Tatiana's Reviews > Unraveling

Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris
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Mar 26, 2012

it was ok
bookshelves: 2012, ya, sci-fi
Recommended to Tatiana by: Maja (The Nocturnal Library)
Read from March 18 to 22, 2012

As seen on The Readventurer

2.5 stars

When I look back at Unraveling, the first word that comes to mind is "calculated."

I read a fair number of commercial genre fiction and I am quite used to certain themes, plots and character archetypes being recycled over and over and over and over. It does not bother me, in general. But Unraveling was the first book that made me think, while reading it, that it had been written off of a checklist of what is currently "in" and sells well in YA market. I do not even have energy (nor a desire) to harp on how much of this novel is tediously familiar. Just a few notes:

1. Opening: the hero saves the heroine from dying.
2. Romance: 50% instalove (see #1)/ 50% I-have-loved-you-forever. Escalates to I-can't-live-without-you in a matter of 2-3 weeks.
3. The heroine is "strong" - smart, good student, knows how stand up for herself, family caretaker, family problems, dark traumatic incident in her past of sexual nature.
4. The hero is "good" - sensitive, caring, saves the heroine on multiple occasions, with floppy hair he is constantly running his hands through, crooked smile, with dark secret, fixes motorcycles, hides his smarts under a stoner persona.
5. School: a class that is conveniently designed for the hero and the heroine to banter on a very intimate level, encouraged by the teacher.
6. Other stock characters: stoners, slutty mean girls, stupid jocks, the heroine's best male friend (possibly gay? unclear).
7. Sleeping chastely in the same bed? Yes.

etc., etc,...

Is it really that hard for writers to break away from the same old, same old? Or is this what publishers are consciously and actively seeking out? Something that fits the mold?

There are a few saving graces, however, that barely keep Unraveling from the 1-star abyss, in my case, and, apparently, elevate this book to the level of a favorite, for other readers.

First, it appears the author of the novel went out of her way to make sure to put all positive qualities into her characters and situations. There is no promoting of unhealthy relationships, abusive behavior, doormatedness and so on. The main characters even give small lectures along the way on the matters of dating, dangers of motorcycle riding, drunk driving, honorable way of hacking into the school records, etc.

Second, while I was not at any point enamored with the characters, I still thought the book was a very brisk read. The writing has a sense of urgency to it. The chapters are very short and represent a countdown to a very important, possibly life-threatening event. So you just tear through these pages, like there is no tomorrow.

Third, this novel starts out as a paranormal (after all, the hero magically brings the heroine back from death), but eventually turns into a science fiction story (SF is on the rise, people!, that is why it is in this book, I am betting). Several very positive reviews of Unraveling I have read call this SF bend unique, and readers seem to like it a lot.

But I beg to differ here. Maybe because I do read a lot of SF and I have very recently read another (much better) YA SF with the same ideas (view spoiler), but I cannot seriously call Unraveling a good SF novel. There is hardly any science in Unraveling, the SF "hook" goes generally undeveloped. As for how much science there is actually in this book, I would say close to zero. You can expect nothing more, if the characters in this novel say: "I've spent hours going over it in my head. I was wrong when I told A. no one else knows the science. Both B. and C. know the science..." (identities concealed to avoid spoilers). So that is the extent of scientific knowledge in Unraveling. There are no specifics, just that elusive "science" that characters "know" and "do."

Readers less jaded and less demanding are likely to enjoy Unraveling more. The book's pace is snappy and the story itself packs all the "right" elements. But there is just no originality in it, no life in its characters, no true inspiration behind it. An aggregate of bluntly "popular" pieces carefully put together.
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Reading Progress

03/18/2012 page 42
9.0% 3 comments
03/18/2012 page 80
18.0% "Oh, I see why Maja liked this so much. The boy has floppy hair and a crooked smile:)" 2 comments
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Comments (showing 1-35 of 35) (35 new)

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Purcheria I really want to read this one. Anxious for your review.


message 2: by Jovana (new) - added it

Jovana Sounds good. Anxiously waiting for your review :)


Aly (Fantasy4eva) how are you finding this? After a few pages it seemed like one of 'those' paranormal's, so I gave up. I've read some good things on it though. If it gets good let me know and I'll give it another shot.


Tatiana I feel like the more I am reading it, the more stars it is losing. It's not entirely awful though.


oliviasbooks Oh-oh...


message 6: by Wendy (new)

Wendy Does the heroine also have a favorite classic book? That too seems to be on the checklist of YA lit nowadays. They all seem to have a worn out copy of something or another that they cherish...


Tatiana I remember her being a big time reader and quoting from something, but at least it wasn't Wuthering Heights or Pride and Prejudice - these two are almost in every YA book.


message 8: by Maya (last edited Mar 26, 2012 02:41PM) (new)

Maya Or is this what publishers are consciously and actively seeking out?

This. As long as people want to read the same thing over and over, the publishers will keep publishing it.

This book sounds a bit too "young" rather than "adult" to me, but Planesrunner is on my list.


message 9: by Rogier (new)

Rogier maybe not4me


message 10: by B0nnie (new) - added it

B0nnie That is a great check-list, very funny Tatiana


message 11: by Kara-karina (new)

Kara-karina That's what I like about your reviews. They take the hype out of the book and then you don't have to buy it right NOW to find out what it's all been about. I think you saved me a fortune! LOL Gonna check Planesrunner now :)


message 12: by Krishna (new)

Krishna Very honest review.


message 13: by Alyssa (new)

Alyssa Agreed with what Kara-karina said!


message 14: by Nomes (new)

Nomes I really like this review, Tatiana. It gives a good feel for who might be interested in the book :)


Tatiana Thanks, Nomes.

And I am sure many people will be interested in this sort of thing, even if I am not one of them.


message 16: by Jami (new)

Jami That's hilarious about the sleeping in the same bed! Why does that scenario keep cropping up in every new YA book? Even if you don't consider the unlikelihood of such a situation playing out so innocently, I don't get why authors love putting their characters into that setting.


message 17: by Tatiana (last edited Mar 27, 2012 03:33PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Tatiana Jami wrote: "That's hilarious about the sleeping in the same bed! Why does that scenario keep cropping up in every new YA book? Even if you don't consider the unlikelihood of such a situation playing out so inn..."

I ask myself these questions all the time. Guess it's considered romantic. Or something;)


message 18: by Dominika (new)

Dominika Thanks to your review I feel like I've already read this book;) I guess I'll save myself some money... Oh, and the review is a pleasure to read, as always:)


message 19: by Kate (new)

Kate Copeseeley Maybe it's not as "constructed" as you think. We tell writers to write what they like. Maybe the reason the author wrote the book this way is because insta-love and all those things that irritate you (and me, admittedly) are things this author enjoys in YA fiction.

There are a few books I have read that felt REALLY formulaic to me in the YA genre, to the point where I ask myself, WHY do people like these? My answer, because formulaic is what people like. That is why series like the Stephanie Plum books are so popular.

Myself, I prefer character growth. :)

BTW- I SERIOUSLY hope that sci-fi is on the rise! LOVE it. Haven't read anything yet that I consider true sci-fi, though. And don't mention Beth Revis to me. hahaha


Tatiana And it's perfectly the author's right to write and publishers' to publish such a formulaic story. It's mine to point it out too, so that people like us, who are sick of formula, can stay away from it.


Megs ♥ I can see how this book would frustrate someone like you who reads so many of these kinds of books. I guess it didn't bother me as much, because I haven't been reading YA for a very long time, but I definitely agree with your checklist.


message 22: by Katy (new) - rated it 2 stars

Katy I felt guilty about NOT liking the book too, especially since when I read it, mine was the only low rating. LOL. The story was good, but the whole reading process really ticked me off!


Carrie Ardoin See, I'm about to quit. I am a little more than 250 pages in and I was wondering if I would be the only one with a bad review for this book. I just don't get the love for it.


message 24: by Blythe (new) - added it

Blythe I wasn't crazy about it, either. I'm not a fan of sci-fi books, and I didn't think this would be one. :(


message 25: by Rie (new) - rated it 1 star

Rie Conley Thanks for the review! I sorta hated this book with all the 5 star ratings I was like "Hmm...maybe I'm not seeing something" Yeah, this was a DNF about 300 pgs in.


Carrie Ardoin Rie, I'd love it if you read my review and tell me if you felt some of the same things I mention.


message 27: by Blythe (new) - added it

Blythe I didn't absolutely hate it, but I didn't really like it. It was a little too sci-fi for me, and it read like a crappy episode of the X-Files.


message 28: by Rie (new) - rated it 1 star

Rie Conley Carrie wrote: "Rie, I'd love it if you read my review and tell me if you felt some of the same things I mention."

It wasn't so much the fact that it was contrived for marketability to me. The three main reasons I disliked this book was the implausibility of the mother situation, the fact too many issues were jammed in, and that she basically stole major plot points from teen shows and didn't even change them very much.


message 29: by Blythe (new) - added it

Blythe Rie wrote: "Carrie wrote: "Rie, I'd love it if you read my review and tell me if you felt some of the same things I mention."

It wasn't so much the fact that it was contrived for marketability to me. The thre..."


Those points were pretty much my main reasonings for disliking Unraveling (especially the implausibility of everything). I didn't really like the characters, there was Insta-love, which I have a problem with, and she's being timed to save the world, but she's worrying about something as asinine as her schedule.


message 30: by Phoebe (new)

Phoebe I just got to the "twist." And (view spoiler). I'm kind of ragey about this, and it's rare that I get this angry about derivative plotting in YA. But this one is absurdly similar and . . . PhoebeSmash.


Tatiana You see, I do not (view spoiler), but even that aside, it just makes me cringe to see reviews calling this book "original." Plus, the author does absolutely nothing with this "twist." It's just there for the relationship drama.


message 32: by Phoebe (last edited Apr 20, 2012 10:26AM) (new)

Phoebe Tatiana wrote: "You see, I do not [spoilers removed], but even that aside, it just makes me cringe to see reviews calling this book "original." Plus, the author does absolutely nothing with this "twist." It's just..."

Part of what's so frustrating is that it's impossible to talk about it (view spoiler), which really was doing something fairly innovative with sci-fi TV. Blargh.


message 33: by Yzabel (new) - added it

Yzabel Ginsberg "Calculated" is how it felt to me as well. Like the author was trying too much, trying to cram in as many elements currently in fashion in such books, in order to ensure success. I suppose it does work when it's not so blatant, but here it hampered my enjoyment of the book.


Stargirl I agree with your review and to add something to the list "but I'm not most girls" line that can be find PAGE 2 which lead me to believe it would indeed be one of those very formulatic YA books. Not that I doubted it (There is some appeal to formula) but to be that clear and that soon kind of ruined the thing for me from the start.


Stargirl I agree with your review and to add something to the list "but I'm not most girls" line that can be find PAGE 2 which lead me to believe it would indeed be one of those very formulatic YA books. Not that I doubted it (There is some appeal to formula) but to be that clear and that soon kind of ruined the thing for me from the start.


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