Another non-committal three-star rating and I’m left wondering whether the people writing dust-jacket endorsements get to read other versions of the books than I do. A “high-stakes thriller, complete with a mind-bending sci-fi twist [that] will hook you and never let you go”? My mind was not bent and I was not hooked and six months after reading the novel I hardly remember anything about it but that it left me with a feeling of severe dissatisfaction. So, all the good things must have been replaced with (almost) insta-love, lame pseudo-science references and teenage snobbery in my copy.
The book starts with the heroine being hit by a truck and dying – and then being resurrected by this guy she fleetingly knows from school who conveniently happened to pass by and who will turn out to play an integral part of the mystery the hero is trying to solve with the help of her best friend in the ensuing narrative. Twisted dead bodies start shoeing up all around town and the heroine wants (and needs!) to get to the heart of the matter. Speaking of convenience, the heroine also has access to super-secret FBI files pertaining to this particular case through her FBI agent father. Uh-huh.
There’s a lot of the dysfunctional family theme going around with the workaholic , and hence mostly absent, father, and the mother’s seemingly untreatable bipolar disorder that renders her practically remote and inactive.
And then there’s insta-love.
And then there’s the pretence of science and scientific knowledge.
The writing is okay but the character development, with the possible exception of the main protagonist, and the execution of the story is not so much.
Many people compared this to the TV show Fringe which I’ve never watched a single episode of, so my expectations weren’t very high in that regard. I felt reminded of Veronica Mars and Roswell, but in a way that made me want to re-watch either of these shows instead of reading Unravelling (and while I really loved the first two seasons of VM I stopped watching R after only one).
I usually love references to popular culture in a novel, but I really disliked the way they were handled in Unravelling. They were numerous and either ridiculously corny or really, really pretentious. The characters, most of all our heroine, seemed quite snobby and judgmental when it came to their personal tastes and preferences. I’m worried that I might have reached an age at which I simply detest teenagers for their ungratefulness, their sense of entitlement, and their know-it-all attitudes. I’m flashbacking to my own youth and getting all embarrassed realising that I might have behaved similarly. I’m pretty sure I was (occasionally) smug and ungrateful. I was passionate about things and not too shy to voice my opinions, but I don’t think that I was dismissive about other points-of-view or elitist about things I liked and disliked. I was raised to always try and walk a mile in another person’s shoes before judging, which could be quite a drag at times and greatly contributed to a constant guilt complex. However, I did have friends who were very opinionated and quick to dismiss someone as dumb or dull, simply for liking something they believed to be inferior to their educated minds – and I was always rather embarrassed on their behalf. Reading Unravelling was like having to listen to them emphasise their own superiority without being given the chance to contradict them and tell them to shut up.
The heroine paints herself as being nerdy, but I’m not buying it. Being a nerd is all the rage these days and so many people try to jump the bandwagon without realising that this isn’t something that can be forced or achieved with a particular set of glasses. Despite the continuous reference to tokens of popular culture people are passionate and nerdy about, the characters seem like posers pretending to be part of a popular underdog culture.
This book throws together so many tropes of YA literature and really achieves nothing much. But the chapters are super short, the prose is eloquent enough and I was kept entertained enough, despite or because of my dislike of the main characters, to read this quickly. So, too simplistic and obvious and scientifically wrong for me to really enjoy, but good brain candy.