Monday, December 19, 2011

Review: The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann

Publisher: Aladdin
Publication Date: August 30th, 2011

Every year in Quill, thirteen-year-olds are sorted into categories: the strong, intelligent Wanteds go to university, and the artistic Unwanteds are sent to their deaths.

Thirteen-year-old Alex tries his hardest to be stoic when his fate is announced as Unwanted, even while leaving behind his twin, Aaron, a Wanted. Upon arrival at the destination where he expected to be eliminated, however, Alex discovers a stunning secret—behind the mirage of the "death farm" there is instead a place called Artime.

In Artime, each child is taught to cultivate their creative abilities and learn how to use them magically, weaving spells through paintbrushes and musical instruments. Everything Alex has ever known changes before his eyes, and it's a wondrous transformation.

But it's a rare, unique occurrence for twins to be separated between Wanted and Unwanted, and as Alex and Aaron's bond stretches across their separation, a threat arises for the survival of Artime that will pit brother against brother in an ultimate, magical battle.
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

I'm not typically one of those people who re-reads books.  I've read the Harry Potter books a couple of times, The Hunger Games, To Kill a Mockingbird... I've read Gone With the Wind five or six times.  But really, I don't do it much.  There are so many new and exciting books, who has time for re-reads?  I tell you this about myself, and I list some of the books I have re-read, because I want you to understand the company this book keeps when I say that I have read it twice.  Pretty freakin' good company, if you ask me...

Kirkus says that this book is "The Hunger Games meets Harry Potter."  That statement alone sold me, and while the quality was definitely there, I don't think that it's true.  This book stands alone.  The story is completely unique and I think Kirkus did not do this book justice by comparing it to those two books.  Sure, it probably sold a lot of books, boldly displayed on the cover the way it is, but this book very much has the potential to be a modern classic in its own right.

I've read a couple of Lisa Mcmann's books, and to be honest, I was surprised when I heard that she was writing a MG novel.  Cryer's Cross and the Wake Trilogy, while great, are pretty dark and scary, and I was very curious to see if that wouldn't bleed into this MG book.  I even went so far as to preview it before letting my 10 year old read it (she LOVED it!).  I got an advance copy, and was drawn in immediately.  Lisa develops each character nicely, at an even pace, so you kind of feel like you're getting to know them as you would people you meet in real life.  In most cases, you don't immediately connect with someone; connection develops over time, and that's how it is with the characters in this book.  As far as the story is concerned, I loved it.  I loved the premise of kids believing that they are going to their deaths because they showed creative ilk, only to find themselves part of this fantastical world where their creativity isn't punished, but celebrated!  I will say that the story is a bit more fast-paced than what I am used to as a reader of YA, but that works here because most MG readers lose interest if the book isn't action-packed enough.   Kids ages 7-12 don't necessarily have the attention span to  wait it out while the storyline develops.  I think a lot of MG authors fail to create a strong story with enough action to keep kids focused and engaged.  Lisa McMann has absolutely no problem with this.  As much as I loved the story though, my favorite part of this book was the world building.  I have always loved Fantasy as a genre because of the worlds that are so different from anything I can think up.  I love it when I find an author who can stretch my imagination and make me really see what I never thought possible.  I would love to be an Unwanted in Lisa's rendering of Artime.  What a world!  

I blog YA, but I actually read a lot of MG fiction as well.  From time to time I review it here, if I like it well enough.  Obviously, I felt like this book was worth reviewing.  Of all the MG books I've read this year, this is the best!  I think that YA readers would adore this book, and should definitely give it a go!  You won't be disappointed!  Looking forward to the release  of book #2, Island of Silence, in August of 2012.

My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★  

Grade Level Recommendation:  This is a Middle Grade book, and I think it's fine for most MG readers.  That said, MG is ages 7-12 and I don't think I would read this to my 7 year-old twins just yet because I think they would be scared.  I would say this is best for ages 8 and up (3rd grade+).

*Don't forget to register for my 25 Days of Jubilation Giveaway!  Three lucky entrants will win their choice of one book off of my Top 25 YA Books of 2011!  Click HERE!*

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