Have you ever read a book that sent chills down your spine and made you want to sleep with the light on? I’ve never read anything as haunting and spine-tingling as Unrest by Michelle Harrison.
Seventeen-year-old Elliott hasn’t slept properly for six months. Not since the accident that nearly killed him. Now he is afraid to go to sleep. Sometimes he wakes to find himself paralysed, unable to move a muscle, while shadowy figures move around him. Other times he is the one moving around, while his body lies asleep on the bed. According to his doctor, sleep paralysis and out of body experiences are harmless – but to Elliot they’re terrifying.
Convinced that his brush with death has opened up connections with the spirit world, Elliott secures a live-in job at one of England’s most haunted locations, determined to find out the truth. There he finds Sebastian, the ghost of a long-dead servant boy hanged for stealing bread. He also meets the living, breathing Ophelia, a girl with secrets of her own. She and Elliott grow closer, but things take a terrifying turn when Elliott discovers Sebastian is occupying his body when he leaves it. And the more time Sebastian spends inhabiting a living body, the more resistant he becomes to giving it back. Worse, he seems to have an unhealthy interest in Ophelia. Unless Elliott can lay Sebastian’s spirit to rest, he risks being possessed by him for ever, and losing the girl of his dreams…
Unrest is one of the creepiest books I’ve read, and Michelle Harrison had me considering leaving the light on at night. It should come with a warning: Do not read at night! Michelle’s writing is so descriptive that you feel like you’re in the room with Elliot, seeing and feeling everything that he does. Michelle mentions in the author note that Elliot’s experiences are based on those of one of her relatives, and it is knowing that her story is based on fact that makes it even scarier. One thing that I especially like about her writing was the way that she builds up tension, making you feel very on-edge as you read. There are several strands of the story that Michelle weaves together like the Witch’s Ladder that becomes an important symbol for Elliot.
I thought both Elliot and Ophelia were really interesting characters. Elliot has no idea why these horrible things keep happening to him while he is asleep and he has to deal with it by himself as nobody else believes him. You experience everything that Elliot does because you’re inside his head and you empathize with him because you wouldn’t want to be in his situation. I don’t think I’d be particularly sane if I woke each night to find myself paralysed and a dripping ghost was sitting on my chest. Ophelia was a character that really grew on me. At first, she’s quite snobbish and doesn’t want anything to do with Elliot. She seems to have put barriers up to everyone and doesn’t want to get close to anyone (with good reason as we later find out). As Elliot gets to know Ophelia he starts to break down her barriers and she becomes someone he can confide in. The more I found out about Ophelia the more I liked her, and so does Elliot.
Unrest has the most shocking, unexpected ending of any book that I’ve read (I wasn’t even sure it would end on a positive note). When I finished I could finally take a breath and marvel at the spine-tingling story Michelle had just told me. If you like to be scared by the words on a page, you can’t go past Unrest.
5 out of 5 stars