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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Book Review: Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris

Book Description (From Amazon):
Publication Date: April 24, 2012
Reminiscent of Before I Fall, Elizabeth Norris's Unraveling blends realistic coming-of-age issues and heart-stopping romance with something just a little bit more. In this case, a gripping science fiction world.

Unraveling's heroine, seventeen-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.
And that was before she died...and is brought back to life by Ben Michaels, a mysterious, alluring loner from her high school. The more Janelle tries to figure him out, the more she starts to believe he's connected to a case her father is working on. The one where people are dying of radiation poisoning and the body count is rising. The one that involves a strange clock that seems to be counting down to the earth's destruction. If Janelle wants to stop the clock and save the world, she has twenty-four days to uncover Ben's secrets--and keep from falling in love with him.

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.

My thoughts:
Historically, I have not been a dystopian kind of gal. I never went in much for the end of the world or futuristic societies. I always liked my fantasy to be of the Epic variety, preferably with elves and dwarves and magic. Still, last summer at BEA 2013, one of the book offerings was Unbreakable by Elizabeth Norris. I did not manage to pick the book up. And since I am very acquisitive by nature, the fact that there was a book I was looking for and couldn’t get my hands on made me want it more. What I didn’t realize at the time was that the book was the second in a series. Well, that was problematic anyway.

But I found myself at the local bookstore and they had Unraveling in stock, so I sat down in the café and opened the book to read a sample, to see what it was all about.

The book opens with a chapter title of 24:00:14:32. Cryptic. And it begins at the beach. I grew up a Jersey Girl, and no, not the Snookie variety. The beach was my second home, so now the book has my attention.

Janelle is our heroine and she is a lifeguard at the local beach. She has been dating Nick who is Mr. Popular, but his ex, Brooke, seems to have an issue with that. As Janelle makes her way to her car at the end of the day, she finds slander painted on her car in bright neon pink and her tires are slashed. No need to guess the culprit. It is pretty evident by the death glares she was receiving from Brooke.

Taking her phone, she starts walking, calling her best friend to pick her and her brother up at a friend’s house. But before she hangs up, she hears her name called and then the sound of screeching brakes.

Now you might wonder what is so dys about this topian. It starts off sounding very normal, just a pedestrian summer beach read, but it is so much more.

Chapter two, named 23:23:57:07, is only three paragraphs long,
Chapter three, 23:23:57:06 is only two pages and we find that Janelle has been run down by a pick up truck that came out of nowhere and she thinks she’s dead.
Chapter four, 23:223:56:49, is a little over a page and we find someone is with Janelle, talking to her and trying to keep her aware and conscious.
Chapter five, 23:23:56:42, are the recollections of some of Janelle’s memories and is a little over a page.
In Chapter six, 23:23:56:40, we find that the voice tethering Janelle to life belongs to a boy from school named Ben. She is alive, but she is absolutely certain she was dead and that Ben brought her back to life. And that is where the mystery begins.

While I am not a fan of the mystery genre, I must admit I like trying to figure things out and this book kept me guessing. The varying lengths of chapters made it a really fast read too. I would read a chapter that was two pages and figure that it was too short and read another. What I found was that with so many really short chapters, I just kept wanting to read until I hit a longer chapter to use as a stopping point. It pretty much kept me reading long hours into the night.

The chapters not titled, but counting down, intrigued me as well. What was the countdown for? What is the significance? How is it all related to Janelle and to Ben? I needed to answer those questions. So, I kept reading.

We find Janelle’s father works for the FBI and she learned analytic thinking from him. Though warned against it, she feels compelled to investigate. She wants to find out about the driver who hit her and where he came from, not to mention trying to unravel the mystery of Ben and how he saved her. But is she really prepared for the answers she’ll find and will she discover the truth in time?

Without trying to give away plot points, there is death, destruction with a little bit of spacey stuff thrown in. It may seem like a mild-mannered story, but it ended up being a thrill ride of adventure. The book is fast paced and as pieces of the puzzle fit into place, we find more puzzle pieces still to fit. The story becomes ever more entangled with so many plot twists it’s no wonder I have a stiff neck. Whiplash perhaps?

This is one of those stories that is very rich in detail. We find a complete world where the characters are three dimensional. There is depth to the background and very minute details which add up to a world I can see with my mind’s eye, as if I could step into the pages of the book and see the story unfold. The characters are complex and flawed, but their strength shines through their vulnerability. The odds are stacked up against them and time is running out, but they never give up hoping and fighting to live another day. Their fears were very real as they struggled to survive.

If you’re a fan of survival stories or Sci Fi, do yourself a favor and just read a few pages. If you are like me, it will only take a page or two to get you hooked. I promise the read is worth it.


  1. Sounds fascinating! And while I love short chapters, they do suck you in to reading just one more until it's suddenly 3AM and you have to get up in 3 hours! Oops! Another great review!

    1. That was exactly what happened! I read this book in record time because I just couldn't put the darned thing down! It was such a good story. I keep on the look out for a third book, but haven't seen anything yet. Not sure if there will be, but I keep hoping.