Book Review: Unfolding by Jonathan Friesen

Jonah is a senior in high school, he struggles with both epilepsy and severe scoliosis, and he has feelings for his best friend, the beautiful and prophetic Stormi. But things suddenly start getting stranger and Jonah is swept away on an adventure out of town with Stormi that changes Jonah's perspective and brings to light secrets their small Oklahoma town has been keeping.

Book Cover - Unfolding by Jonathan Friesen
Title: Unfolding
Pages: 272
My Rating: 3.5 Stars
More Info: Goodreads, Amazon, Publisher


*I received an ecopy of this book via NetGalley. This has not influenced my review.*

This book was strange, but I liked it. A summary of my thoughts would be that the weakness of the book was the plot, but the strength was the characterization and voice of the main character, Jonah. But now for a little more detail…

Jonah was so socially awkward sometimes that I wasn’t sure if I should laugh or cry. But mostly I just kind of loved him for how frank, straightforward, and honest he was, or at least tried to be, even if he did stumble over his words sometimes when it came to his feelings for Stormi. And as I said, I thought his characterization and development were great and loved his voice. That was what kept me hooked and reading.

Stormi did not make a good first impression on me though. I still can’t say I liked her by the end (her cryptic-ness especially drove me crazy), but I disliked her less when I saw more of her actually being there for Jonah.

I loved the inclusion of disability (Jonah had scoliosis and epilepsy) and how it wasn’t the focus of the story but still had an effect on Jonah and his life. In other words, Jonah was first and foremost a person, but one with some added difficulties. It gave me new insight into the struggles, experiences, and strength of those who have these particular disabilities. As much as I am aware and try to not take things for granted, I still do, and it’s books like this that remind me of that and give me more respect for what others go through. I will note, however, that *MILD SPOILER ALERT* the epilepsy ended up being some sort of divine curse and was suddenly cured at the end. Having disabilities unrealistically disappear isn’t ideal, but it at least doesn’t change the realism of it and the insight it provided up to that point. *END SPOILER ALERT*

There was also this whole air of mysteriousness and a biblical aspect involving curses and the idea that we pay for the sins of our fathers. There was a surreal feel to some of it too, certain things that weren’t entirely realistic. They might have tied into the biblical aspect, but I’m not knowledgeable enough on that to know. So I’m not sure how to classify this book, but between that and Stormi’s visions, I went with paranormal even though there wasn’t a whole lot of paranormalness.

The only real problem I had was that I still don’t understand what Stormi being a prophet had to do with anything, or why it had to be her to uncover the town secret, or why they had to go on a trip to find this out, or why Stormi was so scared of Tres, or why Q wanted Tres, or why Stormi and Tres were so cryptic, or why the Hive was part of the story at all… In other words, the plot was weak and it made sense in that I understood what was happening, but it didn’t make sense in that I didn’t see the reason for a lot of things and a lot wasn’t really explained. I guess the book wasn’t so much about the plot though, it was just about a short period of time in Jonah’s life when everything suddenly changed, he went on a kind of adventure, he discovered a lot of truths about himself and the people in his life, and his perspective shifted. It was the story of Jonah coming into his own.

So overall, I enjoyed this book and am really glad I read it. I’m so torn about the rating though because I feel like I ought to give it 3.5 stars for the strange plot and the unnecessarily cryptic characters, but, if I based my rating on pure enjoyment, I would give it all 4 stars because I found myself drawn in by Jonah and not wanting to put the book down!


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  1. Greg

    Ooh I love that cover. This one has me curious because I want to know what the secret of the town is. 🙂 And her being a prophet is kinda interesting. It’s too bad the plot couldn’t be a little stronger to go with all the good characterization. Nice to see epilepsy represented- I don’t think I’ve read a book with that condition. The vagueness might bug me though- I don’t need EVERYTHING spelled out lol but if it’s too vague as to what’s going on, that can be irritating. Still sounds like it was mostly pretty good.

    1. Kristen Burns

      Lol the secret was pretty messed up. It is too bad about the plot, but at the book did the characterization well, and that’s the more important thing to me. I had also never read about either epilepsy or scoliosis, so it was good to see both of those in a book. I mean, I knew what was going on, like it wasn’t confusing, but some of the characters were vague and cryptic which is a major pet peeve of mine, but I guess that means the rest was really good since I still managed to enjoy the book!

  2. Maureen Beatrice

    This sounds like an interesting read. And that cover really grabs my attention!
    I’m sorry to read the plot wasn’t very good, but I definitely love books with good characterization. I’m also really curious to read how the epilepsy and scoliosis fits into this story.
    Great review! 😉

    1. Kristen Burns

      It was an interesting read! And I care more about characters than plot, so yeah, at least that was good 🙂 And it was nice seeing disabilities included! Thanks 🙂

  3. Wattle

    This does sound a bit on the odd side (the whole curse thing), there’s good odd and then there’s just ‘well that was weird’ and I’m not quite sure where this would sit (guess I’d have to read it to find out!) hmmm. Character driven stories can be so satisfying sometimes.

  4. Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity

    It’s always a good sign when sheer enjoyment can ush a books rating up. I often dither about rating based on enjoyment as opposed to just the book itself because enjoyment is part of it isn’t it? It does sound like an interesting read, though. I don’t know about the biblical aspect and paying for the sins of the parents. I also have a mixed opinion of cryptic characters, if written well they’re alright but otherwise they just get frustrating while you shout at the book saying ‘just tell me’.

    1. Kristen Burns

      It’s definitely a good sign when that happens, but rating is just so hard sometimes! At least, in this case, since I round half stars up, it’s the same rating on Amazon/GR either way. The book wasn’t religious, if that’s what you’re worried about. It was just the “sins of our fathers” aspect and some, like, seemingly divine storms and things. Unnecessarily vague/cryptic characters are possibly my biggest pet peeve in books, but I guess the fact that I still liked the book anyway means the rest was good enough to make up for it.

  5. AngelErin

    This sounds different to me. Maybe because I haven’t read enough books with characters with disabilities. I don’t mind a strong character driven book either. I’m going to add it to my TBR! Fantastic review. 😀

  6. Dragonfly @ Our Familiarium

    wow you are good at finding books! I’d never heard of a book with a severe scoliosis. I have scoliosis, not severe thank god, but my neck and upper back do bother me a lot. So I can only imagine what it is to live with sever scoliosis. So much potential with the biblical curses of pay for the sins of our fathers. Too bad it wasn’t that well executed. I think I favor character driven that plot driven so I would have probably given it a good review too.

    1. Kristen Burns

      I had a friend in high school who had surgery for scoliosis, but it wasn’t so severe that you ever noticed it. The character in this book though had it really bad. I’m not into that whole “we pay for the sins of our fathers” concept in books, but like you I favor characters over plot, so luckily the character aspect was good enough for me to still like this!

  7. Bookworm Brandee

    I don’t know, Kristen…I was thinking this would be good with your description of Jonah, how his disability didn’t define him, and how you loved his voice. But that paragraph of all the things you didn’t get? That makes me worry. I mean, I suppose I don’t have to have all my questions answered by the end of the book, even a standalone, BUT some of these things seem rather paramount to the plot and yet you didn’t understand them by the end? Well, I’m happy you felt like it was a worthwhile read. I guess Jonah might make up for the faults 😉 but I won’t be in a hurry to pick up this one.

    1. Kristen Burns

      It wasn’t so much that important plot questions weren’t answered. There was an answer to the town secret and why it was kept secret and all that. It was more that there were just a lot of things I didn’t see the point of including, and the questions that didn’t get answered were part of those things that I didn’t really understand the point of in the first place? Idk it’s hard to explain. But I still really enjoyed it anyway.

  8. Lori

    I love a book with great characterization. Sorry the plot wasn’t everything you wanted it to be, but it does sound interesting. Great review!