A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Unraveling is a sci-fi romance that's definitely meant for mature teens. It has some of the same scares as an X-Files episode (bodies found charred, and the main character coming back from the dead) and a disaster movie (giant earthquakes and an end-of-the-world scenario) mixed with lots of swearing ("f--k") and teen drinking. Add to that mature themes like dealing with a parent's mental illness and near date rape. And then add to that a big loss for the main character, Janelle, whom readers will admire for how smart she is and what maturity it must take to manage school, raise her younger brother, and keep her home together while her mother is ill.
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What's the story?
Running home from the beach, Janelle gets hit by a truck and dies. She's sure she's dead until classmate Ben Michaels lays hands on her and re-fuses her spine. At the hospital, the doctors can't figure out how she's alive, and she's determined to get to the bottom of Ben's mysterious healing gift. With a top FBI agent for a dad (who also shares her X-Files obsession), Janelle is able to almost believe Ben when he finally explains it to her. While very dateable, he's definitely not a native Californian, and neither are two of his friends. Meanwhile, Janelle's dad has a bigger mystery on his hands: charred bodies and a possible bomb with a countdown attached. Janelle sees some of the bodies for herself and starts snooping. Could the countdown, the bodies, and her new crush be connected?
Is it any good?
There's plenty of drama in UNRAVELING, with catastrophic earthquakes, a near-death experience, and high school horrors like near-date rape, slashed tires, and break-ups. And, of course, the countdown to the end of the world. At the center of it all is Janelle, a trained lifeguard who can wield a gun, keep her dysfunctional family functioning, and put clues together almost as well as her FBI agent dad. These elements will keep readers riveted.
But add those elements together, and there's often too much going on. The sci-fi part of the story suffers the most, with some hasty explanations of big concepts (no spoilers here!). And some of the high school and family drama takes away from the drama of the final countdown. Still, author Elizabeth Norris will draw plenty of readers in with her ambitious first novel.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what drew you to Unraveling. Was it the sci-fi storyline, the romance, or both?
Why do you think young adult books with end-of-the-world scenarios are so popular? How is this story different from others you've read?
Do you think all the swearing and teen drinking in Unraveling makes the story seem more real, mimicking real high schoolers' speech and behavior? Or is it over the top and distracting? Is there strong language in the books you normally read?
- Author: Elizabeth Norris
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Adventures, Brothers and Sisters, Great Girl Role Models, High School, Space and Aliens
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Balzer + Bray
- Publication date: April 24, 2012
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 13 - 17
- Number of pages: 464
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
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