Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Teen Book Scene: Unraveling Isobel by Eileen Cook

Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Simon Pulse (January 3, 2012)
ISBN-10: 1442413271
ISBN-13: 978-1442413276

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.

There's always been something about being "crazy" that scares me. I freely admit that but somehow the theme--or moral--I got from Unraveling Isobel is that I shouldn't ashamed of that fear. Isobel is not my favorite character mainly because during the first half of the book she was so contradictive, she made me dizzy. I did like the aura of creepiness all of the characters had, it was like they couldn't always explain their actions but that's also what built their self-image. Nicole, Nate, Isobel's mom, they all had an edge that if you crossed them, you better damn well be prepared to grovel to get on their good side. Even if that doesn't sound like a good quality characters should have, I honestly thought they made the plot all that more thrilling and enticing.

There were three main elements this book was working, all in their own rights. First was the creep factor. I did in no way expect the ultimate thriller murder-mystery this book turned out to be. The synopsis did not prepare me at all*. I would have liked the murder mystery element to have portrayed a bigger role in the first half of the book, but I did understand that Cook was setting up the creepiness and wanted to add that suspense element too.

Second was the humor. I didn't understand when none of the other characters--except maybe a ghost or two--really got Isobel's sense of humor. The girl was flippin' hilarious. They were few and far between but her one-liners' cracked me up.

Finally, the "romance". I don't know what's up with the brother and sister relationship in YA these days but, I couldn't deny that it wasn't necessarily illegal for Isobel and Nathaniel to be together. That was when I finally got a grip on how Unraveling Isobel was a unique case when it came to comparing it to other Paranormal YA novels. Not only was the construction of the plot more intense than in anything I've read before** but there were also some intense make-out sessions.

I also have to admit that it would have been so inexplicably easy to stop reading the book after the first half because from where I could determine the plot going on from there on in was absolutely unappealing. I really hated it for a moment but finally decided to keep going mostly because of the "scary" characters. Heck, the whole island where Isobel was stranded on, Nairne Island, was scary but it's the people that inhabit it that'll really do you in. Eileen Cook tells a mean ghost story.

*Not to mention the cover was pretty misleading. This book was too creepy to just have purple and black swirls on its cover.
**I don't think anything that I've read in the YA genre is freakier than The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, but I consider it more a Dark Contemporary than Paranormal.

Grade: C+

ARC Source: Teen Book Scene


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