Series: Unraveling #1
Genre: Sci-Fi, Thriller, YA
Publication date: April 24th 2012
by Balzer & Bray
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.
-A copy was provided by HarperCollins for review-
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.