Review and G!veway: Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris

Publication Date: April 24th, 2012
Balzer + Bray
Format: Hardcover, 445 pages
RATING: 5 out of 5 Stars


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.

From debut author Elizabeth Norris comes this shattering novel of one girl’s fight to save herself, her world, and the one boy she never saw coming.

The heroine got hit by a truck and died within the first two pages of the book.
Then in a span of approximately two minutes, she woke up staring up at the eyes of the school’s resident stoner.
At this point, I was the figurative fish; hook imbedded deep inside my cheek, and hopelessly flailing at the end of the reel.
I can cite two complaints among the number of gratuitous gushing I have done over this book:
One, the author was relentless in jacking your emotions.  She never once let up; not even to recover. As if the thought of the end of the world wasn’t enough to put the fear of God in the character’s eyes, she also tortured the heroine with other rather, emotionally scarring events in her personal life. And as much as you want to cry with Janelle, Norris will not let you do that. Just when you thought that you can just sit back and contemplate about Janelle’s emotional upheavals, the author pulls her up by the hair on her head, slaps some sense into her and tells her to “suck it up, princess! You have a world to save.” I think this is also the reason why it’s taking me a while to post a review. I had a choice between a shot of tequila or just to step back – way back from the book.  Besides, this complaint may be a good thing to some readers but not to me. I needed time to process, decompress – before I tackle the next round of drama and angst. I’ll tell ya one thing, you’ll never be bored while you’re in the grips of this book.
Two, Nick (brief boyfriend) was a victim of being the unfortunate, irrelevant character (pet peeve of mine). I seriously haven’t a clue why he was there to begin with. Unless he’s got a bigger part in the remaining books of the series, Janelle’s relationship with Nick was the proverbial fat in need of trimming. The same goes with her poor mother. Or maybe it’s just me. I feel like her mother’s mental health was a ploy to add angst in an otherwise, already complicated family dynamics. Her father is a workaholic; living and breathing his FBI life. But he was doing his very best. He’s mostly absent but the little time he spent with his kids was precious, nonetheless. His partner, Struz acted as the big brother who, oddly enough, spent more time with Janelle and her brother than their father did.
There were a myriad of things that happened in the book but Norris managed to bind them all in one cohesive awesomeness. Her writing was clear and concise. I found her very descriptive without being wordy, and at 445 pages, being wordy just spells boredom and imminent flouncing. I’m glad she got her point across; otherwise, this book would at least be double its size.
The way she wrote of Janelle’s emotional state after a loved one’s death was consistent of how she handled her mother’s illness. At times, I found her cold and calculating but if you look at the other things that was going on her life, you’ll find that she’s very adept in compartmentalizing her emotions. She’s always got her head on and she never let anything get in the way of her priorities.
I love the suspenseful element of the barbequed humans and the mysterious countdown. I remember wracking my simple brain for how those two would be related and coming up empty. When I eventually found out toward the end, I wasn’t even close.
Ben, the love interest: This is where I’m supposed to gush and swoon, but I’m opting to skip this part. The impossible romance: Damn it. It hurts like a mofo.  You need to read this book; you need to immerse yourself in a world where parallel universes exist. You need to meet the secondary characters that made this book that much more compelling. You need to meet Ben; the angsty, rebellious, typical bad boy who’d loved Janelle since she was probably ten years old. You just need to read this book, period.
VERDICT: Unraveling did what science fiction had somewhat failed as far as capturing this reader’s interest. And though I’ve never been one to go out of my way to acquire books in this genre, the ones I have in my bookshelf seem characteristically lacking in emotional pull. Well, Unraveling is the exact opposite; it was bursting in human elements. Though I was a bit wary of the blurb “24 meets X-Files”, I can honestly say that all my hesitations were all for naught. This high octane novel exceeded all my expectations and then some. 2013 can’t come soon enough.
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