UNRAVELED (Intertwined #2)
Paranormal Young Adult
Warning: This review contains spoilers from Intertwined, but no spoilers from Unraveled.
Aden Stone used to think his life was empty. He had no friends. No family. No one to care about him outside of the four souls trapped in his mind, their constant rambling his only form of social interaction. Now, Aden's wishing for the time when his life was a little less crowded. He's down one soul, but is up one girlfriend, two close friends, and an entire town full of supernatural creatures eager to end Aden's life, thereby releasing them from his inexplicable magnetic pull. Oh, and if that weren't enough, he's the new leader of an entire coven of vampires.
While Aden struggles with his newfound popularity, Mary Ann has problems of her own. Her relationship with her father is still tense due to the weight of his recent revelations, and she's found herself increasingly averse to eating any solid foods. She thinks it's due to stress, her knowledge and involvement in the paranormal world messing with her mind, but her boyfriend Riley realizes it could be something more. A symptom of something potentially dangerous not just to Mary Ann, but to all those around her.
Individual problems pale in comparison, however, to the looming threat of a death curse hanging over the heads of Riley, Mary Ann, and Victoria, and every time the four of them turn around a new threat presents itself, this one more disastrous than the one before. And Aden's time is running out. The premonition he was given by one of the souls showing his own demise is inching ever closer. Just when he's found so much to live for, it's all starting to slip away, his only hope being he doesn't take his friends with him when he goes.
True to its title, this second installment begins to disentangle some of the plot intricacies thrust into prominence at the end of Intertwined. As expected, Ms. Showalter does a beautiful job of smoothing out and refining some of the layers so quickly stacked together initially, allowing for quick, even pacing and a more concise understanding of the different villains and their respective roles in the characters' lives. The disparate elements begin to merge together, with independent enemy factions still in place but more unified in purpose, seeking to achieve a common goal while the protagonists try desperately to prevent it. In typical Showalter fashion, the plot is still complex, packed with emotional depth, physical action, and mental intrigue, but the rough strewn paths from the first book have been paved for the most part, providing a more stable journey devoid of the jostling caused by the swift introduction of multiple new elements in a short period of time. New dimensions are of course added, but their placement is less shocking and disorienting, and we find ourselves plowing through the story desperate for more, hindered only by the limitations of our fingers as we clumsily try to turn the pages as quickly as possible.
Where Intertwined spent a great deal of time establishing the various relationships between Aden, Mary Ann, Victoria, and Riley as well as the obstacles each brings to the table individually, Unraveled explores the more subtle nuances of the dual romances. Part of the appeal of this series is the connection we have to both a male and female protagonist and their participation in separate, but ultimately linked, relationships. Both Aden and Mary Ann have inadequacies stemming from their mostly human status amidst a collection of powerful supernatural beings, lacking the brute strength of their partners and wanting passionately to be anything other than the weak link. The differences in the way they each handle their shortcomings is endlessly entertaining, a true testament the great chasm separating the workings of the male and female mind. Mary Ann finds herself plagued by her own inner voice, listening intently as it whispers poisonous half truths that soon cause rational thought to be overshadowed, while Aden, who has actual souls in his head speaking to him at all times, often ignores his voices completely and blunders forward intent on proving his worth through physical means, checking any ruminations of deficiency at the door.
Though the romantic element is augmented, it remains a secondary storyline as several new dimensions concerning our four protagonists are presented. Each of the four has a unique ability, and it's endearing to watch as they struggle individually with the limitations of their gifts, shrouded in a power they thought they mildly understood, but quickly come to see the implications of their capabilities extend beyond the realm of their current level of comprehension. Things are certainly never easy in Ms. Showalter's world–a glistening expanse of glass serves as a surface layer on which we carefully tread in the beginning, and as we continue reading, that pristine smoothness shatters as great fissures appear, providing numerous points of contact with the vast expanse of possibilities waiting for illumination below. There's always something extra beyond what we are currently experiencing, and part of the fun of her world is knowing we understand only as much as we are meant to understand, everything else revealing itself in due time.
As usual, we are left with a rather unexpected turn of events at the conclusion, and we sense the cart of our roller coaster has just reached the top of the hill, teetering precariously before we plummet into the unfamiliar, but we can smile knowing we'll be guaranteed one heck of ride. For those who were overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information imparted in Intertwined, take comfort in the fact that though this world will always be more complicated than most, this installment does a nice job of wrangling some of the wayward plotlines and streamlining them into a more succinct, linear story.