Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Unravelling Isobel, Eileen Cook

Title: Uravelling Isobel
Author: Eileen Cook (author website)
Release Date: January 3rd 2012 by Simon Pulse
Age Group: Young Adult
Genre: Paranormal
My Rating:1 star2 star3 starhalf star

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...

From Goodreads:
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 On

But 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.


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.


  1. Great review!! I have been hearing awesome things about this book and after reading your review I should check it out :)

  2. I really liked your review, and I enjoyed this book too! I found the book cover to be a bit too whimsical considering the book is about ghosts and such lol.

    Nerd Girls at Books to the Sky

  3. Did you say Spooky and...The Shinning? Dude! I would never relate those words to this cover! LOL! Thanks for letting my know a lot more than the cover actually tells! great review my dear although it seems a good read, is not that I will put it in my priority list. THanks for the honest review =D muah!! Hoe you are having wonderful holidays ^^

    Dazzling Reads

  4. I love your review Sarah but I don't think this one is for me. I get scared at the idea of Casper so I can't see myself not freaking out about this one. It's a shame though because it sounds like such a great book. And as a fellow Aussie, I know what you mean about parents uprooting their kids in year 11-12!

  5. I practically laughed so hard when I read your review! Awesome review, I need to read this too!

  6. Isobel sounds like a fantastic heroine!! I'm kind of in love with her already, sarcastic MC's FTW. But her mother sounds like a... well, you said it, a bitch haha. But yeah, I love when characters get that kind of reaction out of you!

    Oooh and I love me some creepy! I've never really been SERIOUSLY scared by a book, but I can appreciate the creepy factor (like in Anna Dressed In Blood. Have you read that? YOU MUST READ THAT.) It's a shame that the last part of the book let down the rest, which sounds pretty darn awesome.

    And I agree with Celine. Your reviews always manage to make me laugh.... and oooooh and ahhhh and sell me on a book! <3

  7. @Sarah: I really enjoyed it. I REALLY liked Isobel, and yeah. It wasn't a super itnense read, but worth it. Definitely worth it :D

    @Nerd Girls: Yay! I'm glad you liked it, but you're COMPLETELY right about the cover. I LIKE it, yes, but it doesn't feel right.

    @NATALIA! (this is truly how I react EVERY TIME I see your name XD): I know, right? How not right is the cover? Honestly, I LOVE the cover. It's pretty... but maybe an odd choice :D
    Honestly, I'm with you. It IS a good read, but there are so many GREAT reads, and things on our TBR's, right?

    @Lan: Hehe! I think it's good knowing when to say 'no' sometimes :D
    And THANK YOU! I SO don't get how they could compromise this poor kid's entire education!

    @Celine: Mwaha! Oh, yay! I so like to think I'm funny, but husbandman doesn't think so. You're making me grin XD

    Creepy is goooOOOOODDD! The last real creepy one I read was Cryer's Cross, and I LOVED it, so I'm starting to think I do, too--despite it freaking me out.

    AND I've heard such. good. things. about Anna Dressed In Blood! Except I heard a cat gets killed? Cat killage makes me sad. Very sad. It's my goal in life to become a crazy old cat lady. Maybe I could just skip that page?

    Mwahaha! Seriously? You're gonna make me blush. I actually have BOUGHT books because of you--like, uh, the whole VA series, Iron Fey, Divergent (well, I lie--this second, I'm going onto BD to pre-order), Daughter Of Smoke and Bone was your fault, tooooooo!

  8. I'm super creeped by creepy (more than the average person) sooo -_- But it sounds FABULOUS, plot-wise. So I really want to read it. But I'll probably be too iffied (no, that's not a word, heh) to pick it up. Oh well. Great review!

  9. I didn't know this book was creepy just by looking at the cover. I like the sounds of the story, not to mention I love reading creepy books. Hehe. Great review! Thank you for sharing it!! I can't wait to read this one! :)

    Happy New Year!

    Books For All Seasons

  10. Seances creep the living hell out of me! But it sounds so interesting!

    Great review Sarah!

    Reading is my cup of tea

  11. I read the first chapter of this one some time ago, and I just loved the setting and the family situation. I'm waiting on this one! How did you get to read this one early, Saz?

    I think it's about time I read something directly spooky and scary (again).



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