Is it just me, or is there some really weird Photoshop-action going on in the model's crotch? It's easier to see on the actual cover. My officemate just caught me inspecting it very carefully, with my eyeballs about two inches away from said crotch. Oh, well. I'm pretty sure that my rep as Resident Library Weirdo was set in stone long before that moment.
Seventeen-year-old Isobel has been uprooted from Seattle, forced to move to a remote island because her mother met some dude online and married him a mere three months later. Obviously, Richard Wickham—Isobel insists on calling him 'Dick'—would be on her Bad List anyway, but she doesn't just dislike him on principle. Oh, no. She also dislikes him because he's pretentious and taken to occasionally breaking out a fake English accent (a la Madonna) and because his wife and daughter died, like, five minutes ago and she thinks it's creepy that he's remarried so quickly.
Also, her new stepbrother is her age, super-hot, and off-limits due to the whole they're-related-now thing.
Now, some authors would stop there. But in Unraveling Isobel, Eileen Cook BRINGS THE DRAMA. A single night after she's moved into this creepy old house with her crappy new family, Isobel knows that trouble is a-brewing: either the house is haunted, or she's going crazy.
As much as it pains me to say this, I think that this book actually suffers from too much drama. I mean, we've got the ghost story and Isobel's worries about her sanity. We've got conflict between Isobel and her mother, old and new—the marriage, of course, but her mother is also anti-art and says things like "Do you know how many things I put on hold for you? How much I sacrificed over the years? Can't you give me one year of your life when I've given you seventeen?"—and between Isobel and her new stepfather. We've got conflict at school (Mean Girl Cheerleaders, YAAAAAAAAAY!), rumors about the recent deaths in the Wickham family, the tension between Isobel and her new stepbrother (both new-sibling-related and sexual), as well as a decades-old mystery. There's so much going on that other than Isobel*, the characters never really become more than archetypes: Cranky Hot Stepbrother, the Single Mom, the Possibly Evil Stepfather**, the Bitchy Cheerleader, the Crabby Old Librarian, the Young and Hip Librarian.
That said, it's still a totally enjoyable zoomer of a read, and would be a great pick for fans of Lois Duncan or Lisa McMann.
*Who is crabby, imperfect, and occasionally hilarious; she refuses to be pushed around, has believable trains of thought re: haunted vs. crazy, and is taken to saying things like, "When you're seventeen and the only friend you have in town is a stuffed animal that doesn't even belong to you, I think it's safe to say your life is officially in the shitter."
**At moments, he channels John Ritter's Ted from that episode of Buffy. (But, no, he's not a robot.)
Book source: ILLed through my library.