And Then Everything Unraveled by Jennifer Sturman 2009
IQ "My armor. You know. Self-protective camouflage. Everybody has armor. Even you, I bet, though I still haven't figured out what form yours takes." Quinn pg. 169
Sixteen year old Delia Truesdale's mother, T.K. has disappeared. T.K. was working on a project in Antarctica with an environmental group that she actively supported. Delia learns a few weeks later that the ship carrying her mother and the crew has vanished and they are all presumed dead. Delia refuses to believe it, especially since T.K. has a plan for everything and she's much "too organized to simply disappear" (back cover). Over Delia's objections she is sent to live with her boho aunt Charley (who has no experience raising kids) in New York City, her mother's other sister, Patience is uptight and in charge of Delia's schooling and finances. The move from Silicon Valley to NYC is a cultural shock. When the two aunts aren't battling over Delia, they are fighting over every little thing. All Delia wants is to find her mother and not fall in like with Quinn, the king of the Do-Nothings. It becomes clear to Delia that she is the only one who can do something about her mother's disappearance but the case quickly becomes much more intricate than she thought.
I'm not sure if it's an element of a mystery novel or not but I've decided that I'm really bothered when a character foreshadows something very dramatically (i. e. "I should have known..." or "How could I have been so stupid..." etc). These statements have really started to bug me and there are a few of those throughout the book. The ending was an annoying type of cliffhanger and yet as I type this review and reflect I've realized that I'm not in a hurry to read the sequel (which I own). I thought it was somewhat ironic that the ice queen Aunt Patience was a more well-rounded character to me than Aunt Charley. I found Charley to be the typical free-spirit, reluctant-to-play-mom-but-rises-to-the-occasion-beautifully aunt. Patience was more complex, in part because Delia doesn't spend much time with her so there's an air of mystery about her. Of course we have the genius best friend who is a whiz with technology and thus can crack anything. I really need to find a friend like that because they only seem to exist in books and movies.....And I have to admit I'm skeptical at the power a certain oil company yields so I was disappointed that I couldn't entirely believe the plot. The most ANNOYING part though is a *spoiler: highlight to read* that Delia finally told Quinn what was going on and not only does the author write the scene off camera (so to speak) but we don't get to read about his reaction afterward, we are just told to assume he accepts it. Ugh no!* End of spoiler
All that being said, I really liked the mystery element. It's not ridiculously dramatic (as in a teenager solving a murder or something) and while one particular villain was obvious, I was not expecting another villain (hinted at via psychic in what I thought was a clever twist). The mystery is rather complex and it's definitely original. Delia is a down-to-earth, mostly logical main character who neither wallows in self-pity nor is she overconfident about her looks. In short, she has good self esteem. I enjoyed reading about Delia's comparing and contrasting NYC to Silicon Valley having only spent four tourist-y days in NYC and never been to California. Plus as flat a character as Quinn was, he embodied typical boy in being so on and off so I definitely could relate to Delia's confusion. I did roll my eyes at the classic Romeo and Juliet scene performed in drama class of course in front of everyone.
And Then Everything Unraveled is an appealing read due to its mostly plausible mystery and the engaging voice of Delia. The setting of NYC is a vibrant one in this book as well and I liked how some of the seemingly-random occurrences were tied into the story. I have to admit I don't see why the author couldn't have made this one mystery story instead of making a sequel. I thought the book was moving slowly and knowing I had the sequel didn't appease me, it just bothered me that I knew the mystery wouldn't be wrapped up and the book would mostly be about the more mundane and the data-gathering. Most of the characters were typical, Quinn is nothing special, Aunt Charley is great fun but still typical (there was a time when she would be atypical but now that I'm a somewhat jaded reader....haha) and Thad is predictable although his motives are fuzzy. The mystery did keep me on my toes when Delia stopped thinking about Quinn. I will eventually read the sequel especially since I'm hoping Delia's half Indian side (her father died) will be explored.
Disclosure: Won (over a year ago I think which is super embarrassing) from Marjolein Book Blog and the author (autographed). Thank you both so much!