Review: (the trainwreck that is) Unraveling
Author: Elizabeth Norris
Genre: Young adult, science fiction
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Sixteen-year-old Janelle Tenner is used to having a lot of responsibility. She balances working as a lifeguard in San Diego with an intense academic schedule. Janelle's mother is bipolar, and her dad is a workaholic FBI agent, which means Janelle also has to look out for her younger brother, Jared.
And that was before she died... and is brought back to life by Ben Michaels, a mysterious, alluring loner from her high school. When she discovers a strange clock that seems to be counting down to the earth's destruction, Janelle learns she has twenty-four days to figure out how to stop the clock and save the planet.
The only reason I finished this was because I needed a "U" book for my A-Z challenge this year.
You would think that a story about radiation-melted bodies showing up around the area would be very intense, especially when every chapter counts down to some mysterious catastrophe. You would expect that when a book decides to provide a scientific explanation for someone's supernatural abilities, the science would at least make sense. You would hope that the FBI would have enough security surrounding their work that curious and stubborn sixteen-year-olds can't hack into daddy's case files.
Unfortunately, none of the above are true.
This book was remarkably boring at times for the subject matter. I kept waiting for things to happen, or for some urgency to be there, but it didn't kick in until the last 20% of the book. I was pleasantly surprised by the explanation for the countdown and the way the resolution was handled, but getting to the end was such a chore.
There were also a lot of "issues" brought up in this book, and I felt like the story was trying too hard to make the main character sympathetic by harping on her struggles. Her father is largely absent because he works in the FBI. Her mother has bipolar disorder and needs taking care of. She was betrayed by her best friend at a party, and doesn't remember anything that happened that night. Oh, and she gets hit by a truck, dies, and is resurrected by a stoner she's never thought twice about.
I'm glad the author gave Ben Michaels a personality, but must every guy in every young adult book be "unexpectedly beautiful"? Cue eyerolls. I'm very annoyed with the explanation of how his powers work though. This is a mild spoiler, but you find out about it pretty early on and it's not part of "the big reveal" so I'm going to mention it. [IF YOU DON'T WANT TO BE MILDLY SPOILED, OR HATE MINI SCIENCE LESSONS, SKIP TO THE NEXT PARAGRAPH]. Ben can supposedly manipulate molecular bonds. He says that he cannot create or destroy them, only move them around. I would buy it if he said he could repair broken vases. The molecules in things like vases are generally static and regularly organized, so it makes sense you could just move things around and put them back together again (we don't talk about glass. That's a different beast). But what Ben does is repair people. I'm a bioengineer. I wish it were as easy as "manipulating molecular bonds" to heal people. Unfortunately, the human body isn't just molecular bonds, it is full of complex biochemical pathways. Cells are dynamic. You can't just put molecules together and expect your cells to come back to life. Let alone a freaking spinal cord.
The whole "junior detective" thing with Janelle and the FBI was also very tiresome. I'd be appalled if it were that easy for a kid to access classified information, and even more annoyed that supposedly intelligent teenagers think they can solve problems that hundreds of trained professionals can't.
This book was very hard for me to get through, and I would not recommend it. I would instead direct you to read Ultraviolet, a book with a similar concept but much more realistic and well-written.