October 10, 2013

REVIEW: Unraveling (Unraveling #1)

Unraveling (Unraveling #1), by Elizabeth Norris
Published April 24, 2012
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Format: hardback, I own
Genre: young adult sci-fi
To Buy: Amazon * Barnes & Noble

Rating:  5 STARS

(From Goodreads) 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.

There's nothing better than a good buddy read, don't you think? So, when I found out that one of my besties, Jen from At Random, was planning on starting Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris, and coincidentally it was one of a few books I was considering reading next too, we decided to read it together. And, over the next day and a half, we were blowing up each others' phones with texts of the OMG! and WTF? variety. 

Janelle's life is turned on end the day she died. Because she didn't actually stay dead. She was brought back to life by Ben Michaels, a guy who she has barely looked at since he moved to town 10 years earlier. All of a sudden, Janelle is caught up in a case her FBI father is investigating - a case that has ties to her, Ben and a mysterious device that seems to be counting down to something very bad. 

I can't say enough how much I loved Unraveling. I was a little apprehensive, I gotta say. Sci-fi is pretty hit or miss with me. I'm not a fan of the super sci-fi stories - the really weird stuff that is just so out there that it makes my eyes roll. But, the stories that are largely based in reality with a small dose of the funky - sign me up. 

And, that is what Unraveling is. It takes place in Cali. It involves real teenagers with real problems like being in love with someone who doesn't know you're alive or having to take care of a sibling because your parent works too much or having that one bestie who knows you better than anyone else alive. It also involves people who get their faces melted off and boys who can bring girls back from the dead. See what I mean? 

Let's talk characters for a minute. Janelle is my kind of chick. She's only 16, but has been forced to act far beyond her years. She has guts and strength and bigger balls than most guys I know. I love how Liz Norris drew her. It would be so easy to say Janelle is 16, but then make her act like she's 26. But, although Janelle can certainly stand up and make grown-up decisions in troubling times, it's still evident to me that she's a teenager who gets scared and loses her crap just like she's supposed to. 

And, Ben - helloooooo new book boyfriend. He's the classic brooding loner who is more than meets the eye. He hangs out with two other questionable characters, and the three of them are super tight. Except for when Janelle gets in the way and Ben finally gets what he has wanted for10 years - a shot at the girl of his dreams. Things start to get complicated with Ben's friends then, but he never gives up on her. He always takes her side. And, he's certainly got a way with words. 
"You're strong and smart, and you never put yourself first. You don't let anything get in your way, and you're beautiful. You're right here and even more perfect than I imagined."
The action in Unraveling was off the hook. Just the countdown as the chapter numbers gives you a constant sense of urgency that stays with you through the entire story. There's several big mysteries going on at once. First is the face (and other body parts) melting business. What's causing it? Can it be stopped? Is it tied to the countdown clock? And what is that thing, anyway? Then, there's the mystery surrounding Ben and why he can do the things he can do. 

The answers to all these questions were not immediately answered, nor were they apparent. The reader really had to work for it, which I loved. And, in the end, we get our answers, plus a whole lot of surprises. It didn't end like I thought it would. Not everything was neatly tied up. There was heartbreak and destruction and general craziness. And yet, at the heart of it all, was the love that this boy and girl have for each other, so we're still left with this feeling of overarching hope. Which is the perfect feeling to carry us through to the next book.


Anna said...

Ok, this sounds like a must read! And Ben sounds really sweet.

LRAtRandom said...

Great review! This really was an awesome book and it was a good one to buddy read!

Anonymous said...

Glad you liked this one! I totally agree -- the action kept me riveted throughout!! Unbreakable was also really good, hope you like that one too!