Tag Archives: Linked

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 https://chubbicsblog.wordpress.com/2013/09/27/book-review-linked-2013-by-imogen-howson/ .

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.


Book Review: Linked (2013) by Imogen Howson


I normally don’t go for teen thrillers, as the characters are lame… and so how can I have an adrenaline rush reading about their chase scenes, when who cares if they die or not?

But this one is different. My heart was racing through the first 100 pages. The chase scenes are so close to “normal life” (kids freaking out, skipping school in a mall, chased by cops…that might kill them) that they are actually scary. Precisely because the story feels so real and human and ordinary (despite being science fiction), it is far more gripping than most novels in this genre.

Also, the characterization is spot-on. Elissa is not some non-descript romantically-successful container for teens to slip their vicarious self into, and she isn’t some perfect ninja who is hopelessly perfect. She’s extremely real–a tad proud, loving, disillusioned, easily flattered, confused, a mix of brave and cowardly, insecure and true to her own sense of what is good&bad. She is just so normal. Even the minor side characters are all fully-developed and extremely real—as I met each of them, I could name people I know who were just that way.

Probably because of the strong characterization, the book can be quite hilarious at moments (there is a pivotal scene where one character goes off into an ill-timed moral/political rant and everyone else tries to shut him up.)

But by far, the character that steals your heart is the victimized, slightly psychopathic (yet also wide-eyed innocent) character. I teared up nearly every time she spoke. That relationship is what made the book for me, it was golden, and very real. Granted, I’m an identical twin myself, and I have to say that Imogen Howson sure nailed the dynamics of that relationship.

Also, in an indirect way, the book brings up a host of thought-provoking issues about violence & family & loyalty & guilt & being human, without ever becoming ponderous or self-conscious or taking itself too seriously. This is what The Hunger Games should have been. If you are a young teen, I can tell you this is the sort of book that you will still love twenty years from now. It’s that good.

Linked (2013) by Imogen Howson