*More like 4.5 stars; Received ARC through Goodreads First Reads from author
Unraveling Isobel opens up with one of the best (hilarious and touching) things about the book - Isobel's tendency to turn her thoughts into lists - the first one being reasons for objections to her mom's speedy wedding to Richard or Dick, as she likes to call him. Just a snippet:
1. "His name is Richard, which is really just a fancy version of Dick. I don't think anyone should be in a relationship with a Dick.
5. Dick's first wife and daughter died seven months ago, and it seems to me he could have given it at least a year before bringing us in as the replacements. I may not be the queen of etiquette, but even I know some things are in bad taste."
By doing this, Cook sets up the background of the story well, and the reader instantly understands Isobel's strained situation with her new family and relocation, her crush on her stepbrother, Nathaniel, and her own snarky sense of humor. From the first page alone, I was already laughing and gaining an affection for Isobel.
When Isobel settles into her new room (which used to be Nathaniel's dead sister's room), and her new school, she learns of the haunted history of the estate and begins to see visions and signs of ghosts. The questions that arise are, is Isobel going crazy like her schizophrenic father, is someone trying to make her think she is going crazy, or is there really a ghost haunting her for help?
As Isobel attempts to answer these questions, I was impressed with the author's ability to unravel hints in a well-written, well-paced manner, as well as intersperse scenes of romance and humor, further endearing me to Isobel's plucky character and leaving me eager to find out the ending (I read this all in one sitting). I also found myself relating closely to Isobel with her outlook on school social "politics", and how she decided to play detective. I was pleasantly reminded of episodes of Monk and Murder She Wrote I have seen (great shows, by the way), when Isobel tries to set a trap to determine if there is a ghost or murderer. The twist at the end of the book was also statisfyingly unexpected, as I usually can figure those types of things out, but didn't until close to the very end.
Overall, Unraveling Isobel was a fun, stimulating, and creepy read (without blood and gore), and I was quite surprised how much I liked this book. I would recommend this to young readers (or those young at heart) who is a fan of mystery/detective shows/novels and who enjoys stories with a great mix of suspense, romance, and snarkiness. I definitely plan on reading other books by Eileen Cook, starting with "Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood".