April 24, 2012
Balzer + Bray
Hardcover, 445 pages
Synopsis (from Goodreads): 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, Janelle knows—with every fiber of her being—that Ben has somehow brought her back to life.
But her reincarnation, 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.
Unraveling combines many of my favorite themes in a book - unexplained events, superpowers, apocalypse, and romance - so it's no wonder I was drawn to this book from the moment I read the blurb about it. Teenager Janelle Tenner is hit by a truck, an accident that surely would have killed her. And she knows she died. Just as sure as she knows that Ben Michaels, a kid she's known since middle school, but barely spoken to, somehow brought her back to life. When she starts to snoop around in her dad's FBI files to try to find answers to what happened to her, she ends up uncovering a whole lot more, including some sort of clock counting down. Her investigation draws her closer to Ben and she realizes that he knows a whole lot more about her than she does about him. More questions.
There are many "X-files" references in Unraveling, so it cannot be coincidental that I was frequently reminded of the show while reading this book. I was a huge fan of the show, so I rather enjoyed the similarities, and thought the references were cute (for example, Janelle and her dad often left each other post-its with quotes from the show around the house). I can also see how someone who isn't into the more scientific aspect of sci-fi could find the premise and details surrounding it to be confusing. I read a few reviews were people said there was just too much going on and they became lost. I didn't think that at all. I LOVED the fact that there was actual science behind the theories in Unraveling. I loved that Ms. Norris didn't go out of her way to dumb things down. There seems to be a million apocalyptic books out there now, but I found this storyline to be very refreshing. I honestly wasn't sure how it was going to end - right up till the last page. The only part of the story that annoyed me was the fact that Janelle's mom was incapacitatingly crazy. I feel that plotline where the kids have to take care of the parents has been overdone in YA lately - we saw it in Hunger Games and Jennifer L. Armentrout's Cursed (and sort of in Half-Blood too). And it's always the mom who is nuts. And a dad who is either dead or never home. That annoyed me (but I got over it pretty quickly).
There are, however, two bigger grievances keeping me from giving this book 5 full stars: One, I didn't think there was enough Ben and Janelle time. The romance between them was clearly an important part of the book, but other than one or two really good scenes, we don't really get to see them interact as a boy and a girl who may or may not be in love. I wanted more conversations between them that didn't have to do with the whole "end of the world" scenario. I wanted to really see into those feelings Ben's been keeping secret for almost a decade. The second thing was how the book ended. Is this intended to be part of a series? It seems to be set up as such, but nothing is clearly stated. If this is a stand alone book, I hated the ending - just the last 2 or 3 pages, but still. That's what readers are left with? And come on, enough is enough on the negativity! There are only so many downers you can have in a book and still have it be an enjoyable read. I was really thinking at the end, "Hasn't this poor girl been through enough?" I really do hope there is a book 2 if for no other reason than to see something good happen. Even with this, I still really loved the book and hope to read more from Elizabeth Norris in the future.
Unraveling: 4.5/5 stars.
Cover: 4/5 stars.
Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher at BEA 2012.