Title: Unravelling (Unravelling #1)
Author: Elizabeth Norris
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Released: 24th April 2012
One ordinary night, Janelle Tenner gets hit by a truck. And then brought back to life. By Ben Michaels, of all people. Her determination to find out why he did it and to learn about everything involving the incident leads her to becoming involved in a case her FBI dad is working on. People have been found dead with severe radiation burns, only no-one can figure out where these people came from or how they got radiation poisoning. Even worse, a device has been found. It's counting down. And it can't be stopped. It's not long before Janelle realises Ben knows more about this than he's letting on.
Something I thought worked really well was the way Elizabeth Norris has set this book out. By using time as a marker instead of chapter numbers, the layout became much more flexible, something which the author used to her advantage. I liked the fact that the 'chapter' lengths were varied, as it helped emphasise certain events or memories, moments in time that were significant for one reason or another and that tugged on my emotions because they were highlighted so. Norris' writing style, too, is very engaging. The action moments were fast-paced, and the more emotional moments were well-crafted. I thought the characters were also fleshed out nicely here; they had layers, and were realistic - although there was something about the dialogue that bothered me. Swearing. Now, I don't mind if a book uses that kind of language. It can add to the realism and really have an effect if used appropriately. The problem arises when it's used unnecessarily. Not every teenager swears. The swearing in here felt quite forced which meant that any impact was lost. It was as though it had been added just for the sake of it, and it didn't work.
That leads me nicely to the characters themselves. I loved Janelle's strength. She was determined to find out what was happening and see it through to the end, all the while taking care of her little brother. It was moving to see how she had to be the parent, with her mother suffering from bipolar and her father barely around. She could have broken and given up a long time ago, yet she was unwilling to do that and bore everything that came her way. She had her best friend Alex to rely on but at the same time remained independent. Alex himself was dependable, and I was glad he stayed by her side. Ben was so sweet. It was actually quite touching to see how he remembered things about Janelle while she had barely noticed him until something big happened. There was so much more to him than it appeared, something she realises. It just goes to show that appearances can be totally unreliable.
The plot twist was brilliant. Now, I'm not a hard-core sci-fi fan, but you're looking (well, OK, not looking, but you get what I mean) at a girl who's in love with Dr Who. Does that give you some clue? Maybe not. A lot of stuff happens in Dr Who. I could give you a list, but that would take forever. Just go watch it. Anyway. This was a totally unexpected, totally gripping turn in the book, and if you're into sci-fi, this is definitely for you. I loved the whole concept of it and thought that it was very well thought out.
And, oh, the ending! Possibly the most emotional part of the whole book. Once more Janelle's strength came into play. That girl knows how not to be selfish. By this point she's lost more than she thought possible, and still she refuses to break. Janelle Tenner, I salute you. And Ben also, for being willing to sacrifice the one thing he's worked towards for years. I love the fact that Norris has created strong characters, easy to sympathise with and relate to.
Overall, this is a gripping read that always has you in suspense. Filled with strong characters, an engaging and complex plotline and a dollop of unpredictability, Unravelling is a book that will leave you wanting more.