Review Blog

Jul 16 2012

Unrest by Michelle Harrison

cover image

Simon Pulse, 2012. ISBN: 9780857070913
(Age: 15+) Unrest successfully combines a number of genres into an effective narrative for teens. With male character Elliot as narrator, hopefully male readers will pick it up despite the relatively strong romantic element. The cover should certainly help draw them in, because it does a good job of portraying the creepy, suspenseful feel of the story.
We meet Elliot at a very low point in his life. He has barely survived a hit and run accident which left him clinically dead for two minutes. His mother died of cancer not long before, and his relationship with his father is distant and uncommunicative. Elliot is experiencing out of body dreams and confronting ghosts, and he is unable to move on with school, with relationships, or with life in general.
After so much is explained in the first few chapters, Unrest takes a while to settle into its stride. Elliot is introspective and stationary - he doesn't know how to deal with what's going on, so the book starts slowly and tentatively. However, once Elliot realises he needs to be more pro-active, and finds a job conducting ghost tours at an historic tourist town, the pace and action picks up, and the book becomes hard to put down.
There are two main plot streams which initially seem unrelated: Elliot's developing feelings for the mysterious Ophelia, and the paranormal elements. Elliot is confronted by a number of ghosts, either needing his help, or threatening his life. He must overcome his fear and accept this new aspect of himself, and it takes a while for that to happen. In the meantime, the two plots slowly and neatly twist together. The unexpected ending should surprise some readers, providing the necessary didn't-see-that-coming moment so important in the thriller genre.
This is a great book, combining mystery, romance, and the paranormal. Elliot's growth and return to life is captured authentically as he reconciles his need to connect with his father, the need to take risks with loving Ophelia, and the role unsettled spirits now play in his life. The book is probably more for upper secondary students, because the narrative offers a casual attitude towards sex - Elliot was a 'player' and his brother Adam encourages a dismissive treatment of girls. There is also a fairly gruelling scene when the past lives of ghosts is discussed; the way they died is often tragic and confronting.
Action packed and suspenseful, Unrest is recommended as a strong option to other more light and swoony paranormal offerings.
Trisha Buckley

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