Unraveling

( 67 )

Overview

Like The Forest of Hands and Teeth, Elizabeth Norris’s Unraveling blends realistic coming-of-age issues with a gripping science fiction world.

Unraveling’s heroine, sixteen-year-old Janelle Tenner, is used to having a lot of responsibility. She balances working as a lifeguard in San Diego with an intense academic schedule. Janelle’s mother is bipolar, and her dad is a workaholic FBI agent, which means Janelle also has to look out for her ...

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Overview

Like The Forest of Hands and Teeth, Elizabeth Norris’s Unraveling blends realistic coming-of-age issues with a gripping science fiction world.

Unraveling’s heroine, sixteen-year-old Janelle Tenner, is used to having a lot of responsibility. She balances working as a lifeguard in San Diego with an intense academic schedule. Janelle’s mother is bipolar, and her dad is a workaholic FBI agent, which means Janelle also has to look out for her younger brother, Jared.

And that was before she died…and is brought back to life by Ben Michaels, a mysterious, alluring loner from her high school. When she discovers a strange clock that seems to be counting down to the earth’s destruction, Janelle learns she has twenty-four days to figure out how to stop the clock and save the planet.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this complex SF mystery, debut writer Norris conceives of parallel universes that can inadvertently collide and destruct when portals between them are opened, a predicament facing Earth if 17-year-old Janelle Tenner's theory is correct. Janelle's father is a workaholic FBI agent, her bipolar mother is hardly functioning, and Janelle herself was just killed by an out-of-control car and brought back to life by classmate Ben Michaels. Janelle had always dismissed Ben as a stoner, but after he saves her, she is powerfully drawn to him. She also suspects that there might be a connection between recent deaths that her father has been investigating and her accident. When Norris's story works, it's a satisfying puzzle full of novel twists and provocative clues. A protective older sister and defiant FBI agent-in-training, Janelle is a courageous, layered heroine. But the chemistry between Janelle and Ben is faint, relying on familiar paranormal romance devices, and some plot elements are convoluted. A planned sequel will surely offer more challenges for Janelle, Ben, and planet Earth. Ages 13–up. Agent: Janet Reid, FinePrint Literary Management. (May)
Pittacus Lore
“This high-stakes thriller—complete with mind-bending sci-fi twist—will hook you and never let go.”—
Andrea Cremer
“If Veronica Mars snatched a case from Mulder and Scully, you’d get this fast-paced page-turner. With a heroine full of moxie, wicked surprises around every corner, and non-stop action, UNRAVELING is an irresistible thriller.”
VOYA - Adrienne Amborski
Brought back from the dead by an enigmatic fellow student after a devastating hit-and-run, high school junior Janelle Taylor finds herself in a mystery of X-Files proportions involving parallel universes. As the daughter of an FBI agent, Janelle is privy to the investigation of a series of gruesome deaths that are occurring with unnerving frequency in her California hometown. Even though Janelle is in the midst of developing a new romance with one of the hottest jocks in school and dealing with a barely-functioning bipolar mother, she discovers that there is a countdown to something cataclysmic. Fighting against time, Janelle and her best friend, Alex, discover that the mysterious Ben Michaels and his wayward friends are not ordinary teens, but harbor a secret that can save the world from an apocalyptic end. Upon the murder of her father, Janelle is pushed to find answers to end the impending destruction of earth. As Janelle and Ben begin working together to save the world, she is drawn to him and finds herself falling in love. Janelle is a headstrong female character who often seems older than a junior in high school. Strong language and alcohol use are frequently presented in this science fiction thriller, making it appropriate for the high school audience. The romantic relationship between and Janelle and Ben is left in a state of suspension leaving the reader wanting more and begging for a sequel to this multilayered debut. Reviewer: Adrienne Amborski
VOYA - Gwen Amborski
Unraveling is an enthralling book with many twists and turns that keep the reader's interest. This novel has many characters, but the reader does not get to know them very well. The lack of details leaves the reader somewhat unsympathetic to their life-threatening situations. Although this book is definitely science fiction, it has multiple concepts that relate to everyday teen issues. Readers interested in books centered on the world ending, technology, or dystopian genres would enjoy this novel immensely. Reviewer: Gwen Amborski, Teen Reviewer
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—Janelle's life hasn't been easy. She helps raise her younger brother while her father busily heads the counterintelligence unit of San Diego's FBI office, and her bipolar mother is busy, well, hiding out in the bedroom. Life becomes more complicated once Janelle's hit by a truck. Instead of dying from her extensive injuries, she's revived by previously ignored classmate Ben Michaels, who isn't talking about what happened. Surprisingly, Janelle has more immediate concerns: her father is investigating gruesome deaths involving disfigured bodies and some sort of countdown timer/explosive device. Thanks to her knowledge of his likely passwords, his work laptop is no problem for her to hack, leaving Janelle and her friend Alex with all of the frightening facts of the case and a determination to solve it. The characterizations are excellent: Janelle's friends and family, as well as her new acquaintances, are fully fleshed out. The beginning of the book reads a bit like Carol Plum-Ucci's Streams of Babel (Harcourt, 2008), as Janelle is convinced that only a terrorist's plot could explain the bodies and countdown timer. However, the story then veers into a multiple universe theory that, while explained, is not completely explored. This and any other concerns are minor; in general, readers will enjoy the nonstop action and romance.—Kelly Jo Lasher, Middle Township High School, Cape May Court House, NJ
Kirkus Reviews
In a refreshing change of pace from the current glut of angel books, when Janelle is killed in a car accident, she doesn't move on to a seraphic afterlife; she's brought back from the dead instead. Her savior is stoner Ben, and even as he is bringing her back to life she notices his "huge brown eyes,… wavy dark hair [and] tortured half smile." Janelle needs to be alive. Her mother has withdrawn into total bipolar uselessness, and though her X-Files–obsessed, FBI-agent father is fabulous, he works insane hours, so Janelle holds the family together. Through some efficient snooping in her dad's office, Janelle learns that people are turning up melted--including the person in the car that hit her. And there's mention of a countdown to an event that could destroy the Earth. Could there be a connection? First-time author Norris surrounds her likable narrator with equally appealing and complex primary and secondary characters, compensating for a relatively slow pace. Plotting is not quite so strong, particularly in the book's science-fiction elements. Ben's healing ability is given a ludicrously vague explanation, and the potential Earth-ending event is made only barely more credible. Still, the writing is smooth, and the love story satisfies despite its predictability. Good for romance fans, if not science-fiction aficionados. (Science fiction/thriller/romance. 14 & up)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062103741
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/23/2013
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 445
  • Sales rank: 397,818
  • Age range: 14 years
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Elizabeth Norris briefly taught high school English and history before trading the San Diego beaches and sunshine for Manhattan's chilly winters. She harbors dangerous addictions to guacamole, red velvet cupcakes, sushi, and Argo Tea, fortunately not all together. Unraveling is her first novel.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 67 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(38)

4 Star

(15)

3 Star

(5)

2 Star

(4)

1 Star

(5)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 67 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 20, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Cool Premise, But To Much Going On

    Unraveling is a really hard book to describe without giving anything away. Part of what made it fun to read was that I had no idea what it was about before I started it and I think that's really the best way to approach this novel. While there were many aspects of the story I enjoyed, I also had some problems with it. Hopefully this review will make it clear what parts worked for me and which didn't.

    First off, I liked the main character Janelle. She's a very self-reliant young person who doesn't take crap from anyone. I was generally impressed by her strength and refusal to give up. The things that she endures throughout this novel would likely break the average person but somehow she just keeps going. Through all of that and more Janelle remains an amazing friend to her best friend Alex. I love the way they can rely on each other no matter what.

    The chemistry between Janelle and Ben is really special. It was something I never really questioned even though it has a slight "insta-love" thing happening. Perhaps it didn't bother me as much because their interactions always felt really believable.

    Ben has all the qualities I love in a guy. He's intelligent, mysterious, caring and always striving to be a better person. I loved how his past and secrets were slowly exposed. I definitely wasn't disappointed by what I found out.

    This novel is a bit like a roller coaster you can't get off of, twisting and turning its way towards the end at an insane speed. There's a countdown to something, an FBI investigation, a murder mystery, a boy with secrets and a whole lot more. For the most part having all these plots works but it's balancing them that became tricky. I also could have done without some of the side characters and stories that distracted you from the main plot of the mysterious countdown. Neither, Janelle's biopolar mom or her ex-best friend Kate, serve any real purpose in the novel other then to take you away from all the other things that are going on.

    I think it’s great whenever a YA novel tries to be more than the sum of its parts but with Unraveling I actually felt there was TOO much going on. It feels a lot like three different story ideas that got stuffed into one novel. This makes the pacing a bit off because although the story is told using a countdown element and many of the chapters are super short, it still lagged in a few places. Again I think this goes back to the fact that there were side plots that didn't need to be there.

    The novels ending definitely threw me for a loop. I give author Elizabeth Norris a lot of credit for taking a risk that big. Whether or not you think it pays off will depend on how you feel about the rest of the novel. Much like my review, I had mixed feelings.

    Unraveling takes a unique premise and runs with it. I just wish it had spent more time on the more important plot details than making it a circus. Although my feelings on the end result is mixed I think a lot of readers will find its breakneck pace and main character enough to keep them cheering for more.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2012

    I liked this book for the fact that I questioned what the heck w

    I liked this book for the fact that I questioned what the heck was going on in the beginning 100-150 pages. Once I found out about what the countdown was for, I enjoyed the race as the characters went to solve the problem.
    I don't want to give anything away, because finding out was half the fun in reading this.
    Plus the characters are strong.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 29, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    I must admit that after reading the first 100 pages of this book

    I must admit that after reading the first 100 pages of this book, I had absolutely no idea what was going on, but I knew it had to be something huge after reading the synopsis. I proceeded with caution, though, because I was afraid that I wasn’t going to get the payoff I wanted after all of the hype. I was not disappointed. By the time I’d made it through another fifty pages, I couldn’t put it down. Crazy things started to happen — things I didn’t expect at all — and as in any good mystery, as things are revealed more questions are raised and the stakes grow ever higher. It kind of reminded me of a season of “24″ BEFORE it got all crazy predictable.

    This book is insane — and I don’t mean crazy cat-lady insane — but fast-paced, awesome premise insane. I honestly had no idea where Ms. Norris was going with the story, but when I got there it all fell into place. I love when I think I’ve got something figured out only to be proven wrong, and I also love when an earlier and seemingly insignificant event takes place and a hundred pages later (or more) it suddenly shows up again as a huge plot point. Sheer brilliance I tell ya.

    This is another sci-fi book that totally grabbed me and sucked me in. I really liked it. The writing is effortless, the characters are all very strong and well-drawn and I never once felt the plot fell short. Even the minor stories played out well without being distracting. If you are an X-files fan, you MUST check this one out.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2013

    Not for children

    I loved the idea of this book, the storyline sounded great but I could not finish it on account of the content. It's a book written for teenagers from a teenager's POV and yet the 17? year-old main character Janelle has the worst mouth in any book I've ever read. She uses every bad word I've ever heard of (and I'm an adult) and her favorite seems to be the f-bomb. It's used so frequently, sometimes 3 or 4 times a chapter. And her "friends" including her younger brother use it just as much. I kept skipping parts hoping I'd get past the language but it kept building as the book went on. Not to mention the references to almost rape and other sexual content. I can not understand how adult authors include such things in books meant for teens and that younger childern could easily pick up and read. Do not read this, and if you are a parent don't let your child near it either.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 24, 2012

    Exciting and Unique Must-Read

    I finished this book in 2 days and cannot wait for the next book!

    Unraveling is a fast-paced adventure story that is rooted in the realities of high school, family life, and love.

    I loved this book because the main character, Janelle, is an intelligent, independent female character who is far from perfect, but who grapples with issues we all face with grace and determination that you have to admire.

    Unraveling is as exciting as Hunger Games, as mysterious as Fringe or Veronica Mars, and as fabulously addictive as Twilight. But the book also has depth. The characters feel like real people, and their lives and desires are complex.

    I would recommend this book to anyone, young adult or not, who is looking for a good mystery/love story with characters you can relate to and root for.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2012

    Definitely a book that you wanted to continue reading to see wha

    Definitely a book that you wanted to continue reading to see what
    happens next! Here's the only thing, I think the age range should be
    older than it says, due to the constant use of STRONG language (F bomb
    used in almost every chapter) I'm a month from turning 20 and I have to
    say the language was a bit excessive. Other than that, great read!
    Would not recommend for the younger audience it suggests.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 5, 2012

    i loved this book up until the end. it had an interesting plot a

    i loved this book up until the end. it had an interesting plot and kept me on the edge of my seat. it was predicting in some areas, and in others it totally blew me away. would give it more stars if the ending was better. after finishing the book it kind of felt like i wasted my time

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2012

    Great!

    Very different from anything I've read lately! Great Book!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 24, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Unraveling is a devastatingly beautiful novel. What hap

    Unraveling is a devastatingly beautiful novel.
    What happens when the one thing you find yourself loving could be the source of your own destruction?
    Elizabeth Norris has painted a frightening future for readers where worlds are collapsing and love is only a life away. In Unraveling readers may find themselves debating how can somewhat love the very thing or someone that may ultimately destroy them.
    Unraveling is a story woven of deep loss and a growing love that contends with the characters' trying to solve each of their own mysteries and resolve things from their pasts that haunt them. Our main character is Janelle Tenner and she is one bright and amazing character with a deep love of helping, a smart wit and a cunning mind. Janelle's father works cases in the FBI, cooks randomly and has a love for the X-Files TV series and when his latest case comes home with him there are devastating consequences for everyone. As Janelle's story developed through the story we find a teen who has been putting her all into creating a good life and home for family and especially her brother, as her parents are falling apart. Janelle's mother suffers from being bi-polar and contributes little to the family while her father's work keeps him busy and he copes with his own responsibilities and stresses by longer hours and focusing on his cases. Janelle struggles with being a teen in a troubling house by being close friends with her neighbor Alex, who is a fabulous supporting character with his own complex family life. Alex is a great character that adds support to the story, but his faith in Janelle is soon put to question when events change that could impact their whole world. The story soon opens up and adds another amazing character in Ben, who is like a mysterious ugly duckling, something like a game changer in the story that will turn all of the character's mind and whole world upside down.
    What was so epic in Unraveling is the tragic undertone throughout the whole story, there are catastrophic losses all get in life that have an array of impact. From finding love soon comes loss, and a struggle to create normalcy from a loss of childhood comes the tiers struggle to protect. Among other themes inherit in the story really the character's voice compels the novel into something lyrically amazing. You just don't want to put this story down.
    Unraveling is about that, everything unraveling where character's lives are intertwining and at the same time so is the fabric of their universe. When you want something so much worlds collide right, but the truth may be more real than anyone ever imagined and the consequences are hitting closest to home than anticipated.
    With a strong female lead in a building dystopian storyline Unraveling releases a powerhouse in its ability to have several plots developing at the same time and connecting them all at the right places and at the right times to really pack a punch as they develop.
    This is one release that turned into a great story that I had not expected. Unraveling is not to be missed as a release this year because it has all of these fabulous elements that will surprise readers as a thrilling suspenseful YA debut.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2014

    Best

    This is the first book i have read about a multiverse. I would recommend this for anyone who loves scfi. But i have to say,elijay does use alot of curse words but still a good book to read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2014

    Good book for ages 14+

    This book is an amazing read and keeps you on the edge of your seat in the slow parts. I personally got connected to the characters like I knew them and at the end of the book it was not what I would have done, but I am gald that there is another book that follows.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2013

    Hated it

    This is a terrible book, because of the language. I'd be ashamed if anyone I know read this and I didn't tell them what was in it.
    By the time I stoped I wanted to bleach my eyes, and wash my own mouth out with soap.
    0 stars.

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  • Posted October 10, 2013

    Janelle's life is turned on end the day she died. Because she di

    Janelle's life is turned on end the day she died. Because she didn't actually stay dead. She was brought back to life by Ben Michaels, a guy who she has barely looked at since he moved to town 10 years earlier. All of a sudden, Janelle is caught up in a case her FBI father is investigating - a case that has ties to her, Ben and a mysterious device that seems to be counting down to something very bad.

    I can't say enough how much I loved Unraveling. I was a little apprehensive, I gotta say. Sci-fi is pretty hit or miss with me. I'm not a fan of the super sci-fi stories - the really weird stuff that is just so out there that it makes my eyes roll. But, the stories that are largely based in reality with a small dose of the funky - sign me up.

    And, that is what Unraveling is. It takes place in Cali. It involves real teenagers with real problems like being in love with someone who doesn't know you're alive or having to take care of a sibling because your parent works too much or having that one bestie who knows you better than anyone else alive. It also involves people who get their faces melted off and boys who can bring girls back from the dead. See what I mean?

    Let's talk characters for a minute. Janelle is my kind of chick. She's only 16, but has been forced to act far beyond her years. She has guts and strength and bigger balls than most guys I know. I love how Liz Norris drew her. It would be so easy to say Janelle is 16, but then make her act like she's 26. But, although Janelle can certainly stand up and make grown-up decisions in troubling times, it's still evident to me that she's a teenager who gets scared and loses her crap just like she's supposed to.

    And, Ben - helloooooo new book boyfriend. He's the classic brooding loner who is more than meets the eye. He hangs out with two other questionable characters, and the three of them are super tight. Except for when Janelle gets in the way and Ben finally gets what he has wanted for10 years - a shot at the girl of his dreams. Things start to get complicated with Ben's friends then, but he never gives up on her. He always takes her side. And, he's certainly got a way with words.

    The action in Unraveling was off the hook. Just the countdown as the chapter numbers gives you a constant sense of urgency that stays with you through the entire story. There's several big mysteries going on at once. First is the face (and other body parts) melting business. What's causing it? Can it be stopped? Is it tied to the countdown clock? And what is that thing, anyway? Then, there's the mystery surrounding Ben and why he can do the things he can do.

    The answers to all these questions were not immediately answered, nor were they apparent. The reader really had to work for it, which I loved. And, in the end, we get our answers, plus a whole lot of surprises. It didn't end like I thought it would. Not everything was neatly tied up. There was heartbreak and destruction and general craziness. And yet, at the heart of it all, was the love that this boy and girl have for each other, so we're still left with this feeling of overarching hope. Which is the perfect feeling to carry us through to the next book

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2013

    Must Read!!!

    This book is AMAZING!!! There were so many twists, and while it puts you through every emotion known to man, it's great writing!

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  • Posted June 4, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    If you take Fringe and X-Files then add a little Young Adult in


    If you take Fringe and X-Files then add a little Young Adult in there you will get Unraveling. This book kept my working, while Ben kept my heart fluttering. Janelle is a very independent character and smart character that is determined to find things out. But, before her big accident the only thing she really has to worry about was her family, afterwards she has the world on her shoulders. And on that Janelle loses a lot in this book, when she doesn’t have much left in her life to begin with. But, we soon find out that Ben is pretty much in the same boat. He’s a fish out of water and he isn’t what he seems. Coming off as a loner/stoner type we find out that Ben is actually pretty darn smart, and determined, and caring. And, it’s all rolled up into a nice tall package that Janelle finds yummy. This book was filled with mystery, dramatics, romance, and adventure and kept me coming back for more. I will admit that there was a lot of flash backs to better and/or sad times in Janelle’s life, which were probably there to make up feel for Janelle and understand her better, but I found it slowing the book down. The book is pretty large and I felt that there was a lot of slow moments throughout it, basically for something so large a lot didn’t really happen until the end of the books. That’s not to say that stuff doesn’t happen in the beginning of the book, because it does. In the first chapter (only a couple of pages in) is when everything starts. But then days go by of Janelle and Alex researching before she even talks to Ben, then more days go by before something else happens. I did just find myself being easily distracted until a little over half-way through then stuff really spiced up. However, when something happened (even in the beginning) it was big.




    Good:




    Janelle--She strong (because she has to be), she’s determined, smart, and outgoing. And, when she finds out you messed with her, or her family...she knows how to kick some butt.




    Ben--Intelligent, caring, determined, and trying to do what’s right for himself, his friends, Janelle, and the world.




    Struz-Kind of seems like the older brother, but he’s really her dad’s FBI partner, and every once in a while he takes charge. He kind of reminds me of Chuck from Chuck. Just a big geek. I hope there is more of him to come.




    The party scene- Although it was a pretty difficult moment for Janelle it gave her peace of mind, and it showed Ben’s true colours. I may have fallen for him at that very moment.




    Bad: 




    Some parts were slow, and I think it would definitely take some understanding of Science to fuller understand everything that they were talking about.




    Overall (Writing style, story line, and general):




    Overall I really did enjoy this read even if I found it occasionally slow. When the adventure got going it was enough to hold me on till the next big moment in the book. I loved Ben and how he saw Janelle, and how Janelle was able to pick up suttle things about Ben and see him for who he really was, when others would simply label him. The writing was very well done, and easy to follow. I was pretty impress that there wasn’t some small science talk, but real and in-depth scientific theories in this novel. It makes us English majors with minors in Science pretty happy. Overall this book left me smiling and crying. And, yes...I have already stepped out and purchased the second one.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2013

    Loved, Loved, LOVED it! I couldn't put it down to stop reading.

    Loved, Loved, LOVED it! I couldn't put it down to stop reading. I think I may have finished it in about a day in a half because I couldn't put it down. I just bought the second one and I can't wait to start reading it! I definitely recommend it to those whom, when having a great book, can't put it down and feel like they are willingly able to read it without any trouble. No matter what time of day it is, and this is like one of those books. LOVED IT!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2013

    Very good

    Ive read alot of ya's..and im not a ya..ha...they always seem to have such a a good story concept, yet quite often don't deliver...this one does....great writing & the characters were quite likable...the main character was strong & independent...it wasnt " oh what boy should i like, whoa is me" kind of dribble......i would recommend this to anyone that didnt want the usual story of girl meets boy, yadayada.....& wants a story with some meat to it....

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2013

    Amazing with flawless characters

    I love how she built the rising action and gently fell the ending Caution some parts will lireraly spin you into an emotional tornado. Which i like and you also become attached the characters after awhile. P.s. i cried at the end

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2013

    Good!

    It took a bit to get down to the point but it was a pretty good book. But now I want the second one but its still like 10 bucks! Th ending was great even if a bit abrupt I have the feeling things are going to heat up in book2....sigh i need to get a better paying job so I can afford all the books I want to read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2013

    Rating

    Pretty good book. Only thing is Jannelles meeting with Ben is vaguely Twilightish. I mean with the truck and the "i saw what youdid to me. How did you do that"ness.

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