Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Unraveling, by Elizabeth Norris- Review

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.

Generally speaking I'm not a sci-fi fan.  I loved Star Trek next generation when I was growing up, and I cheered my way through Star Wars on many occasions as well, but most sci-fi books just don't really do it for me.  I couldn't even begin to tell you why, too much physics and math maybe?  These were not great subjects for me.  Or maybe there's just something about space time continuum's that I find tedious.  One way or another they often fall totally flat for me.

This being said, I love being surprised by things, and Unraveling surprised me both by blindsiding me with some serious sci-fi about half way in and making me thoroughly enjoy it to boot.

So the story starts out in typical YA romance/supernatural style with a shocking save by an unlikely but uber attractive boy, and then quickly spirals into a fascinating mystery with FBI elements, mutilated bodies and a count down.  Norris has put together an excellent cast with just the right mix of problems, smarts, dark pasts and foibles to keep things interesting but not stray too far into the land of the improbable.  Although she has Janelle and her good friend Alex playing junior detective by rooting through her fathers FBI files and delving into things they shouldn't, she also repeatedly acknowledges they're in over their head and makes sure there are consequences.  This isn't Nancy Drew, and Janelle does not single handedly solve the case or make everything right in the world.

But quite beyond the fact that she has great characters, Norris has written a striking story full of highly unexpected twists and turns.  Honestly I can't remember the last time I was so surprised by a book.  I'd be settling in thinking, yup supernatural romance, then the story would take a quick left out of nowhere and I'd think, hmmm, mystery?  Just to have it twist again and suddenly become seriously sci-fi.  It was endlessly fascinating and kept me glued to the story.  I was riveted, and I honestly couldn't fathom where Norris was taking me until the very last few sentences played out.  Even better?  Although it appears from Goodreads this is book one in a series, Unraveling reads as a solid one off.  No cliff hangers, no cryptic endings, just 100% solid story telling.

Finally, it appealed to my blood lust.  In true epic style Norris spared very few members of her cast, and made several shocking axes.  This lady does not mess around people, bad things are happening and she's not going to sweeten it up just for your reading pleasure.  Do I even have to tell you how much I love that in a book?

All in all a terrific page turner of a read.  So much more than your average YA supernatural romance.  Put it on your summer reading list without delay, I promise you won't regret it!

Unraveling , by Elizabeth Norris
Published by Balzer and Bray, April 24th, 2012
My copy acquired at the BEA
Buy Unraveling on Amazon