Written by: Elizabeth Norris
Published by: Balzer + Bray
Release date: April 23rd, 2013
Genres: Dystopian, Sci-Fi, Young Adult
Source: ARC from ALAMW 2013
Buy: B&N, Amazon
Add on: Goodreads
Four months after Ben disappeared through the portal to his home universe, Janelle believes she’ll never see him again. Her world is still devastated, but life is finally starting to resume some kind of normalcy. Until Interverse Agent Taylor Barclay shows up. Somebody from an alternate universe is running a human trafficking ring, kidnapping people and selling them on different Earths—and Ben is the prime suspect. Now his family has been imprisoned and will be executed if Ben doesn’t turn himself over within five days.
And when Janelle learns that someone she cares about—someone from her own world—has become one of the missing, she knows that she has to help Barclay, regardless of the danger. Now Janelle has five days to track down the real culprit. Five days to locate the missing people before they’re lost forever. Five days to reunite with the boy who stole her heart. But as the clues begin to add up, Janelle realizes that she’s in way over her head—and that she may not have known Ben as well as she thought. Can she uncover the truth before everyone she cares about is killed?
I thoroughly enjoyed this series (duology… whatever). I had never read a book/books about parallel universes before, even though they seem to be becoming more of a ‘thing’ now. I just hadn’t gotten to reading one. But the theory (whether sciencey or sci-fi) has always fascinated me. And I didn’t realize that’s where things were headed when I started the first book, so that blew my mind. Suddenly a sort of ‘possibly-paranormal-romance/murder mystery thriller’, turned into an awesome scifi action adventure which was AWESOME. It was that switch that I loved about Unraveling.
Unbreakable starts off solidly as a scifi with a dash (or maybe more than a dash) of post-apocalyptic. Janelle is helping to rebuild her community after the devastating events in Unraveling, and things are just starting to get back to “normal” – or whatever they can salvage of it. She’s helping Struz as a sort of agent-in-training, and has been specifically helping to investigate a huge string of disappearances, when Barclay shows up asking for her help (I know, right?!), and her friend ends up disappearing as well. At that point, nothing is going to stop Janelle from going with Barclay and getting to the bottom of the disappearances.
Janelle is seriously one of the best things about this series. She is one tough cookie. She is gutted over losing Ben, but she never lets that get in her way, even when it means she has to ignore those feelings in order to be there for the people she cares about. Sure, she does end up going with Barclay to find Ben and rescue his family from execution, and ultimately find out who’s behind the kidnappings and disappearances. But what convinces her to go is the fact that she needs to protect her universe from whoever is kidnapping people, not the fact that she wants to find and be reunited with Ben. She doesn’t rush to abandon her responsibilities at the first chance to find him; she has a sense of duty and protective instinct for her community, and isn’t just thinking about rushing away at the first sign of him. I liked that.
Another (surprising) thing I loved about this book was… Barclay. Specifically Janelle and Barclay’s (grudging, at first) friendship. Their growth from bickering allies, into a team, into actual friends, is so well done. And Barclay ended up as one of my favorite characters because of it.
Other than the awesome characters, the plot in this one is stellar, and absolutely edge-of-your seat. After the setup in the beginning, and then Janelle and Barclay embarking on their covert mission to find the kidnappers/trafficking ring, it’s all action all the time. Twists and turns and suspense and drama and thrills and just… nonstop, flip-the-pages-as-fast-as-you-can, excitement. SUPER fast-paced – but at the same time, I didn’t think the character-development suffered at all. There was amazing balance of action without losing any characterization, and I really enjoyed that.
Now… all that being said, there was one issue that made this book lose the 5-star-sparkle, for me. And I feel a little bit badly, docking a whole star for this, but it did make me a bit less enthusiastic about this one vs. Unraveling… Anyway, I really wanted Ben to be around more. I was expecting him to come back pretty quickly after the opening, and then I was waiting for it… and waiting for it… for what felt like forever. And when we finally got him back, I was a little disappointed because it didn’t really feel like I expected it to. I do think it’s realistic, after Ben reappears in the story, what Norris ended up doing with Janelle and Ben and their relationship. I just wanted a lot more sunshine and rainbows, so personally, that was a little disappointing. (I am really sorry for the vagueness… I just don’t want to spoil anything!!) Also, I feel like there was just less romance overall. Unraveling was very well done in the “balancing romance with nonstop action” department – we got our cute couple without sacrificing excitement, and our excitement without sacrificing our cute couple (well, until the end). Unbreakable is a lot lighter on the romance with a lot more emphasis on the excitement and action.
Anyway, though, nothing I just mentioned has any impact on the fact that I will totally be recommending this series to anyone and everyone I think might possibly enjoy it. Overall, it’s FANTASTIC, and I still can’t believe that this was Elizabeth Norris’s debut series. I mean, come on.
PS: Shoutout to Elijah, because he is my favorite forever. I love that kid. …That is all.