Unraveling, by Elizabeth Norris, is almost-end-of-the-world young adult science fiction, new this month. I would have given it four stars except that it uses the F-word far too much. It's one thing to use it in dire circumstances. I still don't like it, but I get it. It's another thing to use it simply for emphasis or to grab attention or to be edgy. I know that appeals to people somehow, but to me, it's cheap and dirty. I prefer classy and original, and I'd prefer to never see the F-word in a book at all. In this book, it actually got to the point where it was used so often it didn't make my eyes bug out every time I saw it, and that's not a good thing. The author even used the phrase "Thank God" with the F-word inserted in the middle. Really? I'm sorry to even put that phrase in your head, but I have to be honest.
On the other hand, without the F-word, this is a really creative and entertaining book. Janelle literally dies at the beginning, and this kid she barely knows brings her back to life, leaving her crazy for answers. But that's not the weirdest thing. Since her dad's in the FBI, Janelle often has access, illegal as it may be, to his cases, and some odd stuff is going on. For instance, the guy in the car that hit and killed her died, too, but he died from radiation...like the kind you'd have to be standing right next to a bomb or nuclear meltdown to be exposed to, but he was in the middle of a highway. Janelle determinedly goes after the truth and finds more than she ever bargained for, including a countdown to the end of the world.
This book has some great twists and action, but it also deals with hard issues. For instance, Janelle has to be older than her years, taking care of a bipolar mother and her younger brother while her dad loses himself in his work. Then, there's also the night Janelle can't remember, when she was drugged and ended up alone and half-naked in a strange car. People die in this book, people the reader actually cares about. In some ways, it's a very serious book.
There's romance, too, but I have mixed feelings regarding it. It's the kind of romance that you want to succeed but that seems doomed. (SPOILERS) The book leaves it open-ended, and you don't know if the characters will ever even find each other again. There's a lot of tongue-kissing and desperate body grabbing but no actual sex. The characters, at least, have more going for them than the physical. Both are pretty intelligent and share a love of books.
Altogether, I enjoyed the read, though I have to give it only three stars. I could have done without the F-word and the physical romantic stuff. I guess it added to the desperate, end-of-the-world vibe of the book, but I find that sort of thing tasteless.
Unraveling sets itself up for a sequel.