Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris Review

Monday, April 30, 2012

Title: Unraveling
Author: Elizabeth Norris
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Publish Date: April 24, 2012
Genre: YA, Sci-Fi
Pages: 445
Source: Personal Copy
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.
Janelle is your average, everyday 17-year-old with all the fixings of a perfect life. She has a great family, a good job and a boyfriend that is, by all accounts, super cute. However, Janelle also has a father in the FBI, and her snooping little hands can’t help but search through his files every now and again. When she discovers that a mystery event is going to take place in just 24 hours, Janelle sets actions in motion without even knowing it. It also sets her on a collision course for a whirlwind that includes death, revival and some sort endgame master plan that might just involve Janelle, her father…and the entire world.

I don’t know why, but while I enjoy action films, action books are usually really not my cup of tea. I find them to be a bit trite, at times and, frankly, they often feel a bit tired and redundant halfway through. Needless to say (after that disclaimer), author Elizabeth Norris had her work cut out for her when trying to entertain me with her debut novel, Unraveling. With careful sleight of hand, slippery words and a plot that weaves and folds you into its tumultuous embrace, this novel is part mystery, part science-fiction and all action as it renders you powerless in its grip.

Despite, or perhaps in spite of all the glowing reviews, Unraveling had me a bit concerned when I started it. I hate when hype is splashed around because I’m always worried that a story isn’t going to live up for me, and I hate being the one blogger that doesn’t like something. Well, I’m pleased to say I sure breathed one heck of a sigh of relief when I read this one because it was so much more than I expected. The novel starts with a bang – no pretenses or falsities. We meet Janelle, we watch her demise and we see as the entire plot is set in motion barely a few pages in. One singular event plays out like a veritable Pandora’s Box as the story arcs and characters are spun into an intricate maze and web. Part of the beauty of Unraveling lies within the fact that we’re given a family that is, for all intents and purposes, extremely normal. Janelle’s father lives and breathes his job, her mother is emotionally absent and her little brother is just like any other little brother. The fact that her home life and school life were so normal perfectly balanced the sci-fi-esque events that fueled the plot. I enjoyed watching Janelle and Ben’s relationship slowly bloom over time – something that is often rushed, and it helped move the story along, as well. Perhaps the biggest strength of the novel lies in the fact that, despite how big and all-encompassing this master plan was, it had deliberate and powerful effects on the characters that mattered most to us. I will, however, say that at times I felt the wording of Unraveling was a bit repetitive and redundant, and I wish that some of the secondary characters stood out more. Despite a few little hiccups though, Unraveling was riveting.

I love when books live up to the hype, and I love it even more when bloggers and readers fuel that hype. I’m so glad that Unraveling embodied its name as it slowly, deliberately hooked me as the plot unraveled. I give it a 4 out of 5, and I highly recommend it to all fans of YA, especially those who enjoy science-fiction, action and adventure.


  1. Going to have to read this one next I think...

  2. It surprised me by being so darn good! It's got quite the Veronica Mars/Alias feel :)

  3. Glad to hear it lived up to the hype! I totally know what you mean about being hesitant when picking up a book that's been popular around the blogosphere. I'm always afraid it won't live up to my expectations!

    P.S. Did I hear you say Veronica Mars? :D Lol.

  4. oh great review! I love it when books live up to hype, and I think I'll really like this one. 

  5. Hey Melissa!

    Look! I have a real blog now so I can do things like this:

    You know, I agree with you about secondary characters. Some of my favorite books have just an okay protagonist with a fantastic side cast. When author's take the time to fully develop the secondary characters it really shows the love. 

    If you get a moment, stop on by and check out my big boy blog. 


    Btw, the BEA has LITERALLY begun showing up in my dreams.


  6. Dagnabbit! I knew I should have grabbed this one from Amazon Vine when I had the chance. Now, I think I"ll buy it so I can add it to my classroom bookshelf when done. I love your comparison to Pandora's Box--what a way to intrigue!

  7. You were a swimmer? That's awesome! I swam until high school and loved it... I always had long lanky swimmer arms but lacked the enthusiasm/skill in high school. So cool that you did it though! 

  8. Since I've been living under a rock recently, I've completely missed the hype around Unraveling. I've heard of it before and I was certainly intrigued, but I'm very, very interested now. I think I'll have to pick this one up to see if it captures me as much as it did you. Fantastic review!


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