Review for Unraveling

Unraveling is a really hard book to describe without giving anything away. Part of what made it fun to read was that I had no idea what it was about before I started it and I think that's really the best way to approach this novel. While there were many aspects of the story I enjoyed, I also had some problems with it. Hopefully this review will make it clear what parts worked for me and which didn't.First off, I liked the main character Janelle. She's a very self-reliant young person who doesn't take crap from anyone. I was generally impressed by her strength and refusal to give up. The things that she endures throughout this novel would likely break the average person but somehow she just keeps going. Through all of that and more Janelle remains an amazing friend to her best friend Alex. I love the way they can rely on each other no matter what.The chemistry between Janelle and Ben is really special. It was something I never really questioned even though it has a slight "insta-love" thing happening. Perhaps it didn't bother me as much because their interactions always felt really believable.Ben has all the qualities I love in a guy. He's intelligent, mysterious, caring and always striving to be a better person. I loved how his past and secrets were slowly exposed. I definitely wasn't disappointed by what I found out.This novel is a bit like a roller coaster you can't get off of, twisting and turning its way towards the end at an insane speed. There's a countdown to something, an FBI investigation, a murder mystery, a boy with secrets and a whole lot more. For the most part having all these plots works but it's balancing them that became tricky. I also could have done without some of the side characters and stories that distracted you from the main plot of the mysterious countdown. Neither, Janelle's biopolar mom or her ex-best friend Kate, serve any real purpose in the novel other then to take you away from all the other things that are going on.I think it’s great whenever a YA novel tries to be more than the sum of its parts but with Unraveling I actually felt there was TOO much going on. It feels a lot like three different story ideas that got stuffed into one novel. This makes the pacing a bit off because although the story is told using a countdown element and many of the chapters are super short, it still lagged in a few places. Again I think this goes back to the fact that there were side plots that didn't need to be there.The novels ending definitely threw me for a loop. I give author Elizabeth Norris a lot of credit for taking a risk that big. Whether or not you think it pays off will depend on how you feel about the rest of the novel. Much like my review, I had mixed feelings.Unraveling takes a unique premise and runs with it. I just wish it had spent more time on the more important plot details than making it a circus. Although my feelings on the end result is mixed I think a lot of readers will find its breakneck pace and main character enough to keep them cheering for more.
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