Unraveling Isobel

( 20 )

Overview

A darkly comic novel that blends paranormal mystery and romance with humor, from the author of The Eductation of Hailey Kendrick and Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood.

Isobel’s life is falling apart. Her mom just married some guy she met on the internet only three months before, and is moving them to his sprawling, gothic mansion off the coast of nowhere. Goodbye, best friend. Goodbye, social life. Hello, icky new stepfather, crunchy granola town,...

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Unraveling Isobel

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Overview

A darkly comic novel that blends paranormal mystery and romance with humor, from the author of The Eductation of Hailey Kendrick and Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood.

Isobel’s life is falling apart. Her mom just married some guy she met on the internet only three months before, and is moving them to his sprawling, gothic mansion off the coast of nowhere. Goodbye, best friend. Goodbye, social life. Hello, icky new stepfather, crunchy granola town, and unbelievably good-looking, officially off-limits stepbrother.

But on her first night in her new home, Isobel starts to fear that it isn’t only her life that’s unraveling—her sanity might be giving way too. Because either Isobel is losing her mind, just like her artist father did before her, or she’s seeing ghosts. Either way, Isobel’s fast on her way to being the talk of the town for all the wrong reasons.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
When Isobel’s mother marries a recent widower after a whirlwind courtship, the high school senior is angry about moving from Seattle to her stepfather’s crumbling estate on a nearby island. Soon, she is upset for another reason: she thinks she is being haunted by the ghost of her stepfather’s young daughter. “Avenge her death?” quick Isobel quips, discussing the strange occurrences with her best friend. “Does she think I’m some sort of teen version of Chuck Norris?” Meanwhile, Isobel’s stepfather is persuading her mother that Isobel is mentally unstable, just like her biological father. An old mansion near a stormy ocean is a spine-tingling setting for this ghost story, especially when Isobel learns about other suspicious events that have taken place there. Cook (The Education of Hailey Kendrick) sometimes relies on overly familiar devices (such as when Isobel and her new friends try out a Ouija board during a slumber party), but Isobel’s sass and her steamy romance with her new stepbrother will help readers race toward the dramatic conclusion, even if the climax predictably occurs on a cliff during a rainstorm. Ages 14–up. Agent: FinePrint Literary Management. (Jan.) ¦
From the Publisher
"Isobel, all snark and sharp edges covering some intense vulnerability as she continuously checks in to see if she has crossed into mental illness (as her father did when she was young), is a compelling narrator." —The Horn Book, January/February 2012

“Spine-tingling setting….Isobel’s sass and her steamy romance with her new stepbrother will help readers race toward the dramatic conclusion.” —Publishers Weekly

“This blend of paranormal romance, murder mystery and quirky, coming-of-age narrative offers tasty moments….Cook gives readers a fast-paced plot, a likable narrator, and interesting characters.” —Kirkus

“Ideal for readers who like their stories supernatural but their dream guys human.” –The Bulletin

"[Isobel] will quickly endear herself to readers. Cook combines the perfect mix of mystery and romance to create a delightfully creepy chick lit-y ghost story that will hook readers and keep them engrossed long into the night–preferably with the lights on." —SLJ

“A wonderfully creepy mystery….Snarky, funny….Will keep readers up late into the night….Exceptional.” — Shelf Awareness

"Filled with wit and humor, Unraveling Isobel draws readers in not only with romance and intrigue but also the compelling voice of a strong protagonist....The text pairs a captivating mystery with intriguing commentary on mental illness...clever prose keeps readers engaged....Isobel makes for a complex and interesting heroine, with readers certain to root for her until the very end of this simple but well-crafted mystery."—Voya

“An addicting ghost story….This will pull readers in and have them quickly turning pages.”—Booklist

“[Isobel’s] voice is wickedly entertaining, and she is very likeable, frank and funny.” –National Post

“A fast-moving thrill-ride of a novel.” –The Winnipeg Review

VOYA - Meghann Meeusen
When Isobel's mother marries a man she only recently met online and moves them into his cliff-side gothic mansion, Isobel is convinced that her life is over. Still, complications have only just begun, as Isobel finds herself drawn to her moody yet extremely attractive stepbrother and tries to navigate the treacherous world of high school. Cheerleaders and cliques make being the new girl challenging, but it is nothing compared to the drama at home, where the mysterious deaths of her stepfather's former wife and daughter haunt the mansion . . . literally. Isobel begins seeing ghosts and must decide whether she has inherited the legacy of her father's mental illness or has fallen into something even more disturbing and dangerous. Filled with wit and humor, Unraveling Isobel draws readers in not only with romance and intrigue but also the compelling voice of a strong protagonist. Although sometimes predictable and a little trite, the story uniquely places the paranormal in a more real-world setting, where instead of pure fantasy, readers meet a very realistic teenager who struggles with both ghosts and her own agency. The text pairs a captivating mystery with intriguing commentary on mental illness, so that even when plot elements seem somewhat unoriginal, clever prose keeps readers engaged. Although secondary characters seem fairly two dimensional, Isobel makes for a complex and interesting heroine, with readers certain to root for her until the very end of this simple but well-crafted mystery. Reviewer: Meghann Meeusen
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—Seventeen-year-old Isobel inherited her father's artistic talent. Now she's worried that she inherited his mental instability as well. Shortly after her mother marries Richard Wickham and moves them to their new home, a sprawling ancestral mansion by the sea, Isobel begins seeing the ghost of a young girl. This apparition is Evelyn, Isobel's mentally challenged stepsister, who perished in a mysterious boating accident, along with Dick's first wife, only months earlier. As the weeks pass, Isobel is disturbed by local gossip connecting the Wickham family with a string of local deaths and disappearances. With the help of Nate, her sexy new stepbrother, Isobel uncovers shocking evidence suggesting that Evelyn's death was no accident—and that her new stepfather may be to blame. What's more, Isobel may be his next target. She learns that some people will stop at nothing to preserve family pride. Although the protagonist's bitingly sarcastic approach to life loses some of its punch early on, the teen will quickly endear herself to readers. Cook combines the perfect mix of mystery and romance to create a delightfully creepy chick lit-y ghost story that will hook readers and keep them engrossed long into the night—preferably with the lights on.—Alissa J. LeMerise, Oxford Public Library, MI
Kirkus Reviews
This blend of paranormal romance, murder mystery and quirky, coming-of-age narrative offers tasty moments, but the elements prove incompatible, leaving a bad taste in mouths. Thanks to her mother's abrupt remarriage, Isobel, a budding artist, must finish high school on a small island in the Pacific Northwest where her new stepfather, Richard Wickham, and his gorgeous son, Nathaniel, reside in an incongruously Gothic mansion with a troubled history. Past residents and visitors have disappeared here, including--seven months ago--Richard's wife and daughter. Nate and Isobel's mutual resentment quickly morphs into mutual attraction, complicated by the attentions to Nate of Nicole, the island's über cheerleader and social queen bee. Not nice, but Isobel has bigger worries, like the ghost appearing in her bedroom who wants something from her and Richard's growing conviction that Isobel has inherited her father's schizophrenia. Veering between breezy, humorous teen and shivery paranormality, Isobel's voice--that snarky tone of humorous exasperation so common in YA literature--clashes with the increasingly serious, violent subject matter: troubled ghosts, brutal crimes and "lessons learned" about mental illness, standing up to bullies and overcoming fear. As she did in The Education of Hailey Kendrick (2011), Cook gives readers a fast-paced plot, likable narrator and interesting characters, but even first-rate ingredients can't save a flawed recipe. (Suspense. 14 & up)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781442413283
  • Publisher: Simon Pulse
  • Publication date: 10/30/2012
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 351,888
  • Age range: 14 years
  • Product dimensions: 5.62 (w) x 8.08 (h) x 0.84 (d)

Meet the Author

Eileen Cook spent most of her teen years wishing she were someone else or somewhere else, which is great training for a writer. She is the author of The Education of Hailey Kendrick, Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood, and What Would Emma Do? as well as the Fourth Grade Fairy series. She lives in Vancouver with her husband and dogs. Visit her at EileenCook.com.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

When the minister asked if anyone knew any reason why these two shouldn’t be married, I should have said something. I could think of at least five reasons off the top of my head why my mom shouldn’t have married Richard Wickham.

  1. His name is Richard, which is really just a fancy version of Dick. I don’t think anyone should be in a relationship with a Dick.
  2. My mom met Richard (Dick) three months ago on the internet. If I wanted to go to a movie with a guy I met on the computer, I would get a lecture about creeps who lurk online. Not to mention, when you can measure your dating history in weeks (twelve!), then you have no business getting married.
  3. Dick has a son my age, Nathaniel, who happens to be unbelievably good-looking and is now officially off-limits because we’re related.
  4. Just because my mom wanted to be married, I have to go along for the ride. I’m being forced to move my senior year from Seattle to an island where there are more endangered birds than there are people.
  5. Dick’s first wife and daughter died seven months ago, and it seems to me he could have given it at least a year before bringing us in as the replacements. I may not be the queen of etiquette, but even I know some things are in bad taste.

As the ferry chugged closer to Nairne Island, suddenly I noticed reason number six looming over me.

“Well, there she is,” Dick said in a booming voice. He sounded like an actor on a stage waiting for those around him to burst into spontaneous applause at his mere presence. “What do you think of your new home, Isobel?” He gave my back a hearty slap that nearly knocked me to the deck.

I looked at my mom for confirmation. I hoped it was a joke, but instead of laughing, she was looking at Dick like a slice of chocolate cheesecake after an extended sugar-free diet. She’d said the house was big and that it had been in Dick’s family since the late 1800s when his family established a town on the island. However, she’d neglected to mention that it wasn’t big; it was huge. Most hotels are smaller than this house. It sat on the top of the tip of the island like a fat brick lady squatting down to get a good look at what was coming in and out of the harbor. The center of the house had a row of large arched windows with a stone terrace in front. The wings on both sides were covered in ivy. Not in a nice Big Ten–campus sort of way, but more like a wild-jungle-vine-gone-rabid kind of way.

“What’s that style called? Early Ostentatious?”

“Isobel!” my mom said, shooting me the look that meant Boy, are you in for it when we’re alone.

Dick gave one of his hearty “yo-ho-ho, I’m Lord of the Manor” laughs. “Now, don’t be mad at her. Seeing Morrigan for the first time can be a bit overwhelming.”

My eyebrows went up. “Morrigan? You gave your house a name?” I bet Richard was the kind of guy who names everything, including his car, his favorite golf club, his dick. Dick’s dick. I shuddered. That was the kind of image that could leave some serious emotional scars.

“Most estates have names,” Dick said, subtly pointing out that while normal people live in houses, this was an estate. Like I needed a reminder. Our old two-bedroom bungalow would most likely fit in the foyer of this place.

“I’m sure Morrigan will feel like home for us in no time,” my mom said.

Nathaniel snorted, and the three of us looked at him. My new stepbrother was good-looking, but his mood was a downer. The phrase “turn that frown upside down” didn’t seem to be his personal motto. It wasn’t clear to me if this was part of his personality, or if he was just unhappy with my mom and me as the recent additions to the family. He stood apart from us with his hands jammed into his pockets, and his expression looked like he smelled something nasty. It wasn’t me. I’d had a long shower that morning, and knowing this day wasn’t going to be an easy one, I’d applied enough deodorant to keep an Olympic swimmer dry. There was no reason for him to always try to stand a few steps away from me. At least no reason I could figure out.

“What did you mean by that?” his dad asked. Nathaniel shrugged. Dick opened his mouth to say something else, but Nathaniel was already turning away and heading back inside the ferry’s main cabin. My mom put a hand on Dick’s arm and they shared a look, which I could tell meant Kids … what are you going to do? No one will adopt them at this age. I would have snorted too and followed Nathaniel inside except for the fact that apparently he couldn’t stand me.

“I should get our things together. We’ll be docking in a few minutes,” Dick said, patting my mom’s ass. I turned around and looked back at the island so I could miss their parting kiss. I knew they would kiss as if he were heading off to war instead of leaving for ten minutes to go get the car.

My mom stood next to me after Dick left. Her hands gripped the metal railing as if she planned to vault up and over. Of course, with her wedding ring on she would sink to the bottom of the ocean in record time. The ring Dick gave her is so large it practically requires its own zip code.

“You could make this easier,” she said.

“So could you.”

“We’re not talking about this again. You can’t live with Anita.” My mom had dismissed the perfectly rational idea of me living with my best friend as if I had instead suggested that I live on the streets in an old washing-machine box.

“Why not?” I couldn’t help pleading again. “Her mom’s fine with it.” I twisted the ring on my finger and added in a softer voice, “It’s my senior year.”

“All the more reason I want you to be with me. You’ll be leaving for college after this.” She tucked a strand of hair behind my ear. “Honestly, Isobel, you don’t have to act like it’s a prison term. As you keep pointing out, it’s just one year.”

I knew it was a lost cause, but I couldn’t help expressing my misery anyway. “If it’s just one year, then maybe you could have waited to marry Sir Dick.”

“His name is Richard, and drop the ‘sir’ stuff.”

“Are you telling me you don’t notice that he does it? The whole fake British accent thing?” There was no way she could be that oblivious.

“Isobel, don’t push it. I know you’re not happy about this, but someday you’ll understand.”

“I don’t want to understand later. I want to understand now.” I knew I was pushing it, but I couldn’t stop myself. “Why couldn’t we all live in Seattle for the year?”

“Because Richard’s life is here.”

I felt my throat tighten. “What about our life?”

“In case you didn’t notice, we didn’t have much of a life.” My mom spun and stalked off.

I sighed, and it was lost in the wind. The ferry whistle blew as we pulled into the dock. The boat bounced off the giant wooden pylons as it came to rest, and I grabbed the railing to keep my balance. The tide was out in the harbor; the water had peeled back, leaving a graveyard of crushed oyster shells and slick seaweed. Two seagulls were fighting over a piece of some nasty dead bit they had pulled from an oyster shell. The sour smell of dead fish and rotting seaweed washed over me.

Home sweet home.

© 2012 Eileen Cook

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 20 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 20 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 14, 2012

    Beast

    This book is an awesome romance and a little bit of mystery.....its the best book Ive ever read so far and im only twelve:)

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2012

    Great

    This book has many things that anybody would like. My fave was the heat between nathanial and isobel!


    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 12, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    A very funny creepfest!

    I'm a huge fan of Eileen Cook's books, so I had to get this one when it was released, and it absolutely did not disappoint - it was exactly what I expected from this author and more. You wouldn't think a creepy, gothic ghost story would have room for humor, but UNRAVELING ISOBEL is one very funny creepfest with a dash of sexy guy thrown in for good measure. I think what I liked best about this book is the amazing, witty banter between Isobel and Nathaniel as Isobel works through her new life in a gothic mansion where she is thrown into a new family with a hot stepbrother and a stepfather whose name is, fittingly, Dick. Cook is such a master of the interaction between her leads that I could read just pages and pages of her amazingly snappy dialogue.
    Another fun book with a lot of laughs and tons of heart from Eileen Cook. Highly recommended.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 4, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    A great book!

    Snarky, witty, and cynical, Isobel is a character to love. A lot of what she says made me chuckle out loud. I loved that she spoke her mind and she questioned things that were going on.

    Between her and her mother, she definitely got the common sense. Who seriously marries someone after three months? And then tells her daughter to just deal with it and grow up because she has her own life too?

    Dick starts out as a pretty decent guy though, although he quickly becomes a jerk. And Nathaniel (Isobel's new, cute stepbrother) appears to have the same amount of common sense as Isobel. So it appears that the only two stupid people are Dick and Isobel's mom.

    What was interesting was that this book started out as a teenage angst-ridden book about being moved far away from what she knew, and it turned into finding answers for people who died in the house she now lives in.

    This is a quick read and if you're looking for a humorous book with ghosts in the mix, this is a book to pick up!

    I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 28, 2012

    Loved it!

    I had a chance to read an early copy of this book, and it ended up being one of my favorite books of last year. Along with Eileen Cook's usual laugh out loud humor, there's also a strong mystery element and some major heat between Isobel and her step-brother that kept me turning page after page to get to the end. Highly recommended!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 14, 2013

    Abby

    U 2

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 14, 2013

    One of the best books u will ever read

    One of the best books u will ever read! I read it like 5 times!!!!!!!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2013

    :)

    This book is amazing. Absolutely loved it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2013

    Amazing!

    The story makes you keep flipping the pages, it's an amazing story!

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  • Posted January 22, 2013

    The book, in short, is about a teenage girl whose mother marri

    The book, in short, is about a teenage girl whose mother marries a rich man. The girl, Isobel, simply doesn’t like him. She just gets that gut feeling that something about him isn’t right. In addition to having an uneasy feeling about her new stepdad, she must also cope with living with a stepbrother who is dark, mysterious, off limits, and hot. Because of her mother’s new marriage, Isobel must start her senior year in a whole new school on a tiny island where everybody knows your business. This is a very different lifestyle from her old one, where she lived in the city where it was easy to be invisible. Soon she is caught up in a mystery of possible murder and is constantly feeling as if she is being watched by someone – or something – unnatural. Who/what is this? Only her new, dead, step-sister. Not weird at all, right?
    On top of all this, she is worried that she may be going crazy. Why? Because her biological father was diagnosed with schizophrenia. It made him a little crazy and he ended up having a rough few years and quitting his well-paying job. He then became an artist and slowly recovered from his illness. Isobel never really kept up a good relationship with him, and they slowly grew apart. So not only does she have no good father-figure in her life, but her mother is also always on her case because she, too, is afraid that Isobel may go crazy. She hates that Isobel is an artist and is always discouraging Isobel’s creativity. That’s the book as a whole. Now on to the good part: the middle, where the story could have gone either way.
    Right around the middle of the book, Eileen Cook created so many minor struggles for Isobel along with the big ones (like possibly going crazy, maybe seeing ghosts, you know, everyday stuff) that I, as a reader, had no clue how it was going to go for her. You see, Isobel was “adopted” by the popular girls at school. The cheerleaders, whose leader took Isobel under her wing. They made her popular, and instead of fighting it like she wanted to, Isobel just went with it. They seemed very nice, so when they gave Isobel her new cheer outfit and they all went in front of the entire student body for a pep rally she was totally caught by surprise when they pull a cruel prank on her. Before it go too bad, though, she was saved by her hot stepbrother, whom she proceeded to spend the afternoon with. So, school life = ruined for her. But her stepbrother is there for her, right? Well, he is until he finds out that Isobel may or may not be talking to his dead sister. So then he puts his guard up. Then Isobel is forced to see a psychiatrist by her step-dad and mom because of possible “craziness” (really her stepdad is just a jerk and trying to get rid of her by setting her up and making her mom think she’s loosing it). It helps her, until the cheerleader leader gets revenge on Isobel for quitting the squad after the prank. How does this all fit together? Why, you’ll just have to read the book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 10, 2012

    Hello.

    Is this book good for older tweens and early teens? Just curious.

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    Posted January 22, 2012

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    Posted June 8, 2012

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    Posted April 15, 2012

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    Posted January 22, 2013

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