sun at Janelle's back made her look like an angel. Which ten-year-old would think such awfully cute things?
Two more characters I liked a lot was Alex, BFF extraordinaire, and Elijah, juvenile annoyance to everything adult. Alex's relationship with Janelle is something I genuinely like. Typically, when a guy and a girl are friends, you'd think that they'd end up together, but in Unraveling, it their relationship is very clear, even without them saying it out loud. They're purely best friends, and won't be anything more. It's quite simple, and just great in a way I can't describe in words. Elijah, who could sprout a swear word several times in a sentence, insults everyone around him, ended up as someone I actually could believe as real. He's an irritating, can't-get-off-your-back character, and he knows it. He's honest about it, and blatantly shows it off instead of hiding it and pretending he's a gentleman.
Another cool thing I liked was the countdowns in place of chapter titles or numbers. I was constantly imagining, "Oh, she has x amount of time to do this, that, and everything else? How on earth does she manage it when I can't even do my homework properly?"
To sum it all up, Unraveling is a fantastically written debut that I will always keep in a special compartment in my heart. I'd recommend it to not only fantasy/sci-fi lovers, who don't like an overwhelming romance, but to anyone who wants a good read. Right now, I shall not-so-patiently await the release of Unbreakable, which will be out on June 6, 2013.
I LOVE THIS BOOK! I just wanted to sit and devour it all in one sitting, unfortunately work and uni beckoned but rarely did the story leave my mind and I found myself counting down the hours and minutes of each shift/lecture until I could hold Unravelling in my hands once again. Finally, this morning, I woke up early and got through the last fifty pages in a flash and I can honestly say I have rarely been so excited by any book in my life. I just adored it, and now I'm feeling depressed that something so great has come to a close.
When seventeen-year-old Janelle Tenner is hit by a truck, she dies. She knows she is dead. Yet suddenly Ben, one of the stoner guys from her school, is kneeling above her, healing her broken bones and busted organs. Janelle is desperate to know what Ben did and how he did it, but when her dad, an FBI agent, begins working on a case related to her accident and a mysterious device which is counting down the days, Janelle decides to begin her own investigation. She must quickly discover Ben's secrets, or face the end of the world.
The Good - Norris lends an urgency to her writing through brief chapters and short sentences, which keeps the pages turning. I as said, I did not want to put this book down and I found myself telling everyone I knew about 'this amazing book that I'm reading'. The characters were great and there was a clear differentiation between each one (except perhaps Reid and Elijah). Ben was absolutely adorable and I think I might be in love with him! The (UK/Australian) cover is fabulous. I continually closed the book to look at it and touch it, and the length was good, too (I have always been a fan of longer YA books, which will become more obvious as I review). I love that the ending of the book wasn't what I wanted to happen!
The Bad - There is nothing majorly wrong with this book. BUT, when Ben finally tells Janelle the 'real story' I just thought it was...a lot for the reader to believe. Yeah, it is science fiction, but the first half of the book just didn't seem to fit the last. Also, there were two instances when Norris wanted to explain the 'science' behind the circumstances, which were done quite clumsily in a 'so here is how it works' chapter, rather than steadily through dialogue and action. When an author does something like this, some of the authenticity wears off and you become completely aware that you are reading a book. Also, although the characters were distinguishable, there were definitely a lot of stock foundations, but none of this deters the fact that I loved Unravelling, and I am going to do everything possible to get an ARC of the sequel!
I seriously want to hug Elizabeth Norris right now. Really. The huge, bear-hug kind (just ignore how creepy that sounds). Because she is a genius.
There’s something in this book for everything. The sci-fi elements are kick-ass amazing. I think this is one of my favorite books dealing with alternate and parallel universes in the sense that everything seems so carefully laid out and easily explained. I’ve read all these books with intricate back stories and worlds that are then explained in pages upon pages of info-dump-ish paragraphs. But it wasn’t like that in Unraveling – the information is easy to absorb, and it only takes a few sentences. It wasn’t given to us all at once, either. Some of the information you’d piece together yourself in the midst of the action, and some we’d learn along side Janelle, our main character.
There’s also a lot of tension and the feeling that something’s going to happen soon at each turn of the page – and something does. Norris does this amazing job of keeping us all on our toes. Once we think we know something, she’d flip it completely upside down. I also loved the way the chapters were laid out, and how they each started with a countdown.
Norris also balances out the sci-fi and the romance in a way that doesn’t make it seem as if the romance is too overpowering, and yet you can also see how it’s a major – and necessary – part of the story. Everything really fits together here, and nothing happens ‘just because’ or ‘for the characters’ convenience.’ While I kind of really liked Nick (who, by the way, just seemed to disappear – what’s up with that?), Ben and Janelle made an awesome couple. They were strong, and dependent on each other without being too dependent in the sense that, yes, you could take one away from the other without throwing them into depression. And they were both strong individuals, too.
But I think my favorite part of it all was the ending. I mean, there were so many different ways the author could’ve ended it. It could’ve gone with the traditional and common ‘lets all hold hands and skip off into the sunset style,’ but it didn’t. Not everything was perfect. There were losses, there were gains, and the way she ended this story was both a little expected and yet heart-wrenching because you knew it was comming – that it was going to happen -, but you don’t want it to.
Unraveling is a mind-blowing, jaw-dropping book that has a little something for everyone. Grab yourself a copy, and prepare to read it all in one sitting because, chances are, that’s exactly what’s going to happen.
Unraveling is one of the books I've been waiting for, not just because its an Apocalypsie book, but also because it seemed like it would be awesome. However, I also went into the book with a healthy dose of skepticism. I really feared it was going to be a melodramatic, typical YA novel. Why? Because the cover kind of looks like a CW TV show. The first sentence definitely had me worried. Immediately after that, it was pretty apparent that Unraveling is a whole different animal.
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.
I don't know if I can even begin to explain why I love this book so much. I don't care if sci-fi isn't your favorite genre to read. I don't care what your favorite genre is: this is a book I think most people will like. (Unless you have an issue with swearing. There's quite a bit of that.)
Unraveling reminded me of why I love sci-fi so much. There are so many different ways you can make it unique, and Elizabeth Norris definitely knows her stuff when it comes to that. Unraveling has the perfect amount of suspense and mystery and romance, all tied together with a bittersweet ending.
Janelle is tough but caring at the same time. She's the kind of character that sticks out; the kind of character that you can't forget. She's determined and sneaky and plenty of other adjectives - all good ones.
The chemistry Janelle and Ben have together is amazing. Their relationship develops so well, and when Janelle thinks Ben might not be as good as he seems, she's afraid. She doesn't think it's okay just because she maybe-sorta likes him. Their relationship is real, regardless of the sci-fi aspects that brought them together.
Unraveling involves a countdown, so the suspense is constantly present. The countdown at the beginning of each chapter reminds you that no matter what happened in the previous chapter, the danger is still there. The hunt to find out what the countdown is for and then find a way to stop it is always on.
Overall: Suspense. Twists and turns everywhere. Plenty of hot guys. There wasn't a single character I didn't like. There wasn't a single thing about this entire book that I didn't like. Unraveling is deserving of 5 stars.