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Kate Bond

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Unraveling - I began this novel fully expecting another dumb paranormal romance, so I was pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be a smart, well-conceived sci –fi novel that has romantic elements. I want to talk about the romance first, because there are a number of reasons that it nearly fell completely flat.Romance I understand the perceived need for a love triangle in this sort of story. I know that publishers put a lot of pressure on YA authors to create a triangle, even where one might not feel organic to the story. And the problem comes in instances like this novel, where the secondary love interest almost feels like he’s in the wrong book because he’s a leftover from before Janelle is killed by a car in chapter one.The first chapter is primarily about Nick, the hot boyfriend. He’s just a normal high school athlete—smart but not brilliant, and generally really nice. I dated those guys when I was a teenager, and I understand both their appeal and the need to get the fuck away from them whenever possible (All they talk about is sports! Their friends are idiots! You are the most important part of their lives when you are in the room, but as soon as you leave their side their eyes wander!).We also meet some catty girls and Janelle’s best friend, Alex (who is a dude), before Janelle bites it. The Alex thing threw me off—I thought for sure that he was going to turn out to be in love with Janelle, but no! That is refreshingly (if unrealistically) not the case. He is not a part of this love triangle.Who is? The mysterious stranger who shows up to bring Janelle back to life! He is sweet and brilliant and hot in his own way (of course), but I was about halfway through the book before I really accepted him as a viable love interest because I was programmed to like Janelle’s relationship with Nick.Ben is a fantastic character. I really like him. What I don’t like is how the author folds him back into major moments in Janelle’s life (example: when she was roofied and nearly raped as an underclassman, Ben and his friends saved her) so that it seems like they are connected in some deep, profound way. I felt manipulated by this. No bueno. By the end of the novel I was rooting for Ben and Janelle, who are great together, but it was because of the things that came organically--like their witty banter—not because of his obsession with her since childhood.World BuildingThis is hard to address without spoiling all the really fun stuff. The turn that this story took into being a full-on science fiction novel was too much fun for me—I can’t ruin the experience for other readers. The story borrows a bit from (and tips its hat to) The X Files, but you’d be hard pressed to find paranormal fiction these days that doesn’t owe something of a debt to either that show or The Twilight Zone, so who cares?Supporting CharactersPretty good. Janelle’s dad is great. Alex is sweet, nerdy, brilliant, and reliable. Jared is a typical high school-aged younger brother. Nick’s best friend Kevin is…I don’t know. Maybe this will be addressed further in book two. I was pretty confused about his characterization. Most of it was unnecessary and could have been trimmed out. Ben’s friends are indistinguishable from each other. Janelle’s mom is a bipolar train wreck. There are a handful of FBI guys, including Janelle’s dad’s partner, who stand apart from each other ok.So here’s the thing: Apart from Janelle, the women in this thing suck. Everyone Janelle can rely on is male. The women, with a few exceptions on the fringes of the story, are either catty bitches or full-on insane. I expect better than that from a female author, and I hope to see this weird imbalance remedied in the sequel.It sounds like I hated this book. I did not—I actually really enjoyed it—but the parts I loved came in the second half, so I can’t really say anything about them. If you like more hard science fiction and you enjoy books with strong female protagonists, you should give this book a try. So Little Sleeping