Author: Elizabeth Norris
Series: Unraveling, #1
Release date: April 23rd 2013
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: The Book Depository
Four months after Ben disappeared through the portal to his home universe, Janelle believes she’ll never see him again. Her world is still devastated, but life is finally starting to resume some kind of normalcy. Until Interverse Agent Taylor Barclay shows up. Somebody from an alternate universe is running a human trafficking ring, kidnapping people and selling them on different Earths—and Ben is the prime suspect. Now his family has been imprisoned and will be executed if Ben doesn’t turn himself over within five days.And when Janelle learns that someone she cares about—someone from her own world—has become one of the missing, she knows that she has to help Barclay, regardless of the danger. Now Janelle has five days to track down the real culprit. Five days to locate the missing people before they’re lost forever. Five days to reunite with the boy who stole her heart. But as the clues begin to add up, Janelle realizes that she’s in way over her head—and that she may not have known Ben as well as she thought. Can she uncover the truth before everyone she cares about is killed?
The first few chapters of Unbreakable slowly paint a picture of the aftermath. Janelle’s world is in ruins – her life, her house, her school, her mother… it’s all gone, buried under the rubble. Janelle herself is doing her best to rebuild her life in a small apartment with Jared and Struz. Try as she might, she’s having a hard time finding anything to look forward to, except maybe the time she gets to spend with her baby brother. She is out of high school and working for the FBI, her shifts are endless and her efforts hopeless. People are disappearing all the time, and no one has any idea why.
Enter Taylor Barclay, the IA agent Ben and Janelle have a love-hate relationship with. He knows something about the missing people, but even more importantly, he seems to know something about Ben. He wants Janelle to help him solve the human trafficking case and Janelle is certainly brave enough to try, but first she has to decide whether she can trust him at all.
When I first started Unraveling, I didn’t even dream it would end up being a story about human trafficking. It started as your run of the mill YA speculative fiction and even when it proved to be much more, I somehow pictured the ending as something smaller, quieter. Contrary to my expectations, Unbreakable is full of action, a real attention gripper that will keep you on the edge of your seat. But even as such, it retained two things I’ve come to associate with Elizabeth Norris: elegance and thoughtfulness.
Good pacing is so hard to achieve in books like Unbreakable, but Norris knows how to keep a tight hold on her reader’s attention. The short chapters just added to the overwhelming sense of urgency, as did the countdown we all remember from Unraveling. It was impossible for me to sit still and read – I paced anxiously the entire time instead. It breaks my heart to think that my time with Ben and Janelle is over.
And now we finally come to the part I’m sure you all want to know about: Ben and Janelle. Once again Norris found a way to seamlessly blend action and emotion. In Unraveling, they faced external challenges, but their feelings never came into question. By the time they found each other in Unbreakable, they both had to do things they weren’t proud of and while neither of them ever doubted their love for each other, they were both well aware that sometimes love just isn’t enough.
I strongly recommend reading Undone, a HarperTeen Impulse novella from Ben’s POV, before Unbreakable. It covers some of the most important events from Unraveling, which will help you remember the details, but even more importantly, you’ll find out what happened to Ben between the two books.