Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris

Several people recommended this book to me.  I can only read so many good reviews and be recommended a book by so many people before I know I have to own it, and will most likely love it. Unfortunately, I was rather disappointed with this one.
It’s about Janelle. At the end of a lifeguarding shift, (days before school starts), she gets hit by a truck and dies. Then, she gets brought back to life by Ben (a boy who goes to her school but who she generally has never had anything to do with). Janelle is an AP student. She’s dating the most popular guy in school. She’s an athlete, born to swim. And well, Ben, is sort of known for being an outcast stoner. However, after Janelle is hit by the truck, and Ben comes over to her a little too late, she is able to see herself through Ben’s eyes.
When he saves her, she sees Ben’s life and more importantly she sees how he sees her. The only problem is Janelle can’t seem to get Ben to explain what really happened. Her best friend refuses to believe her when she says she died and came back. Soon, life kind of gets back to normal. Or as normal as it can get for the daughter of an FBI agent and bipolar mom. Janelle has a lot on her shoulders. She’s pretty much the only parent her younger brother has ever known. Their father is always working on a case. And their mother is either manic and crazy, or depressed and alone. Also, Janelle had a bad experience/falling out with an ex-best friend, an experience that ended with her in a stranger’s car and her panties ripped.
The girl is a survivor. She moves past losing friends, and standing in as a mom, and taking care of her mother, and working, and keeping up a grade point average, and still maintaining a social life without a sweat. And she does this all with sass and intelligence. And while this book is so not my favorite (I’ll get to this soon), I have to admit that Janelle is pretty awesome.
Any way, the real story starts when Janelle learns a little too much about a case her father is working on. The case involves a countdown to what she first thinks is just a bomb exploding. But later, she realizes it is counting down till the end of the world. Throw in some disgustingly radiated dead bodies, and well the story thickens. There’s aliens, otherworldly travel, an approaching apocalypse, lots of death, the loss of a family member, and a sizzling romance.
Ben and his friends are somehow involved in everything. This complicates the romance aspect. And Janelle has some seriously tough decisions to make about what and who is most important to her. These decisions need to be made while a clock is ticking and there is seriously, one crazy, amazing ending!
So, how can I not like this story? Janelle is awesome and the story sounds pretty epic. Well, I’ve seen it all before. Except, for the last bits, which were cool. But here is a list of stuff I’ve seen before (in books and tv shows) and then again written out here:
- Girl being brought back to life by romantic interest
-Girl being brought back to life by romantic interest who has been in love with her for a long time without her knowing
-Romantic interest knows a lot of details about her life: like her favorite foods, restaurants, things from her childhood, etc.
-The guy who brings the girl back to life is actually an alien who risks everything to save her.
-Guy has friends who are also aliens, who are pissed at him for bringing her back
-When guy saves the girl’s life, she sees what he sees and feels, and she gets that he has loved her for a long time
-Relationship is hard when the guy seems intent on going home
-Girl is already dating someone she doesn’t really like and decides to break up with him to go after the guy who saved her

I could actually keep going, but I think you get the idea. All of these elements are found in the show (and the books the show is based of), Roswell. I used to watch Roswell like I read Harry Potter: all the time. What I’m saying is, I would have liked to see more of the originality that came in the end of Unraveling, through out the whole book. Too much of the book was just too much like other things I have already read and watched to the limit.
I’m not saying that authors cannot be inspired by other books and tv shows. It’s impossible not to be inspired by others. Actually, I think it’s pretty awesome that authors can like the same things I do. I just like books better when there’s a little bit more uniqueness to them, a little bit of something I haven’t seen before.
That and if there are elements of shows and books that are inspiring, can they not be the instant-love, creepy stalker elements? I hated Janelle’s instant love for Ben. Yeah, she saw herself through his eyes, but she didn’t know him at all. She never really had anything to do with him, yet now all of a sudden she is willing to denounce all she knows about science and physics for him. I get that there was a ticking clock here, but I just felt that for a character as tough as Janelle and for someone who has been through all that she has been through, the romance was way too soon and way too fast.
I did really love Janelle. I was on her side for the whole thing. Her best friend was amazing. I enjoyed reading about her brother and even her absent father. The suspense and action at the end of the book was above and beyond what I had come to expect, and I really loved the ending.  I guess I’m just tired of reading the same YA plot devices repeated again and again. And I’d prefer the repeated devices to at least be the awesome, kick-butt ones, and not the ones that involve Edward-type love interests. This gets a 3/10 from me.

1 comment:

  1. Oof, but I think you did a good job of making your point, Nori. It's too bad you didn't love it, but I see what you're saying entirely.

    Roswell was based off of books?!?! I had NO idea.