Author: Elizabeth Norris
Genre: YA, thriller, urban fantasy, paranormal
Publication Date: April 24, 2012
Summary: 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.
☆: 4.5/5 stars – fall in multiverse love with this new awesome sci-fi adventure!
Review: This brings the count of books dealing with the multiverse/M-theory as subject matter to a whopping two. Hey, it’s better than 2011 so far – and “Unraveling” is an awesome addition to the speculative sci-fi YA canon. The “X-Files” references won my heart, but the even more subtle “Fringe” references later on the book won my loyalty. But what impressed me most of all was that Norris really knows how to spin a yarn – and make it all seem completely feasible. Best of all, it’s not as confusing as either previously referenced sci-fi franchise. This is just right for the YA audience and definitely one great book that everyone can enjoy.
Even though romance does eventually tie in as a big part of the book from the second third of the book on, I think all parts of the YA market are going to find something to like about this book. It’s hard to balance out good romance and sci-fi and with all of the twists and turns that Norris takes with her characters, I’m glad to say she’s very cleverly able to balance both out very well, so either side isn’t entirely overwhelming. I love it when girls write sci-fi and Norris really knows how to do it. As a debut, this one is quite impressive. She’s able to keep tension on every page – because we’re never sure (until the last third of the book) of what we’re dealing with. Is it natural disasters? Terrorism? Or something completely different? Just when we think we have a handle on the material, Norris completely keeps us guessing and on our toes in a fashion that JJ Abrams (the current king of mindscrew-worthy speculative sci-fi and fantasy in the TV world) would truly be proud of.
What’s also wonderful about this book is that even though there’s something for everyone, for girls who might be on the fence about sci-fi in their romance, Norris gently eases them into it – only to really torture her characters for a really great payoff in the end. You’ll totally fall for the romance in this book, because even though it’s so fantastic, it has such strong human elements, everyone will connect with it on some level. This story is so great, in fact, that by the last page you’re sorry that this book feels like a standalone. I hope the rumor mill about a companion book comes through as true, because I really hated to see this one end. Yet Norris also sets everything up for a new book, so there’s room on both ends – on the standalone end in the sense that we’re left alone with our thoughts imagining how Janelle is going to pick up the pieces, and in the duology/series end in that there’s room for an entire new book/world/universe to be told with the same characters from this first one.
But perhaps my favorite part of this book is the fact that it introduces M-theory/multiverse theory in one of the most digestible and easy-to-swallow ways for YA that I’ve seen so far. While “Fair Coin” got a little too technical with similar subject matter, Norris breaks down every piece of this umbrella theory area of theoretical/quantum physics and makes it very easy for everyone of any age to understand. And yet she injects romance into it all – and none of the allure of the hard sci-fi elements were lost. I think it’s because she keeps us on our toes that the romance and sci-fi elements balance out so well.
Final verdict? This one, just for its sheer ballsiness in subject matter is making my best of 2012 so far list and it’s in good company with a nice chunk of the other 2012 debuts. You definitely can’t miss this debut! “Unraveling” is out from Balzer + Bray/HarperTeen in North America April 24, 2012 – so be sure to check it out then!