Amber at Fall Into Books's Reviews > Unraveling

Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris
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's review
Mar 26, 2012

it was amazing
Read from March 16 to 17, 2012

Unraveling is one of the best novels I've ever read from a debut author. Norris will take you on an adventure that will have you breathless and on the edge of your seat from the first page until the very last sentence. I could not put this book down. Norris masterfully weaves her way through a story that is equal parts mystery, action, and romance. I was captivated by the world that she created, attached to the realistic characters, and enthralled by the plot. Unraveling is a book that I won't soon forget.

Unraveling is set in present-day San Diego and is told from Janelle Tenner's first person POV in the present tense. You guys know that I don't really like present tense novels most of the time, but for this book, it just worked. I can't imagine it being told any other way. The present tense narrative served to make me feel like I was right there with Janelle, in real time, fighting to save the world from utter destruction. Needless to say, that added to the suspense of the novel.

The characters in this novel are perfectly done. They are flawed, believable, and you can't help but feel for them (whether it's love or hate). Janelle is brave, strong, and selfless. She's everything a heroine should be. She constantly puts others' needs before her own, and even when her own life is falling apart (which it is almost constantly), she still fights for the good of everyone instead of laying down and wallowing in self pity. She's more mature than many adults I know, and I really admired her for that. She's the kind of person that I think most of us strive to be, but she's not perfect by any means. She has her defenses, she's temperamental, and she's impatient.

Ben is the guy that I think almost every girl wants. He's intelligent, caring, and has morals, for lack of a better term. Still, he's rough around the edges and isn't afraid to kick some ass when needed. He doesn't fit in with society's idea of normal, and that made all the more intriguing. He's also a selfless character, but at the same time, he's driven by his own emotions and desires. He's secretive, but not to the point that you want to bash his face in. It just adds an air of mystery to his overall character. He's also extremely loyal, to his friends and to Janelle, but he won't stand by someone when he knows they did something wrong. I admired that about him.

The secondary characters, especially Alex (Janelle's bff), Struz (Janelle's dad's bff), Janelle's dad, her mom, Jared (Janelle's brother), Kate (Janelle's ex-bff), and Elijah (Ben's bff) are very well-developed. I feel like we knew the least about Reid and Cecily, but we still knew enough that they seemed real and not just like filler characters. I also enjoyed how Janelle threw in random memories of herself with these characters so we felt like we got to know her and them better. It also made the whole story seem more real because her mind worked like a human's mind naturally works, randomly remembering the past. These memories obviously didn't drive the narrative forward, but they did make the story more complex, believable, and realistic, which in turn made it more enjoyable.

The plot of Unraveling is ridiculously intense. I don't think poor Janelle and co. get a moment's rest throughout the entire 464 page narrative. Janelle has so many things to overcome, as do the secondary characters, and they all grow so much because of all of the adversity. There are funny parts and happy parts. Those points in the story ensure that this novel isn't a depressing read because there are a ton of heart-shattering sad parts, as well as intense action scenes. There is a lot of mystery surrounding what's going on in this novel, and as the story progresses, more questions are added to the list. However, the ending wraps everything up nicely while leaving room for the sequel (which I can't wait for!). Thankfully Norris doesn't leave us with a cliffhanger. I really hate cliffhangers. And I will be buying both this book and the second book as soon as they come out. I tend to be more likely to buy a second book in a series if the first one didn't leave me hanging with no answers at the end.

The pacing of this book was pretty spot on, though I did feel like it dragged in places. The chapters have the countdown at the top, which is a nice touch. It makes you feel like you're going through this adventure in real time, right along with Janelle. I'm assuming that's why there were normal parts included in the narrative as well, to give the story a real-time feel to it. It was kind of cool, but it also made the book kind of long. I have nothing against long novels, but when I read a long novel, I have a hard time not "cheating" and skipping to the end to see what happens before I go back and finish reading the rest of the book. I admit, I did that with this book. But the ending was kind of weird when I hadn't read but a little over half of the novel, so it didn't satisfy any of my curiosity. That's a good thing, though, because I was enable to enjoy the entire book that way. Yea, I know. I'm a giant child sometimes, and I'm as impatient as they come.

Overall, I'd recommend Unraveling to anyone. I'm normally into paranormal more than sci-fi, but this book blew me away. This novel has it all, intense pathos, extreme suspense, challenging mysteries, and terrific characters. You do not want to miss out on this one.
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