Author: S.X. Bradley
Series: Stand Alone
Published: February 8, 2013 by Evernight Teen
Genre: Young Adult Mystery/Suspense
Sixteen year old math whiz, Autumn, spends her days reading about serial killers and dreaming of becoming an FBI Profiler. She never dreams her first case will be so personal. Her world is shattered when she comes home from school and discovers her murdered sister’s body on the living room floor. When the initial evidence points to a burglary gone wrong, Autumn challenges the police’s theory because of the personal nature of the crime. Thinking that finding the killer will bring her family back together, she conducts her own investigation using her affinity for math and forensics, but her plan backfires and her obsession with the case further splinters her family.
When her investigation reveals the killer is someone she knows, Autumn offers herself up as bait and sets a dangerous trap to unmask his true nature and to obtain a confession for her sister’s murder.
Susan grew up in South Texas, about ten miles from the U.S.-Mexican border. As a child she spent the summers in Mexico with her grandparents and extended family. During these vacations, she frequently created mysteries for her siblings and cousins to solve. These mysteries were her first stories. Nancy Drew soon became her childhood hero and inspiration to write mysteries for young adults.
Her greatest joy is her 7 year old daughter who is quite the storyteller and likes to come up with the characters’ names for mom’s stories.
When she’s not writing or studying, you can find her looking after her personal mini-zoo which consists of two fish, and one thief of a dog.
Susan loves estates sales, traveling, spending time with her family, and discovering new books at the Columbus Metropolitan library.
When I was writing Unraveled, I was really captivated by exploring the darkness within good people. Prior to the opening chapter, Autumn is a relatively happy teenager. She’s shy, but she knows exactly what she wants out of life and has an exact plan to get her to the FBI where she wants to work as a profiler. Her home life is strained, but she deals with it because her sister, Celeste, is the buffer. She feels truly loved by Celeste as she is the one person who doesn’t treat her differently because of her math gift.
When Celeste is murdered, it is more than her sister who dies. It’s the loss of the relationship, the friendship, and her champion. Autumn is clearly devastated as anyone would be, but her hatred of Celeste’s killer brings out a darkness within her that scares her.
When I was researching families of murdered victims, I was amazed at their strength and their ability to move forward. Everyone’s story was different, as was their ability to heal. Some forgave the killer, some dealt with the unsolved case, and some became advocates for policy change. There are the five stages of grief and Autumn gets stuck on the second one-Anger. She can’t move past it. In fact, it drives her to find Celeste’s killer. When it begins to consume her, she realizes that if she doesn’t deal with her rage, then she will be sucked into a world that will forever change who she is, and then she’ll be no better than the killer she hunts.
We often read or watch the news and think to ourselves-how would I handle that situation? As a writer I put myself in those roles and try to do them justice, not only so that they resonate with the reader, but so that the novel also honors the people who have lived through Autumn’s circumstance.
“Autumn, yesterday you had told us that when you arrived home the front door was open. Is that correct?”
I leaned in toward the voice recorder on the table and said, “Yes.”
“Are you positive about that? We interviewed some of the neighbors, and none of them saw an open front door at your house?” No doubt Mrs. Jimenez had told them that. Now that she was retired, she had nothing better to do than watch her neighbors. I wondered if she had mentioned seeing anything to Detective Kasanoff. Maybe she saw something unusual that day, a stranger in the neighborhood, a suspicious car, anything.
“The door looked closed, but when I touched my key to the lock, it opened.”
“Do you know who was the last person to leave the house that day?” I looked over at my parents. Mami had her head buried in her hands. She shouldn’t be here, hearing about all of this. Papi had his arm around her and gave me an encouraging smile.
“What time did you leave that morning?”
“About 8:00 a.m.”
“Did you leave through the front door?” I didn’t like where this was going.
“Yes, and I locked it behind me,” I offered before he had a chance to ask the question.
“How can you be sure? Look, I know how it is. It’s easy to get on autopilot in the morning. You do the same thing every morning, you get into a routine.”
I looked him straight in the eye and said, “I don’t forget things, Detective. I know I locked the door that morning.” He studied me for a moment and flipped through his papers.
“That’s right. Here it is. You’re some kind of math genius. You almost made the US Math Olympiad Team last year.” I wanted to reach across the table and strangle him. Someone had butchered my sister in my own living room, and he was reading up on how I’d choked on a freaking geometry question during last year’s Math Olympiad final round and failed to make the team?
“I’m gifted, Detective. I’m not smart enough to be a genius.” He broke into a smile. The first I’d ever seen from him.
“Is there really a difference?”
“Yes, about five IQ points.” He wrote something down.
“Let’s move on. You said you had come home because you’d left your math questions on the kitchen table that morning. Is that correct?” “Yes.”
He lifted the folder up and produced some papers that were protected in a plastic bag. He placed them in front of me. “Are these the questions you were referring to?”
I looked at my parents, and both of them had their eyes glued to the plastic bag in front of me.
Without touching the bag, I looked at the front page and saw the first question. It was the Bernoulli equation question that Celeste had asked me that morning over breakfast.
“Yes, those are the ones.”
“Care to know where we found them?” What did he mean? I’d left them on the kitchen table when I went to brush my teeth after breakfast.
“On the kitchen table?” I asked, trying not to sound sarcastic.
“No. In your backpack. The backpack we found at the scene yesterday.” He looked over at my parents this time. My eyes grew wide, and my mouth fell open.
“Mr. or Mrs. Covarrubias, did either of you put these math papers back into Autumn’s backpack after breakfast?” Papi left for the bakery every morning at 5:30 a.m. so he wasn’t even home. Mami had left right after Celeste and I had eaten because she had a dentist appointment. Maybe Mami’d seen the papers and stuck them in my backpack. Celeste had left about ten minutes before me. Her boyfriend Voss had swung by to pick her up. He did that every day.
“Mami, did you put the papers in my backpack?” Her eyes were swollen, and I swear she was two seconds away from passing out. Her gaze wandered around the room until it fell on me. She shook her head. My heart sank.
“Then it had to be Celeste. She must have put them in there.”
“Her fingerprints weren’t found on the papers.” How was that possible? The oils from her hands would have been transferred onto the paper if she’d stuck them in my backpack. It couldn’t have been her then. That left no one, and I had no answer. That wasn’t good.
“Autumn, look, I’m going to be honest with you. There are some things that just don’t add up here. We have witnesses that say you and your sister were arguing at school that morning and that she looked very upset. Care to explain what that was all about?”
I could feel the cell doors closing in around me. This was a witch hunt, and I was about to be burned at the stake.
My parents were staring at me, begging me with their eyes to explain what was going on. The question mark stabbed my heart. They knew that Celeste and I hardly ever fought. The last time had to have been when I’d accidentally given her a black eye when I was five and was trying to learn to hit a baseball.
I looked at the detective and said the only thing I knew to say. “Detective Kasanoff, I want a lawyer.”
My Thoughts and Review:
I love a good mystery, one that keeps me on my toes and guessing up until the very last moments and that is exactly what I got in Unraveled.
I really liked Autumn, from the very first page I could feel her grief and devastation at losing her sister and my heart went out to her. As if that wasn't bad enough, the cops suspect her of being the very same person who took her sister away from her only moments before.
Determined to find her sister's killer, prove that she is innocent and oh yeah, fall in love for the first time, Autumn has her hands full.
This had just the right amount of mystery, romance and action to keep me turning the pages. I really liked Autumn and how she wasn't your typical heroine. She isn't really kick butt (although she tries), she isn't the popular cheer leading type, in fact just the opposite. She is the nerd. The girl who has been doing her parent's taxes since she was six years old. The “weird math chick”.
I liked that about her. She didn't fall into the stereotypical girl that most YA books have right now. Heck, the girl studied cold cases and serial killers for goodness sakes!
I loved her cousin Eduardo. He was probably my favorite character actually. I really enjoyed how sweet and sincere he was and how he loved “Fall” for who she was and saw past her strangeness and quirkiness. Her Papi was pretty great too.
My only complaint was that there was actually some underlining issues in this that I think could have been expanded a little bit more. Something that I can't get too much into because I don't want to spoil anything but I would have liked to see the author expand on it a little more because I really do think it is an important issue and one that many teens (sadly) face.
Really I think this was an intriguing read that kept me guessing. It sort of reminded me of a YA Mary Higgins-Clark. I would definitely give the author a try again in the future.
I give this one 3 to 3.5 Stars!