SSBA Book Review 4 – Unrest

Unrest by Michelle Harrison

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Authentic and accessible, emotional rather than chilling, Unrest explores the phenomena of sleep paralysis and out-of-body-experiences through the eyes of teenage narrator Elliot. After his near-death experience in a road accident, Elliot drops out of college to recover. But all the time, things are getting worse instead of better.

Suffering from a chronic and crippling lack of sleep, his life is sliding out of view and out of control: that’s when he decides to investigate his paranormal experiences and face his fears.

I really enjoyed this novel’s pace and style; the language and characters were authentic, which gave credibility to the plot events, and the concept was highly original. I don’t know of any other novels for teens to have explored this kind of subject matter in this way. What I particularly appreciated was that it wasn’t gratuitously violent or gory. This could easily have been another horror-story where the gruesome and grotesque scenes dominate any attempt at a storyline. But I felt this was sensitively drawn and story-led, exploring an intriguing set of ideas and questions about life and death.

Against the backdrop of contemporary culture where so many books, games and films aimed at a teenage audience are splattered with gore and violence, this story stands out. However, some of our student (and staff) readers in the SSBA group found the pace too slow to get going, and others just couldn’t believe in the supernatural elements.

An acquired taste perhaps, but well-written and thought-provoking overall.

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