Saturday, September 15, 2012

Review: Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris

Title: Unraveling
Author: Elizabeth Norris
Series: Unraveling #1
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: April 24, 2012
ISBN13:  9780062103734
Format: hardcover
Genre: YA, apocalypse, sci-fi, urban fantasy, thriller
Source: borrowed from library

Rating: 10/10

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, she knows--with every fiber of her being--that Ben has somehow brought her back to life.

But her revival, 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.

From debut author Elizabeth Norris comes this shattering novel of one girl's fight to save herself, her world, and the boy she never saw coming.

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?"

And I'll end my analysis off with a quote from Ben that breaks my heart whenever I read it.
"Janelle Tenner," he says. "I will always fucking love you."
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.
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