Unraveling Isobel by Eileen Cook
Author: Eileen Cook
Publication Date: January 3, 2012
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Genre: YA, Paranormal, Mystery, Romance
Source: Borrowed from Library
Book Description 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.
This is one of those stories that you shouldn’t judge by it’s cover. The bright purple background and swirling vines of paint lulled me into thinking that this would be peppy story. But after reading the synopsis and the first few pages we’re plunged into the dismal existence filled with mysteries that is Isobel’s life.
After moving to a small island community to live in her new step-father’s run down mansion, Isobel starts life over. Small communities that have known each other since birth tend to not be so accepting of strangers and often treat them as novelties, and it’s even worse when the family your mother married into has a dark history that everyone whispers about and shuns you for.
Isobel just wants to get through her last year of school, and be an artist like her father, much to the dismay of her mother. Isobel’s character is a bit of a brat, but I could understand where she was coming from. She was transplanted into a new life, and her new family isn’t exactly giving her a warm welcome (her step brother is a bit of a jerk). I do love that Isobel’s character has such fierce determination in facing any obstacles in her way. She’s great at reasoning things out, and does this with the help of succinct pro/con- like lists that state her goals very clearly for the reader.
After Isobel’s first night in the dilapidated mansion, complete with eerie visions and a violent storm she feels like something isn’t quite right, which causes her family’s attitude about her to shift.
After this creepy event, I found that her Nate (step-brother) became friendly toward her quite quickly, almost as if he knew something was up. But the character of Nate had a great sense of humour and I loved that he ended up taking on the protective brotherly role even if he still cowered under his father’s shadow.
It isn’t until Isobel starts school, and she makes an effort to be friends with the popular kids this time around. Although, they have their own devious agenda when they open her eyes to the secrets of her new family. Isobel starts digging into the past of this little community, and something is getting restless and desperate to get through to Isobel. But with the increasing number of unexplainable things happening to Isobel, and the theories start flying that she may be having mental problems, it makes you wonder if there’s something supernatural, or if it really is in her head.
Cook does an amazing job weaving this story, I really did have a difficult time in the beginning discerning if she was crazy, or if it was really happening. The characters of her mother and step-father were crafted in such an excellent way that there were times that they even rationalized me into believing that it was all in my head.
I really enjoyed the mystery aspect to it, and the paranormal aspect was so so, they were the usual ghost scare tactics. The ending was a bit predictable, and the whole step-brother attempt at romance - no matter how much it’s stated that they’re not actually related, it’s still WEIRD. There were a lot of historic stories about the town woven into the main plot, and while they were intriguing I felt that they never fully got revealed- we were just teased with it a bit.
Overall: 3/5 Drinkable Cups of Tea. It’s an entertaining and quick read, but there’s nothing over the top that blows your mind to make it super memorable.