Reviewed by Maggie: April 26, 2012
Published April 24, 2012 by Balzer + Bray
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Some buzzwords that will automatically make me read a book are: Heathers. Veronica Mars. Tim Riggins. Black singlet. You get the picture. Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris had Veronica Mars potential. The main character, Janelle Tenner, is 17 years old, from San Diego, and the daughter of a law enforcement agent (FBI). These are just superficial similarities though. Some other similarities include memories of blacking out at a party and waking up with ripped clothes, a popular and handsome boyfriend who bores her, and her own Wallace Fennel in her best friend, Alex. Janelle, or J or J-baby, is also investigating a mysterious death, except unlike Veronica, the death J is investigating is her own. DUN DUN DUN! Don't worry, that's not a spoiler. J's death, and the handsome stoner who mysteriously brings her back to life, occurs within the first few pages. It's also early on that you realize Unraveling is one part Veronica Mars, more parts everything else you see on TV.
There's a lot to like about J. She's independent, smart, snarky (or at least she tries to be). There's just one little thing -- she annoyed the shit out of me. She says the words that make me roll my eyes harder than anything else:
"But I'm not most girls."You know who says that? MOST GIRLS. It's one thing to say that when you're dealing with some guy who, while dragging his knuckles on the ground, grunts, "You're not like most girls I know." Then, okay, "I'm not most girls" is a decent answer. A better answer is, "It is dismaying that your expectations are based on the performance of a lesser primate."* The best answer is, of course, "Fuck you!"** J, however, makes her declaration apropos of nothing and revisits this special view of herself throughout the book. Norris even gets the other characters in on it.
"Any girl on this campus would forgive you, but--"Oh. Le sigh of the only girl in the world. J's otherwise likable character was undermined by her constant comparisons to what "most girls" would do, but not her.
Nick looks away. "But you're not any girl, are you?"
I sigh. "No, I'm not, and I just don't think this is working for me."
So that's J. When you think Veronica Mars, the next thought is Logan Echols, right? WRONG. Mysterious, handsome stoner boy Ben Michaels is more Piz and Duncan than Logan. He's also, and I hate to say this, a bit Edward Cullen. No, no vampires saw the light of day and sparkled in this story, but there were a few scenes and lines of dialogue that reminded me a bit of Twilight.
Still, despite these usual signs telling me to ABANDON SHIP, the story moved briskly along. Not only is J investigating the mystery of her death, but dead bodies with inexplicable burns are also turning up around the city and a device is found counting down to... something. X-Files is referenced a lot by the characters and the story itself takes a sci-fi turn. I have little to no interest in sci-fi and it usually goes way over my head, but I didn't have any problems understanding these elements of the story. I found myself unexpectedly enjoying that part, like I unexpectedly enjoyed Star Trek (the Chris Pine/Zachary Quinto version).
I felt about Unraveling the way I felt about Divergent -- not particularly original but enjoyable enough.
Rating: 3/5 stars.
*Quote from Party Girl with Parker Posey.
**Also from Party Girl. You should really watch it. Make sure you have a falafel with hot sauce handy.