Friday, May 3, 2013

Review: Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris

Unraveling (Unraveling, #1)

Goodreads Summary: Sixteen-year-old Janelle Tenner is used to having a lot of responsibility. She balances working as a lifeguard in San Diego with an intense academic schedule. Janelle's mother is bipolar, and her dad is a workaholic FBI agent, which means Janelle also has to look out for her younger brother, Jared.
And that was before she died...and is brought back to life by Ben Michaels, a mysterious, alluring loner from her high school. When she discovers a strange clock that seems to be counting down to the earth's destruction, Janelle learns she has twenty-four days to figure out how to stop the clock and save the planet.
Goodreads / The Book Depository

Genre: Young adult, science fiction
Pages: 445
Publisher: Balzer + Bray

First Line: "I can tell the exact moment  Nick steps on the beach."

Favorite Quote: "The book I was reading turned out to be crack."


I finally picked this up more than a year after its release, mostly because I was browsing the teen section at my library and remembered seeing it mentioned on Goodreads a few times by my friends. Sure, the premise sounded really interesting and I’d heard mostly great reviews, but I had a severe case of Judging a Book by Its Cover syndrome. I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s just something about it that seriously puts me off. Maybe I just find it boring. And it’s blurbed by Pittacus Lore, which also steered me away, because I disliked I Am Number Four quite strongly. Anyways, I’m glad I finally decided to pick it up because it was a lot better than I was expecting.

I remember starting the story and really enjoying it, but about two hundred pages in, I wondered how the story was going to be so long (it’s about 450 pages, and the print is small). And that’s really my only complaint overall in the story – I felt like bits and pieces here and there could have been cut. But on the other hand, I just recently learned that this series is going to just have the two books; I can’t remember the last time something wasn’t a trilogy. It actually kind of refreshing, not having to worry about the dreaded middle book thing.

I loved Janelle as a protagonist. She’s witty and smart for the most part and doesn’t take crap from anyone. She has some weighty responsibilities what with her father not being around that much, a little brother to take care of a lot of the time, and a mentally unstable mother. But she handles everything remarkably well, in the face of all the craziness that is going down, especially towards the end of the book.

One of my favorite examples of this is the love interest, Ben. The romance in Unraveling didn’t feel rushed or instant to me at all. I loved reading the scenes between Janelle and Ben and watching them talk to each other. And even though this is probably a book where the romance could have easily taken over as the main focus, I thought it stayed in the right place and never became annoying. Janelle thinks about Ben a lot, of course, but she’s also very focused on the countdown and what’s going on in the world. By the time I finished the story, I was left feeling very happy (and very bittersweet) towards their relationship.

Another thing I loved was how attached I was to the side characters. They’re all fairly well developed, and none of them felt cardboardy or unreal (except maybe Kate, the backstabbing ex-best friend that seems mandatory in all high-school related tales). When you’ve got this major world-ending plot going on, it’s probably easy to focus on that and let some characters fade into the background. But none of them really did, and that was awesome. The writing itself isn’t incredible, but the characters really make up for it.

I didn’t really pay attention to what genre this was before I picked it up, so the sci-fi aspect was a real surprise. I wasn’t expecting the story to take such a drastic turn away from what Janelle and the FBI originally think the strange thing with the countdown was. I love being surprised, and Norris does a good job in throwing in plot twists making everything blow up in the last few chapters that grip you until you finish the book. Overall, Unraveling was a great read and it has reminded me to stop judging books by their covers (at least for the next few days).  I’ll get my hands on Unbreakable as soon as I can, since it just came out.

4 stars 

Books in this series: 

1. Unraveling
2. Unbreakable 

Other Opinions: 

The Book Smugglers
Carina's Books
Musings of a YA Reader 


  1. I'm reading Unraveling RIGHT NOW and I can't possibly love it more!! Janelle is such a strong female character and Ben is this cool enigmatic guy, not to mention Alex, Cecily, Strutz... They're all characters who stuck with me :) Looking forward to the plot twists and the sci-if elements, still be spooked out by the horrific images of radiation poisoning >.<

    New follower!

    Alicia @ Summer Next Top Story

  2. I know, I had a hard time picturing the radiation thing, too. It makes me feel bad for police & other officials who have to deal with the kind of thing. I'm glad you're enjoying it!

    And thanks, I really appreciate it.