Book Review: Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris

20 Apr

Book cover for Unraveling by Elizabeth NorrisTitle: Unraveling

Author: Elizabeth Norris

Genre: Science Fiction YA

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Release date: April 24, 2012

Challenge: Debut Author Challenge

Source: DAC ARC Tour

Summary: 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.

GUYS. I went into UNRAVELING by Elizabeth Norris with a certain idea of what was going to happen. No details, obviously, but a vibe. Because when you read as much YA as we all do, I think when you hear about someone bringing another person back to life, it gives you THOUGHTS. Well. I can tell you right now that UNRAVELING went to a place that I was NOT expecting, and it was AWESOME, and the way everything fell into place as the story rapidly built to its conclusion was super. Elizabeth Norris is a SUPERSTAR. Her debut was gripping, clever, fast-paced, heart-breaking, and kind of mind-blowing. BOOM.

The pacing of UNRAVELING really is something worthy of another mention. This is basically a thriller, guys. It has that same structure and feeling, aided no doubt by the fact that the framework of UNRAVELING is this mysterious countdown being investigated by the main character Janelle’s father, the head of the local CIA field office. Things are constantly moving forward, even when we’re getting background information or exposition. There’s no stagnation in the plot at all, and for a book this size (almost 500 pages), that’s a very welcome thing indeed.

The characters are also relatable, fun, well-rounded, and have great personality. Janelle is tough, strong, smart, and responsible. She absolutely falls into that category of MCs who have to be responsible for things that kids shouldn’t have to worry about, though, and so I always felt a little bad for her. But she is determined to help her family and friends and she does the hard thing when it’s right, and takes her lumps. I loved her tenacity, and she has real-person fearlessness: that kind of thing where she IS afraid of something but knows that she can’t do anything but face it anyway. Janelle is fierce, and UNRAVELING is in good hands with her at its center.

Her relationship with Ben was sweet, and I liked them together. It had a little bit of the “I can’t explain why I need to see you/talk to you/be near you, but I do” going on. Their relationship was mostly great, though, because it’s not a given. They have issues and obstacles. I can’t wait to see where things go with them because even though they WANT to be together, it’s certainly not going to be easy. Elizabeth Norris really created some wonderful sweet moments, but she also gave Ben and Janelle some tough decisions to make, and I appreciated the jeopardy. 

So basically, all of UNRAVELING was awesome, guys. But I have to say that the twist completely threw me for a loop. Because it’s not paranormal, like I had thought it would be. Nope. FALSE. It was HARD SCIENCE, guys, and we all know my mental incompatibility with science. So imagine my pleasant surprise when the science MADE SENSE to me! I was really impressed with the way Elizabeth Norris handled the science bits in UNRAVELING. We’re basically dealing with quantum physics here. String theory. Wave Function Collapse. Multiverses. HARDCORE SCIENCE. And I understood all of it. I wasn’t ever confused, which is saying something because when I normally encounter science in books I need to read it more than once just to make sure I understand what’s going on and don’t go into BRAIN FUNCTION FAILURE. I didn’t need to do that here. Granted, we’re probably getting a simplified, superficial taste of it, but it was enough to make sense in the story, and it was easy to swallow.

In terms of plot, though, the science was a great twist. It was intriguing and full of promising dramatics for the future. And–maybe I just haven’t read enough sci-fi books–it wasn’t something that I’ve ever encountered in my reading before. It was NEW. Now, I know that this is actually pretty much IMPOSSIBLE, but like I said, I’d never read anything quite like it, so it was fresh and exciting for me.

And then! The ending. THE END of UNRAVELING kind of slayed me out of nowhere, guys. I COULD NOT read the last 50 or so pages of this book fast enough, but I was really only expecting great ACTION with maybe some FEELINGS. Except BOOM! All of a sudden, I cried. *sad face* It was insane! There was SO MUCH going on, unrelenting action and HEART-BREAKING THINGS–guys, I couldn’t deal. If I hadn’t been completely invested in reading the next book (Elizabeth Norris says on her website that she HAS written a sequel, and the ending of UNRAVELING is open for more) already, the ending would have hooked me all on its own. MOAR PLEASE!!

Guys, I read UNRAVELING by Elizabeth Norris almost two months ago, and I still think about how it turned my expectations on their heads in the most awesome way. Don’t sleep on this debut. It will suck you in from the jump, and you’ll be waiting for more from Janelle and Ben with CRAZY anticipation!


6 Responses to “Book Review: Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris”

  1. megtao April 20, 2012 at 8:11 am #

    I was put off of this book by the cover which looked very MG to me, buuuut your review has put me back onto it. I might give this one a go.

    • trippingbooks April 20, 2012 at 9:34 am #

      You know, I too thought that the cover wasn’t doing the book any favors. I mean, not only does it have people on the cover, but it has LOTS of people on the cover. Granted, they’re supposed to be the same two people repeated, but still. That’s a little pet peeve of mine. BUT. By the time you finish the book, if you ever get a chance to read it, the cover actually makes a little sense, which is awesome. So consider yourself mildly teased, my friend 😉

  2. Candice April 20, 2012 at 9:57 am #

    I’m like you – I haven’t really read that much science fiction so I’m not really sure what to make of this. Although it’s sciencey, I kind of feel like this is science I can get behind. Whenever I think science fiction I’m always like “ew no that’s so nerdy!” but then I’ll watch a sci-fi show or read a book that happens to have some of it thrown in there and I’m like “OMGILOVETHISSOMUCHGIMMIEMORE!” Soooo… Yeah, this sounds great! 🙂

  3. comacalm April 22, 2012 at 6:34 am #

    Oh wow, there’s a whole load of capitals here! I’m glad you enjoyed it! I didn’t as much, but I definitely liked it a lot more towards the end.

    ComaCalm’s Review of Unraveling

  4. The future Mrs. Ronald Weasley April 27, 2012 at 4:04 am #

    Okay, so I’ve got 1 free book on I’ve been thinking about this one, but since it’s new on that site there are no reviews. But I think this convinced me. Unraveling will be my book. THANK YOU


  1. Recommend A…(14) « Tripping Over Books - August 20, 2012

    […] Unraveling #1 by Elizabeth Norris. This book was pretty stellar. It surprised me by going in a totally different direction than I thought it would. It was a […]

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