Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris – Advance Review

Book Jacket:

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

You can read an excerpt here.


As I was reading this paranormal adventure, I just kept thinking: I’ve seen this TV show before…

Now we fangirls and boys do tend to run up against certain redundancies when we love a genre to death, but with this book I really, really felt like I’d seen it all before – by the numbers, it’s 62% Roswell, 35% Fringe, and 3% Veronica Mars. Now much as I love those TV shows, and wonderful as it was to see some sci-fi back in the YA house, and however much I enjoyed the distinct lack of turgid love triangle, all in all I found this story to be just too familiar.

Seriously, folks – the first third of this book IS Roswell. If you missed out on that pre-Twilight tale of star-crossed love (which is on Netflix streaming, by the way), you’re not going to mind – and it is a fun, romantic story (boy saves girl, girl notices boy, and the two fall in loooovve), but wow had I see it all before, virtually beat for beat. I kept flashing to images from the pilot episode (particularly the part when Max points at the ceiling), and honestly I wouldn’t have been surprised if Ms. Topolsky had shown up. It kind of felt like that old advertising saw: see it again, for the first time…

But that’s not to say this story isn’t enjoyable, because it is. Norris builds an interesting family around Janelle, who herself is a forthright, non-angsty kind of girl, very easy to root for, and the action moves smoothly long. I did think the FBI plot/casework felt a bit tacked on and clunky, but between the cute boy of mystery and the countdown of doom, there was more than enough to keep my interest.

But the way this book just kept on traversing well-trod territory was impossible to miss. After that first Roswell third, the story then veered firmly into Fringe territory, in a way that once again made the comparison inescapable. Again, if you haven’t been watching Fringe, this isn’t going to bother you, and I do appreciate the sci-fi of it all, I’ll really, really do, it’s just… It’s a HUGE Fringe plot, in book form. Why, hello again…

Norris then rounds it all off with a small dollop of Veronica Mars. Now the overlap is fairly specific – in the TV show, it was a very, very specific plot embedded in the first season (and wow is that first season amazing – seriously, one of my favorite TV seasons of all time), so it wasn’t anywhere near as overwhelming as the Roswell and Fringe callbacks (and again, if you haven’t watched Veronica Mars, you won’t mind), but for me it was one deja vu too many. Look, this book is pleasant, entertaining, and easy to read – I had fun with it, and I’ll definitely be back for the second book – but the story just felt all around too regurgitated to stand on its own.

Let me put it this way: Twilight knock-offs can be fun to read, but at the end of the day, if all you’re seeing is Twilight, then something crucial is missing. Norris entertained me, no question, and she gets serious points for loving all the same TV shows I love, but this felt too much like a knock-off. Next time, I want more from Norris – I want to see what she can do on her own.

Byrt Grade: B+

As Levar Burton used to say – you don’t have to take my word for it…

Kirkus Reviews says:

First-time author Norris surrounds her likable narrator with equally appealing and complex primary and secondary characters, compensating for a relatively slow pace. Plotting is not quite so strong, particularly in the book’s science-fiction elements…Still, the writing is smooth, and the love story satisfies despite its predictability.

The Hiding Spot says:

I will say, I’m not sure this idea is wholly original… There were a couple popular television shows with definite similarities that came to mind as I read. But, then again, many stories have similar plots…I expected Unraveling to be good, but it exceeded my expectations by far.