Review: Unrest – Michelle Harrison

UnrestSynopsis from Goodreads
Seventeen-year-old Elliott hasn’t slept properly for months. Not since the accident that nearly killed him. Sometimes he half-wakes, paralysed, while shadowy figures move around him. Other times he is the one moving around while his body lies asleep on the bed. His doctors say sleep paralysis and out-of-body experiences are harmless – but to Elliott they’re terrifying.

Convinced that his brush with death has attracted the spirit world, Elliott secures a job at a reputedly haunted museum, determined to discover the truth. There, he meets the enigmatic Ophelia. But, as she and Elliott grow closer, Elliott draws new attention from the dead. One night, during an out-of-body experience, Elliott returns to bed to find his body gone. Something is occupying it, something that wants to live again – and it wants Ophelia, too . .

There are a few things that make you pick up a book:

1) A friend’s recommendation. Read: Them pushing it on you like a pushy pusher. #push.
2) The cover. Read: What? I’m judgemental and shallow, but I buy pretty books.
3) Reviews on other sites. Read: You’re supposed to be doing something important so, of course, you’re trawling through book review websites reading EVERYTHING.
4) The author. Read: Would you read the phone book if the author had written it?
5) The synopsis. Read: Possibly the most important bit… possibly.

I’m going to focus on the fifth way today because, and I don’t know if it’s just me, but there seems to be a lot of YA books at the moment with the vaguest synopses ever. I know, I know we don’t want every little detail told us (like those film trailers that tell you everything and you’re like, mate, did I just watch the entire film?), but a bit of a clue about what we’re getting ourselves into would be nice.

A mysterious house. A mysterious girl. A mysterious boy. A mysterious tree with a mysterious cat sat with a mysterious owl.
MYSTERY.

How are we supposed to decide whether we read it or not? Though, to be fair, I’d probably read a book about a mysterious cat that’s bffs with a mysterious owl.

Unrest by Michelle Harris was one of those brilliant books that I just happened to pick up randomly and completely captured me.
I mean, haunted museum?

HAUNTED MUSEUM.

Seriously authors, if you want me to read your book, set it in a haunted museum.

Now I’m not the biggest fan of paranormal fantasy. I get angry and eye-rolly and even though I knew that this book was paranormal, I was actually really looking forward to it. Mostly because it was set in Britain.

I don’t think I’ve ever read a paranormal book set in Britain. Or maybe I have but the fact that I can’t remember it is very telling.
To me, paranormal books are only set in ever-so-slightly-backwards American towns that look like Star Hollow. So to have one set in contemporary Britain… hurrah!

And I genuinely loved this book. Firstly, it’s completely creepy. Ms Harrison has a great grasp on writing horror because there were certain scenes that were seriously freaky. Especially when it came to Tess and her bathroom antics. I don’t want to really go into the nitty gritty of this because it would really be a spoiler… but I can’t even look at a bath if the water’s been left in. So this particular scene? Raaar.

What I loved about the writing was that it never relied on cheap tricks to make you jump. It kind of reminded me of one of those old horror films, that are clever and rely on the story (and your own imagination) to scare you and not just loud music and ghosts appearing at windows suddenly.

In fairness though, my reading of this book did coincide with me watching every episode of Jonathan Creek on Netflix so my imagination was running a little bit wild. Because Jonathan Creek is horrifying when it wants to be. I would include the screen cap I took to illustrate my point when I was texting Anna but she shouted at me and has banned me from sending it again.

Anyway, this book. I was so impressed with this story, with all its twists and turns, and it really kept me interested. It felt fresh and was always moving in the right direction, not circling around random points that some books seem to do. And, most importantly, none of the usual genre clichés wormed their way in either.

It was such a great story and I didn’t see any of the twists coming. Can you tell that I’m being vague? This is on purpose, I swear. I know it’s a cop out to say this but seriously, the best way to read this book is to not know anything about the actual plot.
It’s creepy and it’s clever and it’s really, really engaging.

Also, it was a fantastic setting (Hi, my name is Jo and I’m a history geek and I enjoy going to living museums in my spare time) and really different. And really well done, actually. Sometimes when the setting is a bit different, it’s quite easy to fall into the ‘omgsoquirkyandkooky’ territory and lose hold of the story. This didn’t happen in Unrest and, actually, they really complimented each other.

I think my enjoyment of this book was helped by Elliott, the main character of this book. He was such an ace character with plenty of personality and substance to him. The inevitable paranormal love story was here, but it wasn’t as inevitable as I was expecting. Unrest actually has a plot, as opposed to just some scenes cobbled together to mask a pithy love story. It was nice and calm with limited stereotypes. The girl was a little wishy washy for my liking and she was a bit on the ‘Tumblr Cool’ side but she wasn’t too bad.

She was called Ophelia though. I mean, come on.

I do have to say that there were a few questions that were left unanswered. Don’t get me wrong, there weren’t huge ones, and not ones that affected the story, but they seemed really important at the beginning of the book and then they just drifted again and were never mentioned again.

It was more annoying than anything.

But all in all, this book was brilliant. It was different, it was clever and the story was ace. Definitely recommended…. But perhaps not one to read in the bath.

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5 thoughts on “Review: Unrest – Michelle Harrison

  1. What do you mean? I know at least half a dozen Ophelias. Or not.

    Another terrifying thing about Jonathan Creek – DOUBLE DENIM. And dangly earrings. I apologise in advance for the mid-90s fashion nightmares.

  2. Well, I’m sold. I don’t know why I’ve gotten so into horror in the last year, but I really have and this one seems right up my alley. Largely ’cause I’m a sucker for setting as well, and yay twists (even if Opehlia is as eye-rollingly wishy washy as one might expect). Maureen Johnson’s Name of the Star takes place in Britain and is paranormal…though the main character is American so I’m not sure that counts.

  3. Agreed – so much vaguey-vague in synopsises (synopsii?) lately. Which I either love (Charm & Strange) or loathe (Lucid). But this sounds ace! Will definitely check it out.

    Nice to see you back too :) I’ve missed your posts!

  4. I’m not much of a paranormal reader, but this one does sound good. I so agree about what you said about synopsis’s, they’re either too vague or spoiler-y like the movies trailers you see nowadays that give away half the plot. The mc sounds awesome, but that’s annoying that there were some unanswered questions. Like you, I like my loose ends tied up. Brilliant review!

  5. Okay fine, you’ve convinced me. I was waffling about it but you make it sound so good and I admit it, the haunted museum had me rethinking my decision to pass this one up.

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