Tuesday, May 1, 2012

REVIEW: Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris

UnravelingUnraveling by Elizabeth Norris
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

CAUTION: Long Review, Spoilers

Unraveling was pitched as Before I Fall meets Fringe (source: PublishersWeekly). The book was similar to the TV show in many ways (for details, please check out Phoebe's review); the most notable one was how the two were about parallel universe. Yet, instead of Fringe Unrav' made many references to X-Files which I found odd. I liked the references but they didn't go beyond the characters jabbering some corny but cool quotes from X-Files. Quite a shame really because I would have enjoyed Unrav' more if Janelle used her X-Files-fu to figure out problems.

The connection to Before I Fall was tenuous. Both books killed the MC in the beginning of the story, but Unrav' killed the MC once while BIF killed the MC several times. Both books have teen girls as MC who are forcibly thrust into a situation beyond belief, but how the girls chose to approach the situation was entirely different. Samantha in BIF was obtuse and immature; she ultimately resigned to her fate. Janelle, OTOH, was clever and mature; she strove to live.
But I’m alive.
I’m alive.
More alive than I was before any of this happened.
Life is a fragile thing. Apparently the whole world is fragile too.
But it’ll beat on.
Because it has to.
Unlike Samantha, Janelle was not this character who was initially flawed to make for some easy character development.

The Cast

+++ Janelle the Heroine

With a little over 104,000 words, Unrav' was told in 1st PoV from Janelle's side. How Janelle dealt with the mean girls and how she broke up with Nick after realizing her feeling for Ben made her incredibly mature. I began to like Janelle once I read how involved she was in her father's FBI work. Janelle was a real go-getter. I liked how she was nosy and how she nosed into her father's work by secretly going through his files and computer. There were many times when she got over her head and her life went to ruins, but throughout it all she was grounded and determined to pull through.

My biggest complain about Janelle was that I wished she did less with the brandishing of her father's gun during her moments of "tell me everything you know now" and more with the shooting. Coincidentally, I read a recent novel Timeless where the MC also brandished her gun but in a manner more to my liking:
Alexia detested the very idea that she might have to actually use her gun...Still, even if all she intended to do was threaten, she might as well be able to fulfill that threat adequately. Alexia abhorred hypocrisy, especially when munitions were involved. (chapter 3)
I like to think if Janelle took a lesson from Alexia, the few but big tragedies that happened in the course of the story wouldn't have happened.

+++ Janelle's Family

For a workaholic, Mr. Tenner was a loving father. My favorite part about him was:
My dad chuckles. “Not yet, but don’t worry. I won’t give up. Hunting aliens is the reason I joined the FBI, after all.” This is actually not a lie. Of course, the truth is that there isn’t a unit that actually hunts aliens. There aren’t enough creepy cases that point to aliens or unsolved paranormal mysteries to assign to even one guy in a basement.
However, his lack of presence diluted the traumatic event his character suffered in the middle of the story. He was murdered. Thus, I had a difficult time empathizing the raw emotions Janelle felt.

Mrs. Tenner was bipolar. I had mixed feelings about her character. On one hand, I didn't like how Unrav' relegated Mrs. Tenner as a background character because she was why Janelle's family was broken for the lack of a better word. On the other hand, I was glad for her large absence because I didn't care for more angst. Not as if Janelle didn't have a basketful of issues to contend.

Jared, like his sister, was mature. I disdained Janelle when she infantilized Jared. I understood her intention to shield Jared but she did it at the detriment of their relationship. I would not be surprised if in book 2 Jared gets into a sticky situation because he wanted to know what his dear sister was doing.

+++ Alex the Best Friend

Alex was a great best friend. He was more level-headed than Janelle. I didn't like how Janelle's love interest took the spotlight away from Alex. I liked Alex enough that I was sad and angry at how the book treated him. He got shot and bled to death. How was it that Janelle who was in worse shape upon her death was savable but Alex who got one bullet wound wasn't? I felt the book made Alex this throwaway character so ending could be emotional without fail.

+++ Ben the Love Interest

Ben was too perfect to be real. He hid his hot self under the façade of a stoner. He was nice, sensitive, thoughtful, and helpful when it counted. And he had a power that could be used to save people. Ben was a complete knight in shining armor.

One thing I did like about Ben was how he told Janelle their relationship wasn't going to last even though they loved each other. Even so, I found the romance mushy. His constant I-Love-You-ing might had something to do with it. Honestly, Fringe did it better with Olivia and Peter.

+++ Reid & Elijah, Ben's friends

There were barely any differences between the two boys. The only way I could differentiate between Rude Boy 1 and Rude Boy 2 was that one of them — Elijah — was more vocal about his disapproval of Ben's relationship with Janelle. It annoyed me but I understood their reasons. Ben and his friends worked too hard on their goal — they wanted to return to their home universe — to throw it all away for teenage love which in comparison seems insignificant. I was surprised at the twist coming from one of the boys but I found its revelation incredibly shallow. I had a difficult time believing Ben could be so oblivious to his friends' mistakes.

+++ Struz & Barclay, the FBI agents

Struz was Janelle's father's good friend and fellow agent. He provided relief to Janelle's family complications. I liked it but sometime I felt he was there in the story for Janelle's convenience.

Barclay was an FBI agent, subordinate to Janelle's father. For a character who was supposedly stubborn, he answered to Janelle too easily, even when she blackmailed and bribed him (points for Janelle for being resourceful). In addition, the twist about his character should have made him abundantly reluctant to divulge classified information.

In Conclusion

There was nothing groundbreaking about Unrav'. Janelle was cool, but the rest of the cast didn't develop beyond the tropes. The main antagonist, for causing so much problems, had so little character development.

The chapters began with a countdown; instead of "Chapter 1" it was "24:00:14:32" in days, hours, minutes, and seconds respectively. It gave the story a similar suspense from the TV show 24. There some roughness to the pacing, but Unrav' moved fast and I devoured the book quickly.

I couldn't rate Unrav' higher because of the loose ends. Though Unrav' was a pale imitation of Fringe, I still enjoyed it. I rate Unrav' 3-stars for I liked it.

I recommend the book for readers looking an action-packed story with some romance. In short, it was a romantic thriller — a part of the book's pitch that I thought best described the book.

Readers looking for more YA about parallel universe should scope the following:
Broken Universe (Universe, #2) Planesrunner (Everness #1)

Amazon GoodReads

Post a Comment

You can also comment on the Goodreads version of my review. Click on the rating located in the beginning of my review to get to the webpage.