Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Book Review: Unravelling by Elizabeth Norris.

Product details:
Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books
 Paperback, 445 pages.
Release date: June 7th 2012
Rating: 3 out of 5.
Ages: 13+
 Source: Received from publisher for review.


Leaving the beach, seventeen-year-old Janelle Tenner is hit head on by a pickup truck.

And killed.

Then Ben Michaels, resident stoner, is leaning over her. And even though it isn’t possible, she knows Ben somehow brought her back to life…

Meanwhile, Janelle’s father, a special agent for the FBI, starts working on a case that seems strangely connected to Ben. Digging in his files, Janelle finds a mysterious device – one that seems to be counting down to something that will happen in 23 days and 10 hours time.

That something? It might just be the end of the world. And if Janelle wants to stop it, she’s going to need to uncover Ben’s secrets – and keep from falling in love with him in the process…

Billed as ‘The X-Files’ meets ‘24’ with a tagline: ‘Stop the Countdown: Save the World’ that will be familiar to any fans of ‘Heroes’ out there, Unravelling by Elizabeth Norris, is a book I had heard a whole lot of good things about since its release a couple months back.  Considering that I’m a huge fan of ‘24’ and I also loved ‘The X-Files’ back in the day, I was sure that I’d love this book.    I guess I went into this one with pretty high expectations, and while Unravelling contains a lot of positive elements – it is well-written, action packed and fast-paced – overall it just didn’t’ work out for me.

Unravelling begins with a bang when seventeen year old Janelle Turner is hit by a pick up truck.  Janelle dies; at least she is pretty sure that’s what happened. But the next thing she knows she’s in hospital, brought back to life by mysterious stoner kid Ben Michaels.  So far, so good. I loved how this book started, and I was immediately drawn into the mystery.  Why was Janelle saved? What did Ben do to save her at the crash scene? And who was the guy driving the car? The mysterious John Doe, that nobody, not even Janelle’s FBI agent father can seem to identify.  Oh yeah, and it seems that the John Doe is connected to some kind of countdown, the kind of countdown that is causing people to die from icky radiation poisoning and will lead to the end of the world in twenty-three days. Unless the FBI or Janelle can stop it, that is. Got all that? It’s pretty riveting, intense stuff.

So, why has Janelle been chosen?  Why was she saved? Well, Janelle would like you to think she has a special place in this world because she is ‘not like most girls.’ Janelle takes herself very seriously, and she would like you to take her seriously too. In fact, she wants everyone to know that she’s different. That she is not like most girls. That snarky FBI agent? Janelle knows how to handle him because she is ‘not like most girls.’ He won’t make her giggle. No.  Nick, the cute guy she is seeing at the beginning of the book – he has a smile that could melt the heart of ‘most girls’ but not Janelle, because she is not…you get the picture.  I had a problem with Janelle, in that, unlike most girls I read about, I thought she was a pain in the ass.

There are a lot of TV show references in this book.  Janelle’s dad – a total Fox Mulder wannabee – raised his kids on X-Files marathons and it’s his job to save the cheerleader stop the countdown and save the world. At first it looks as though the storyline is headed in a genetically engineered virus direction – how very ‘24’ of it – but then with the involvement and Ben Michaels and his crazy healing powers – the plot takes off in a different, more Sci-Fi direction.   Maybe this one was a little too Sci-Fi for me. I don’t really watch Sci-Fi and I never read it.  If you’re into Sci-Fi though, then you’ll probably love this book. I totally want to reference another TV show here, because I know if you liked that show, you will love this book. But then I’d just be giving the game away. You’ll just have to read the book and figure out what show I’m talking about.

There is friendship in this book and there is romance too.  Ben and Janelle’s budding romance is actively encouraged by a teacher who wants more than anything for them to flirt in class. I didn’t have any teachers like that, and I’m not even sure they exist, but, whatever works.  The romance between Janelle and Ben didn’t really work for me, though. It went from zero to scorching hot way to fast for my slow-burn romance loving self.  When faced with the prospect of a hot guy who’s into her, Janelle just caved and behaved like ‘most girls’ would in her situation.

I rarely mention the use of bad language in YA, mostly because I think most YA could do with a bit more of it.  I find that a lot of YA authors, or more likely, their editors are cautious to the point where the kids in their books speak like they walked right out of the Nineteenth Century.  Here, though, F-bombs are dropped left, right and center.   At times, the use of curse words in this book is excessive to the point of being unrealistic, especially for kids who are at pains to point out that they are bookish and intelligent.  There was one kid I wanted so shake because I don’t think he uttered one full sentence throughout the book without using an expletive.  [Disclaimer: I read a proof copy of Unravelling, so this point may not apply to finished copies].

Unravelling was a book I thought I would enjoy and that I wanted to love, but it just didn’t work out for me.  Because it was engagingly written, and because it started off so well, I wanted to rate it higher, and at times it did deserve a higher rating. Overall though, I have to stick with a three out of five, because Unravelling was just an okay read for me, and I won’t be continuing with the series.


  1. I'm sorry that this book disappointed you. We usually have the same taste in books, so I am going to skip this one. Thanks for sharing the info about curse normally doesn't bother me either, but good to know if I was going to put this in my classroom.  Thanks for the honest review, Leanna!

  2. This sounds like an action packed read, sorry to hear it left you down. I don't mind much cussing in YA, I think it's realistic, but I see your point. I read a book where the word "dude" appeared in almost every sentence and it bothered the hell out of me!

  3. I didn't notice the language being excessive but I was expecting to love this a little more than I did! 

  4.  I've seen more positive reviews than negative for this one, so you might like it, but it just missed the mark for me. It didn't help that I disliked the MC!

  5.  It is pretty action packed! Cursing in YA doesn't bother me at all, but there was this one character who got on my nerves in this book! I maybe noticed it more because I wasn't really enjoying the book.

  6.  I've read a lot of positive reviews of this one, and I was really expecting to love it too, but it just didn't work for me.  The cursing was just with one character -- one of Ben's friends. It usually wouldn't bother me but I probably noticed it more since I wasn't really into the story here and everything started annoying me!

  7. Oh what a shame that you didn't enjoy this one very much! I absolutely loved it and raced through it very quickly. I ended up crying my eyes out an event towards the end of the book and I found myself surprised that I was that emotionally invested in the characters.

  8.  Most people I know loved this one, and I thought I would too, but I just couldn't warm to it. I guess that had a lot to do with the main character!


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