Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Review: Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris

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I received this book for free from HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Unraveling by Elizabeth NorrisUnraveling by Elizabeth Norris
Series: Unraveling #1
Published by Balzer & Bray on April 24th 2012
Genres: Sci-Fi, Thriller, YA
Source: HarperCollins
Buy on Amazon

Sixteen-year-old Janelle Tenner is used to having a lot of responsibility. She balances working as a lifeguard in San Diego with an intense academic schedule. Janelle's mother is bipolar, and her dad is a workaholic FBI agent, which means Janelle also has to look out for her younger brother, Jared.

And that was before she died... and is brought back to life by Ben Michaels, a mysterious, alluring loner from her high school. When she discovers a strange clock that seems to be counting down to the earth's destruction, Janelle learns she has twenty-four days to figure out how to stop the clock and save the planet.

To be perfectly honest, by the time I read this book I had completely forgotten what it was about. I thought it was a book about the end of the world – and okay in a way it is, but very different from what I had envisioned. Nevertheless, it’s a solid story in a lot of ways, and with 400+ pages it could have become an intensely powerful, in-depth read, but instead it felt overcrowded at times with topics like rape, mental illness, and ex best-friend drama (as well as ex-boyfriend) that felt rather directionless. On the other hand, it does offer a slightly different perspective on alternate dimensions, or at least it worked on delivering it in a highly suspenseful way.

The main reason why I wasn’t able to enjoy this book as much as many did was my lack of connection to these characters – most of which I didn’t very much care for. I found Janelle a bit whiny and her playing mini FBI detective became irritating at times. As far as the numerous side characters: while I’m normally a fan of large casts it was not so in this case. I found most lacked memorable qualities and others were simply underdeveloped. Occasionally, a name would get mentioned and I would have completely forgotten what role that person was playing. Furthermore, I can’t say I was a fan of the romance between Janelle and Ben. It wasn’t a source of irritation, but It was too quick for me to form any sort of attachment to them. Which is a shame since the relationship becomes the emotional focus of the ending’s “what ifs”.

With that out of the way, Unraveling earns its points in entertainment value. I mean, it’s told with a countdown, how can this not be exciting? From page one it’s an obvious cause for concern, continually building tension and anxiety. When we find out what it’s counting down to this increases the anticipation even more, making it appear to go even faster – whether it does or if it’s simply by the effect of making us turn the pages faster, I do not know, but it was absolutely suspenseful. Then, even though I didn’t connect to Janelle, the bond that she has with her little brother is incredibly real and, in turn, the thrilling scenes towards the end are full of emotional uncertainty – hope and fear are mixed in equal measure. Unraveling is also strong as a sci-fi read. The science introduced is thorough without being overwhelming.

If I hadn’t read so many alternate universe stories this past year maybe I would have found this one a lot more compelling – though the characters would still have been a hindrance to me. Regardless of my qualms with it, it’s it an entertaining read that I would not hesitate to recommend to fans of the genre.


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Canadian blogger, wife, mother, coffee lover, and sarcastic at heart! She has had a love for all things bookish since before Amazon and eReaders existed *le gasp*. You can also find her organizing tours and other fun things at Xpresso Book Tours.

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20 Responses to “Review: Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris”

  1. Melliane

    sorry it wasn’t as good as you thought. And well, when you’re not that much into the characters it’s impossible. I had the same problem with a book a lot of persons liked. it was nice but well I had a problem with the characters.

  2. JennRenee

    I ahve been curious for this book for quite a while and I am not sure why I havnt picked it up yet. my libray has it on audio download and I keep meaning to get it. bummer you didn’t like it as much as other but it seems that it wasn’t horrible either. I think we need to get rid of some of these why characters, although I guess that may seem unreal to some ya readers. Not all teens are whiny. Sounds interesting though. Great review.

  3. Nick @ Nick's Book Blog

    I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy this as much as I did, but I can see why the characters didn’t work for you. I do agree that Janelle wasn’t the best character and her whiny tone was a bit frustrating. I also agree about the romance being a bit too fast, but it did work for me.
    Great honest review, Giselle.

  4. Kelsey

    It does sound like it could be interesting, and hopefully the connection to the characters isn’t too bad if I decide to read it. I have issues with books where that happens unfortunately. Thanks for reviewing this!

  5. Maya @ The Book Nook

    It’s a shame you didn’t enjoy tis as much as you’d hoped you would. I don’t like it when an author tries to cram too many topics in at once either, it takes the reader’s focus off the main plot and can get a bit frustrating. Irritating characters are always a downer, too. Thanks for the review!

  6. Aylee

    Aww, well it’s too bad that it sounds like you didn’t like this one as much as I did. But I do get where you’re coming from. I agree that they definitely could have edited this one down to just the essential storyline. Glad you liked it overall though! I think the sequel is even more thrilling and suspenseful, if you’re interested in reading it. Really great review!

  7. Jesse @ Pretty in Fiction

    I totally get where you’re coming from with this one. I enjoyed it because of the sci fi elements, but the characters were weak and the romance sort of killed the whole thing for me. I just don’t get Ben and Janelle together, not with their whiny insta love like relationship anyway. Maybe if it had been drawn out I would have enjoyed them more. After I read it I will say it left me a bit of an emotional mess. I loved the way the disaster parts were written. But thinking back on the story, those are the only parts that come to mind. The characters don’t really stick out at all and that’s a pretty big problem. I do love the pure scifi of it, though. I don’t read many of those, even though I love them. Great review!

  8. Christianna

    I’ve been wanting to read this one for awhile, but I just haven’t gotten around to it. It’s kind of a bummer that you didn’t love the characters that much. I’m a big character person, so that would be irritating for me as well. Glad that the pacing and writing was good though!

  9. Savannah

    I love time-travel! Too bad you didn’t like this book more. I already read the second book and liked that one as well. Nice review and thanks for being honest.

  10. Micheline @ Lunar Rainbows

    Yay, I was excited when I saw you review this – I remember being somewhat excited to get my hands on it, but I couldn’t really remember what it was about either at that point. The lack of connection to any of the *many* characters is definitely a concern…that kind of thing can really put a damper on a book. BUT, I do like how exciting it sounds (countdowns:WOOT!) And you know me; when you mentioned sci-fi, I was like: Where, WHERE?! Gimme!! 😀 Thanks for the insight chick ♥

  11. Jenni

    hmm I think I am now happy that I have held out on reading this one for so long. I don’t think this is one that I would like at all. If I can’t connect to the characters the book is usually a no go for me anyway. Thanks for being the test bunny on this one!

  12. Molli

    Been meaning to read this one for AGES. Yay for entertaining, and more about alt universe stuff. I’m wondering if having read a few similar novels that blew me away this year will make me have the same reaction.

    Blah characters and being unable to form a connection is THE worst. Lets me down every time it happens. Still, 3 stars isn’t all bad!

  13. Jenea @ Books Live Forever

    I think it is rough reading when you don’t really have any connection with the characters. I have to admit though, I have been curious about this series, I might try it at a later time if I can get it from my library. 🙂

  14. Candace

    I recently read a rave review of this, so it’s nice to see a little balance and know that it’s possible I won’t love it. I really want to give it a try and hopefully I’ll enjoy it a bit more then you. We’ll see though…

  15. ashelynn hetland

    I SO agree. Unraveling was a book crammed full of issues, and I frankly thought it would have been better had some of the subplots been removed. And also? The sequel isn’t any better. I was super disappointed in it. I wanted so much more from this series.

  16. Abbe Hinder

    I haven’t read many alternative reality stories but from your review, I think I’ll hold back from reading this since I have a hard time relating to characters. Anyway, great review!

  17. tonyalee

    You know, I read this one about a year ago and I don’t think I could tell you much about it. I remember I really liked it at the time though.

    I love alternate reality stories but I think I should re read this one before continuing the series.

    Great review 😀

  18. Alexa Y.

    I’ve been hearing things about this book, mostly good, so it’s nice to see a review that seems more balanced and fair. I liked hearing what you had to say about this! It seems like a book that would be a really entertaining, diverting read.

  19. Pili

    I have this one in my TBR list so I’m hoping I’ll get to it soon!
    I’m sorry to hear it didn’t work as well for you as you hoped, but it proved entertaining enough.
    Great review!