Unraveling Isobel

Unraveling Isobel

by Eileen Cook


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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781442413283
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication date: 10/30/2012
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 381,618
Product dimensions: 5.62(w) x 8.08(h) x 0.84(d)
Age Range: 14 Years

About 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 Almost Truth, Unraveling Isobel, 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.

Read an Excerpt

Unraveling Isobel

  • 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.

  • Customer Reviews

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    Unraveling Isobel 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 22 reviews.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    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:)
    JoanneLevy More than 1 year ago
    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.
    Jenny_Geek More than 1 year ago
    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.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    This book has many things that anybody would like. My fave was the heat between nathanial and isobel!
    denisejaden More than 1 year ago
    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!
    abbylibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    Got 2/3 of the way through and put it down. Just wasn't my cup of tea and I had other books I wanted to get to. Protagonist has a snarky voice that I liked, but after awhile I got bored with her. There are some seriously creepy bits, but I would have liked more tension with the ghosts vs. mental illness aspect. Would recommend to fans of Lisa McMann's WAKE trilogy.
    Melanie_McCullough on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
    Okay, so I've been on a streak with amazing reads this month and Unraveling Isobel is no exception. In fact, it was kind of awesome. Not in a kick butt/take names way, but in a humorous, creepy, wonderfully written kind of way. I finished the entire thing in one sitting because I didn't want to stop reading. Definitely a page-turner.I also clicked with Isobel from the very first line. Her voice is funny and snarky and I loved it. She had me laughing out loud on numerous occasions. On top of that, she's just very likeable. She's been thrust into an unenviable situation (her mother has remarried to a man she's known for 3 months, she's being moved away from her friends and her life, she doesn't like her stepfather), but she handles it all with an amazing sense of humor--even after she starts seeing ghosts and believes she may have inherited her father's schizophrenia. In order to convince herself she isn't sick like her father, she begins to investigate and discovers that the home she's living in has a lot of history. There are all sorts of ghost stories and rumors. Enough to make her question whether she is just she seeing things, falling ill, or if she is actually be experiencing the paranormal. I loved her relationship with her stepbrother Nate, even though I guess they're kind of related, but whatever. It didn't matter. He was hot and sweet and perfect for her. Their relationship was so cute and romantic, I couldn't help but want to see them together. Final Thoughts: Unraveling Isobel is an incredibly unique story that I have a hard time classifying into a genre. It's mostly contemporary with a ghost story and a little bit of a mystery. There is a fantastic cast of characters, a creepy setting, and a story line that will keep you guessing. And there are so many dark and amazing scenes in this book. I don't want to elaborate because I think the reader needs to experience it themselves the way that I did, but trust me you are going to love it. Highly enjoyable and highly recommended.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    U 2
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    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    One of the best books u will ever read! I read it like 5 times!!!!!!!!!
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    This book is amazing. Absolutely loved it.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    The story makes you keep flipping the pages, it's an amazing story!
    chelsea_mikayla More than 1 year ago
    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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    Is this book good for older tweens and early teens? Just curious.
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