Author: Eileen Cook (author website)
Release Date: January 3rd 2012 by Simon Pulse
Age Group: Young Adult
I knew almost nothing about Unravelling Isobel going into it. I’m not sure I’d even read the blurb... and I really enjoyed it. As the story unfolded, and Isobel, well, unravelled, the book got creepier and creepier, I was sucked into its pages, jumping when Isobel did, and nearly screaming out loud along with her. Turn on the lights, and settle in for the ride...
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.
So The Story Is...After her mum meets a guy (online), accepts a proposal and decides to move to an island—all within the space of seven months—to say Isobel isn't exactly feeling real happy about the change in her life right now would be an understatement.
To make matters worse, ten years ago, Isobel's dad abandoned the family after getting treatment for his schizophrenia. When she starts seeing and hearing things in the creepy new MANSION she's now forced to call home, well, she starts seriously doubting her own stability. Its just the creepy new house, and the move. Because ghosts aren't real... Right?
I’d Like To Thank The Cast...I really enjoyed Isobel. Snarky, sarcastic, and believable, she felt real to me. I enjoyed her expression of herself through her art. The feeling of being misunderstood, so common in YA lit, well, Isobel has fair reason. I loved being in her head, and her internal dialogue. She's deliciously self-aware, and the banter between her and new stepbrother Nathaniel is laugh-out-loud funny and oh-so cute. You guys: be nice to Rudolph. You don't want him to develop Reindeer Issues. Nathaniel is. Just. Umm... Perfect?
Uh, which brings us to Dick. As Izzy's BFF likes to remind her: “Dick's a DICK.” and you guys? He is. He really, really is. Smarmy and slick in all the wrong ways, this guy was born to be a politician. He is the reason we have the word ‘creep’. Honest to goodness. He’s listed next to it in the dictionary. Go look it up. I’m waiting.
And lastly, Isobel's bloody mother. What a freaking BITCH. I don't know about the States, but here, your final score (what you guys call SAT's, I think)? It’s based on class work and exams based on what you learn in year Eleven AND Twelve at school. So uprooting your kid In their final year of high school? Well, essentially, they’re screwed. If the school doesn’t offer the exact same subjects, you can't start a new subject in final year, or you miss half the learning and fail your exams. That, or you don’t have enough units and you don’t even QUALIFY for an SAT type thing. So, uh, to say I thought Isobel's mother was an immature, thoughtless, self-obsessed bad-word is putting it lightly. And she still has the gall to accuse Isobel of being selfish. This is one messed up family. It was ever so slightly AWESOME. I appreciate an author who can illicit that depth of feeling in my reactions.
So really, what I'm getting at? Fabulous, believable, lovable and utterly despicable characters. That's what we're after, right?
Leave The Lights OnBut oh. My. Word. This book is creeeeeeeppppy. I'm talking seriously not a great choice to read at home alone with the lights off creepy. In one particularly memorable scene, Isobel's 'friends' decide a séance sounds like a good idea. I couldn't get out of bed afterwards. You know, monsters. Under the bed. Or ghost girls. I'm TWENTY-FREAKING-SEVEN.
Unfortunately, that fantastic creep factor? It seemed to fizzle out in the last third of the book, and as much as I loved 95% of this book, it was let down by a very abrupt ending with a lot of loose strings. These unresolved questions (and I have a few) made me wonder if Unravelling Isobel may be the first book in a series... or perhaps the issues affecting Isobel throughout the book aren't so much meant to be resolved, as indicators of just how badly her life is falling apart.
Who You Calling Crazy?On a more serious note, I really appreciated the novel confronting mental health issues in an accessible, approachable way. And one particularly memorable scene where Izzy tells it like it is: Schizophrenia is an illness. Just like cancer. So is depression. So are anxiety disorders. I don’t know about you, but I know more than one person who has been directly affected, or afflicted by these conditions. You don’t choose it, you can’t just ‘snap out of it’. Unravelling Isobel is not a ‘serious’ book, but it handles these matters well and sensitively, without being weighed down, dreary, or ever seeming to take itself too seriously.
Verdict:You guys want creepy? Spooky? Unravelling Isobel is bringing it back. Turn on the lights, and settle in: it’s deliciously reminiscent of an adolescent The Shining... at first. My only criticisms of the deliciously chilling book were an abrupt ending, and a slight loss of that Shining vibe and spooky factor towards the end.
While a truly fun, and at times scary, read, Unravelling Isobel seems to lose steam in its last third, and its rather abrupt, open ending is slightly dissatisfying. Despite this, Unravelling Isobel delivers: A snarky, sarcastic protagonist gives this wonderfully spooky ghost story some giggles, and truly, Unravelling Isobel is a delight.