Saturday, July 28, 2012

Book Review: The Unquiet by Jeannine Garsee

The Unquiet
by Jeannine Garsee
July 17, 2012
Bloomsbury USA
388 pages
Source: Net Galley E-ARC

Sixteen-year-old Rinn Jacobs has secrets: One, she’s bipolar. Two, she killed her grandmother. 

After a suicide attempt, and now her parents' separation, Rinn and her mom move from California to the rural Ohio town where her mother grew up. Back on her medications and hoping to stay well, Rinn settles into her new home, undaunted by the fact that the previous owner hanged herself in Rinn's bedroom. At school, her classmates believe the school pool is haunted by Annaliese, a girl who drowned there. But when a reckless séance goes awry, and terrible things start happening to her new friends—yet not to her—Rinn is determined to find out why she can’t be "touched" by Annaliese...or if Annaliese even exists. 

With the help of Nate Brenner, the hunky “farmer boy” she’s rapidly falling for, Rinn devises a dangerous plan to uncover the truth. Soon reality and fantasy meld into one, till Rinn finds it nearly impossible to tell the difference. When a malevolent force threatens the lives of everyone she cares about--not to mention her own--she can't help wondering: who should she really be afraid of?

Annaliese? Or herself? (Taken from Goodreads)

Opening Line

Sometimes, when I dream, the deadliest moment in my life happens all over again.

My Take On It

I love a good ghost story. Always have, always will. Cut my teeth on ghost stories you might say. They were my first foray into the supernatural when it came to reading. My childhood favorite, The Ghost Next Door, proudly sits on my shelf to this day amid all my current favorite books. So when I had the chance to pick up The Unquiet through NetGalley, I jumped at it. Plus I love this cover. LOVE it. Girls underwater seems to be popular trend in YA covers these days but I think this is one of the better examples.

So from the synopsis, you know that the MC, Rinn, is not your typical teenage girl. She's actually been diagnosed as bipolar, and there is this sketchy event in her past, namely, she killed her grandmother. Wait, hold up. She KILLED her grandmother? But it's not as clean cut as it would seem. Welcome to the strange world that author Jeannine Garsee has crafted in her work, The Unquiet. 

There are things that I really like about this book. And there are some things that bother me. Let's start with the likes. 

The Narrator- I really liked Rinn. I think she is a interesting narrator, being bipolar, and I liked that she owns up to her disorder, and does it with humor. If she is acting all crazy, calls herself on it. If Rinn is confused, wondering what is real and what might be her bipolarity she calls herself out. I like that she is a reformed bad girl. And she really was, on all fronts. She was an addict and a manipulator, and shall we say, of "loose moral values." But that wasn't the real Rinn. Those were the side effects of her untreated bipolarity. I guess one of the reasons I liked this character so much was because I liked learning more about this disorder. If the fact that Garsee is a psychiatric nurse is any indication, I'd say the way  Rinn and her disorder are portrayed seems very authentic. And it was fascinating as well as a  bit creepy. We get to see Rinn on her meds and also see Rinn off her meds. It's pretty chilling, let me tell you.

Besides her bipolarity, I liked her sarcasm, liked her voice. This book was a quick, absorbing read for me and one of the reasons was I enjoyed Rinn's voice as narrator.

Super Creepy/ Bordering on Horror- I like creepy books. I like getting that cold-finger-running-up-your-spine feeling when I read a book. I'm not big on a lot of blood and guts and gore, but I definitely like spooky. And The Unquiet has that in spades. In fact, this book reminds me quite a bit of some of my favorite teen slasher flicks, you know the ones with the scary seánce scenes, or the ones where the star doesn't know if she's actually seeing things or if it's her imagination playing tricks on her? But in  this case it's more of a psychological thriller, because Rinn can't figure out what's reality and what is her bipolarity. There are scenes around an indoor pool that totally wigged me out as I read. I seriously don't think I am going to be able to be around an indoor pool, or smell chlorine bleach (love this sensory aspect of the book, btw) without thinking of The Unquiet. And guys, I won't spoil, but let's just say that not everyone who starts out in this book is going to make it through. Garsee is not afraid to kill off a few people here or there. And I LIKE that!

That being said, there are a few things about The Unquiet that irked me. As much as I loved Rinn, pretty much every other character felt very one dimensional. Case in point: the love interest, Nate. I liked Nate, liked that he was the hot band geek/next door neighbor, but there was definitely some insta- love at work here. And though I thought it was cool that he didn't run for the hills when Rinn told him about her disorder AND about her checkered past, their romance was sort of lacking. I just didn't feel it. 

Same goes for Rinn's friends and classmates. While each had their own distinct personality, none of them struck any kind of chord with me. I didn't feel any attachment to them so as the story played out, I had a hard time sympathizing or really caring much about their particular role. Again, kind of like a teen slasher film, lots of sort of nameless bodies ripe for the picking for some demented serial killer. I felt a real sense of disconnect with the secondary characters.

In addition, the plot/ ghost story aspect was a bit predictable. Even though it had a definite creepy-ness to it, there were no jaw dropping revelations as the story played out. But I have to admit, it faults aside, The Unquiet was a page turner. Even kind of knowing the course the book was going to take, I was still pretty riveted. It reminded me of rubberneckers unable to look away from the site of a horrific car wreck. 

In conclusion, The Unquiet has it good points. I really enjoyed Rinn's voice, and I thought the whole bipolar angle was very cool and well done. And as far an spine-tingling books go, this one has definitely got that. I think if the characters had been fleshed out more and the storyline been just a bit less predictable this book would have rated much higher with me. But author Jeannine Garsee has gotten my attention and I will definitely check out more of her work in the future.

3.5/5 Stars

Check out Jeannine Garsee's website HERE

Check out some other reviews of The Unquiet
Mostly YA Book Obsessed
Hippies, Beauty and Books, Oh My!
The Hollow Cupboards
Thoughts at One in the Morning


  1. Oooh, I really want to read this one. I love a good ghost story too. Glad to see you enjoyed it despite some annoyances!

    1. Ghost stories are the best! And this was a scary ghost, really twisted! You should definitely give it a try. I think you would like the character of Nate as well, Leanna:)

  2. Hmm, I still waver on this one, though the aspects you've said are good are things I like! I love unreliable (aka kinda crazy) narrators, and creepy books, but I'm so over predictability right now I think I'd best not. Great review, Heather!

    1. I probably wouldn't have been half as keen on this book had it not been for the bipolar narrator. I love unreliable narrators too, especially when there is mental illness involved. It sort of takes up a notch in my opinion:)

      And yeah, it's hard to look past predictability when there are SO many other great books out there that don't fall into that trap.

  3. This sounds really cool. I like the way you mention it being sensory, like with bleach smell - I kind of dig that in a book. I don't read too many books like this, but I'm thinking I may want to read more of them. And I agree, this cover is awesome.

    1. I really like the sensory aspect too, and it is used VERY effectively in this book. And not just with the bleach, but with other things as well. Uber creepy.


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