Book Review: Unravel by Imogen Howson (2014)


I had big expectations for this book. I was extremely impressed with the first book in this series, “Linked” which I reviewed here .

If the first book Linked was (for it’s genre) a 9.5 out of 10, this one, Unravel, is more of a 6 or so. It’s not… bad. Just, well, disappointing.

Like the first book, big issues are raised… but unlike Linked, they don’t go anywhere with it. This book feels more like, well, like a teen thriller. It doesn’t say much more than the first book does, and without even half the power.

It starts out rather promising — you see the main impulsive lovestory of the first book running into realistic snags, as the lovers’ attachment to eachother is causing problems for everyone else. There is a particularly hilarious scene where the kindhearted but embarrassed adults pull apart the teens passionately making out in middle of a firefight with the sensible words “You should be attending to more important things right now…” as the goodguys’ helicopter is being shot at. It added some reality to otherwise unrealistic teen drama, and it was hysterically funny. But it’s all downhill from there.

In the end, most the characters who made the first book interesting are given bit parts or struck dumb. The ranting quirky moralist from book 1 is back, but never speaks. The conflicted & compromised brother is given a wrap-up job in the last 50 pages (and his inner journey really should have been the main character arc of the story). The faded-away-but-gentle father is given almost no screen time–when again, he should have been a main player.

And then, the disturbed PTSD main character we all love is given a recycled character arc from the first book, where once again she goes antisocial/psychopathic, and once again she is “rescued” from it by her sister’s unconditional love. Really? Again? This was the moment when she was supposed to be the one who overcame her own darkness/past, on her own terms. I wanted to see her being proactive, taking agency, not just passively reacting to her sister. But she isn’t given the chance to.

This book had so much potential. It starts out with heartfelt questionings about national sovereignty vs. the United Nations, semantics and eugenics, overweening population control, anarchy vs tyranny, teen emotion vs self-sacrificial responsibility, and the struggles of mental illness and psychosis. Then it went… absolutely nowhere. The heartbreaking plot arc with psychosis seemed especially….contrived, too cursory about something that shouldn’t be bandied about for a couple extra thrills.

Unlike Linked, it didn’t grapple with any of the issues it raised. It just side-stepped them.


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