Two days before the start of her junior year, seventeen-year-old Janelle Tenner is hit by a pickup truck and killed—as in blinding light, scenes of her life flashing before her, and then nothing. Except the next thing she knows, she's opening her eyes to find Ben Michaels, a loner from her high school whom Janelle has never talked to, leaning over her. And even though it isn't possible, she knows—with every fiber of her being—that Ben has somehow brought her back to life.But her revival, and Ben's possible role in it, is only the first of the puzzles that Janelle must solve. While snooping in her FBI agent father's files for clues about her accident, she uncovers a clock that seems to be counting down to something—but to what? And when someone close to Janelle is killed, she can no longer deny what's right in front of her: Everything that's happened—the accident, the murder, the countdown clock, Ben's sudden appearance in her life—points to the end of life as she knows it. And as the clock ticks down, she realizes that if she wants to put a stop to the end of the world, she's going to need to uncover Ben's secrets—and keep from falling in love with him in the process.From debut author Elizabeth Norris comes this shattering novel of one girl's fight to save herself, her world, and the boy she never saw coming.
Hardcover, 445 pages
Published April 24th 2012 by Balzer + Bray
Five Stars! A debut author that will amaze you with her riveting X-Files type book.
Janelle is finishing her last shift life guarding at the beach. The summer is waning, school is starting. She heads to the parking lot to find her car covered in obscene graffiti and four slashed tires. She surveys the mess holding back tears, but rather than let the mean girls get the best of her, she calls for help and decides to jog home. A quick call on her cell to the one person who always answers her calls, Alex, she has the situation in hand until the screeching of tires and a pick up truck out of nowhere collides into her. Pain and then memories flash through Janelle's mind, and she knows, without a doubt, she is dead. Then she catches a glimpse of herself through someone else's eyes. Someone who obviously loves her very much. The scents of gasoline, mint and soap tickle her nose, and a voice pulls her back assuring her she will be okay, now. Janelle's eyes flicker open to meet the dark depth's of Ben, the stoner's eyes. Why would Ben, a boy she hardly knows, be here helping her? Then he is gone and she blacks out. A few days later, Janelle is convinced that she not only was brought back from the dead but also that the mysterious, aloof Ben facilitated her return. She sets out to snoop through her father's files. As an FBI agent, he is going to investigate into the run away truck that nearly killed his daughter. The files turn up some disturbing information. The truck was a unknown make and model, registered to no one and there are no records on it. The driver was dead from severe radiation burns. He is not the only one with these burns. Several other bodies have popped up in the vicinity with these same flesh melting burns. Then there appears to be some type of count down associated with each victim. What is the clock ticking down to? Is it the end of the world as Janelle knows it? Can she somehow help unravel the clues to stop it in time?
What I Liked:
- I was completely riveted from the opening pages of this book. It begins with Janelle's untimely death and restoration and the action keeps on coming. This book is thick with mystery, suspense and the unexpected. If you want a book that has an X-Files type story, you need to read Unraveling. This book has a complex and intriguing storyline that is full of surprises.
- I admired the heroine, Janelle. Ms. Norris takes her time to carefully create our main character. She is tough, yet tender hearted. She has tenacity and is determined, and this girl knows heart break and sacrifice. The situation with her mentally ill mother is difficult and heart wrenching. Janelle is a character that will stick with me.
- Janelle has a best friend, Alex, (who by the way is charming) who has stuck by her side through thick and thin, always. He is absolutely everything a girl could want in a best friend. Not once was there any inclination that the relationship was anything but a friendship. When Ben is introduced as the love interest, I can't lie, I spent the whole book trying to determine whether the book would move into love triangle territory or not. I actually liked that the book kept me guessing the entire way through. (I am not going to spill it, you need to read and see for yourself.)
- Ben, is wonderful. I can't say too much about him because I want you to discover him for yourself. He is noble and kind, as well as an enigma. I particularly liked that he is first presented as a stoner character, a boy who hides in the shadows, not wanting to draw attention to himself. Oh, but he is so much more. Ben is a reminder to never judge a person based on appearances and stereotypes because he is complex and so mislabeled. Honestly, I think this was one of my favorite aspects of the book was learning all of Ben's secrets and seeing into the depths of his soul. I think Ben is definitely going to steal a few hearts out there.
- Part of me liked, and the other part hated it, that the author wasn't afraid to take chances and pack some heart wrenching scenes in this book. I loved and hated the ending as well. No cliffhanger, but plenty of big shocks and so far from the expected happily ever after. I applaud Ms. Norris for daring to color outside the lines. It isn't easy to go against the popular happy ending. However, I felt that the heart tugging circumstances that Janelle is left with make it easy for the author to follow up with hopefully a sequel, in which Ben fulfills his promise and Janelle is able to leave because there is very little holding her back. I can't say more without giving big details away.
And The Not So Much:
- I only have a couple of small complaints, first I found it a bit hard to believe that a teenager could just abscond with some highly sensitive FBI files and not have the suits chasing her. Despite the fact that she gets away a bit by playing the "whose my daddy card", it still is not believable that she could meddle in a a big top secret investigation. This is a not a big deal, but it was just one of those details that bothered me.
- I never got a clear picture as to who Strus, her father's partner was. He ends being an important character but there is little detail on him. I wish he was a bit better described.
- There is story line (the ruined friendship between Kate and Janelle) that keeps popping up repeatedly throughout the book that I expected to have some big impact due to the references but it never comes to fruition. Granted, I think the author used it to show another way how Janelle develops a tough skin and also to show how Ben came to her rescue, unbeknownst to Janelle. I just felt that there was something more, especially when Kate wants to talk to her. I was left at the end of the book wondering why this repeated story line was not seen through to the end.
- A few parental cautions, there is cussing and usage of the "f word" as well as some mentions of teen drinking and a potential date rape scene. Nothing over the top or disturbing by any means but if you prefer to keep this type of content out of younger readers' hands then you may want to take this into consideration.
Unraveling is a debut author book for 2012 that is going to have the YA world a buzz. This book is a blend of s sci-fi,apocalyptic countdown and mystery thriller, with a touching romance that will grab onto your imagination. Ms. Norris is talented writer who knows how to write an engaging story. If this is just the beginning, I can't wait to see what she can do next. This is a compelling read that will generate an array of emotions. Be prepared for the thrilling and the unexpected when you read this one. I hope that there is indeed going to be a sequel. If you are looking for an excellent debut author book, I would highly recommend Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris.
“The blackness bleeds to white, so bright it glows. Heat floods my body, and I’m on fire. It feels like the light is burning me from the inside out.”
“And the emotion I feel is undoubtedly love---heart aching, chest filling, so powerful it hurts, like these are memories of someone watching me, someone whose happiest moments are when he sees me smile, and someone who aches and feels powerless and heartbroken when he knows I’m sad. Someone who loves me.”
“The lines in his face are starting to show, and his hair is starting to gray. He wears “tired” like an old friend.”
“The shirt from a concert two summers ago I didn’t even go to, because the book I was reading turned out to be crack.”
“Lives are made of strings of moments, and every once in a while, one of those moments i pivotal and defining.”
“I smile, and that’s all it takes. He leans forward and our lips touch, and it’s like his lips were made to fit around mine.”
“My whole body gives itself up to sorrow at that moment, and I’m shaking and trying to suck down too much air at one time. My whole body feels numb, to the point where I don’t feel like I have limbs anymore. I’m just a floating head, an outpouring of emotion, a heart that doesn’t seem to know how to beat regularly anymore.”
Note the quotations are taken from an ARC copy kindly provided to me by Balzer+Bray Publishing in exchange for a fair review.