Tuesday 10 April 2012

Review: Unrest by Michelle Harrison

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 dead that wants to live again . . . and it wants Ophelia, too . . .

Two months ago I posted a review of James Dawson's Hollow Pike. Although I didn't voice this in my review, at the time I felt that it was probably going to be the stand-out teen supernatural book of the year. I was wrong. Although I enjoyed Hollow Pike a lot, Michelle Harrison's Unrest is now the ghost story to beat this year!

I have not read any of Michelle's Thirteen Treasures books, as I am not particularly fired up about fairies, however nasty they might be. However, I had high hopes for this one as many of my blogger friends have talked to me about how great Michelle's writing is, and with this book being aimed at a teen audience, and also having a male main character I had a feeling that this would be more my thing. I was not to be disappointed - Unrest is an exquisitely written ghost story that will have the hairs on the back of your neck standing to attention as shivers run down your spine.

The main character of the story is Elliott, a seventeen-year-old who very nearly died in a hit-and-run accident some months earlier. In actual fact, Elliott was clinically dead for a few minutes as the paramedics fought to save him as he watched on. Yes, you read that right - Elliott's spirit/ghost/call-it-what-you-may saw his lifeless body lying in the road, his rescuers surrounding it, until his was suddenly pulled back into his body as he was resuscitated. Since then Ellioot has struggled to sleep and he often finds himself moving around outside of his sleeping body, and is haunted by the ghost of Tess Fielding, a young lady who committed suicide some years earlier in the flat where he now lives with his father.

As Elliott's night time experiences become increasingly more sinister and threaten to drive him insane he decides to take action by applying for a job at a local living museum that is rumoured to be haunted. In doing this he hopes to discover whether he can actually see ghosts when he is asleep, or whether he is just going mad. At the museum he meets the standoffish Ophelia, who initially holds no attraction for him at all, but following an incident that finds the pair being carted off to the local police station Ophelia begins to warm a little to Elliott and he starts to see through the icy fa├žade that she hides behind. He also has his first night staying at the museum, following one of their ghost walks, and at this point things begin to get nasty for Elliott as he works out that he is definitely not mad, he really can see ghosts but as such he could also be in a great deal of danger.

This is an outstanding ghost story laced with mystery and menace, and to say much more about the plot would spoil it as there are a number of twists, some of which I did see coming. Away from the plot though there are many other great elements to Michelle's writing. Her characters are spot on. Unrest is written in the first person, and as someone who works with a lot of teenage boys I can assure you that Michelle has absolutely nailed Elliott's voice. I can just imagine her loitering around bus shelters or sneaking into sixth form common rooms, making notes of the language and dialogue used by seventeen year old boys. I am guessing that Michelle has also done a great deal of research into out of body experiences as, although I can't personally claim to have had one, these scenes seemed very real and spine chilling. I used to think it would be cool to have an out of body experience. No longer, thank you very much!

The pacing of the story is perfect, and I found myself completely drawn into Elliott's world, and ended up reading it well into the night (I love the school holidays!). The ending is also spot on, with every loose end neatly tied up, and I hope it is left this way. Although I would love to read more YA supernatural fiction from Michelle Harrison I think my lasting memories of this being such an enjoyable read might be marred slightly should there be a sequel.

Unrest is published by Simon Pulse and is due to be released on 26 April. My huge thanks go to the publisher for sending me a copy to read/review.

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