Thursday, February 7, 2013

ARC Review: The Archived by Victoria Schwab

Publisher:  Disney-Hyperion
Publication Date:  January 22nd, 2013

Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.

Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.

Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was, a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often—violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.

Being a Keeper isn’t just dangerous—it’s a constant reminder of those Mac has lost. Da’s death was hard enough, but now her little brother is gone too. Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself might crumble and fall.

In this haunting, richly imagined novel, Victoria Schwab reveals the thin lines between past and present, love and pain, trust and deceit, unbearable loss and hard-won redemption.
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

I read this book quite awhile ago, but just haven't been able to review it.  I've written several versions out longhand, but nothing ever seemed good enough.  That said, I am not going to promise a great review, because I honestly don't think I can properly do this amazing story justice.  Here is my attempt...

When I finished reading The Archived back in November, my brief Goodreads review read, "Absolute perfection!  I know it's only November of 2012, but I predict that this will make my 'Best of 2013' list!".  As of now, it is still in the number one spot and holding strong.  The Archived just had so much going for it.  The writing was superb, the story was fantastic, and the characters were amazing.  It was packed with so much emotion, yet still had enough action, adventure, mystery, and intrigue that it never felt heavy, and never, ever stalled.

The thing that I loved the most about this book was its originality.  Books, in general, fall into genres because they mostly draw off of the same themes.  This applies especially to YA; If something gets a lot of attention, it gets beaten to death (look at all the vampire books that came out in the wake of Twilight's success, dystopians on the heels of The Hunger Games).  Sure, authors build on these themes, and make them their own, and I'm not saying that there haven't been amazing books written because of this type of inspiration, because there HAVE been, but I absolutely love it when a TRULY original idea comes along to knock my socks off.  Victoria Schwab did this when she wrote The Archived.  I loved the idea that when a person dies, the details of who that person was and the life they lead- their history- is archived by Historian, to be read by Librarians.  I loved that there is a legacy left behind by each person, whether they knew it or not.  As you all know, I am a lover of books (duh).  That said, the idea of the history of every person being shelved and possibly read and learned from, like a book, sometime in the future, really appealed to me.  I knew from the moment I saw the synopsis that I needed to read it, and I don't think I've ever jumped for joy over receiving an ARC in the mail like I did when I received this one (Thanks SO much, Disney Publishing!).

So this book has a great idea behind it.  I read books that start with a great idea, and fail when it comes to execution, all the time.  Did this one?  No effing way!  Here's why...
  • The Characters:  Every single character, no matter how big or small their role was, made a difference in this book.  There wasn't one who was inconsequential, and I think that had a tremendous amount to do with Victoria's characterization.  She made them count.  In fact, some of the characters I went through the book believing to be "minor" turned out to be anything but...  That said, I really formed attachments to the two main characters.  Mackenzie (Mac), our protagonist, was fabulously drawn.  Very human on a very emotional level, but quite kick-ass as well, in her determination to be the best at her job as a Keeper (someone who makes sure Histories who are awoken don't escape the Narrows- an in-between place- into the real world), and eventually make Crew, like her late grandfather.  Her job is incredibly dangerous, very lonely, and quite thankless to boot.  Add to that the fact that she and her parents are dealing with the sudden death of her younger brother, and she is especially fragile.  Then there was Wesley...  *swoon*  Another Keeper close to Mac's age, Wesley is the perfect person to bring her intensity down a level.  She meets him when her family moves to The Coronado, and old hotel with a lot of history, and apparently, a good number of Histories lurking in its Narrows as well.  Which brings me to the setting...
  • The World Building:  The Archived is VERY character and plot driven, and honestly, I probably wouldn't have noticed much if Victoria had chosen to neglect the element of world building and setting.  That said, the fact that she spent the time to really give us a rich, descriptive world for this story... I love her for it.  The Coronado reminded me of a very old woman, who you can tell was once a great beauty, by her grace and the vestiges of charm and elegance that you see in her eyes and smile.  I love buildings with history and Victoria did an outstanding job bringing this place to life.  The same is true for the Archive itself.  The pictures I had in my imagination of this library where the Histories were stored, and the layout of it! I was astounded by the detail her words brought forth in my mind.  Finally, the Narrows.  A nightmare on paper...
  • The Plot/Pacing/Story:  I will admit that the first couple chapters were slow for me, but after I got through them, it was abundantly clear how necessary those initial chapters and their slow build were.  Once the story did pick up, I felt a undeniable compulsion to keep reading.  The pacing was great, with just the right amount of information held back, to keep me turning pages, with reveals happening at the perfect times, to never leave me feeling frustrated.  As I said early in this review, the story had uniqueness in spades.  So brilliantly different from anything I've ever read.  It makes me want to take up residence in Victoria Schwab's imagination for a day or two (especially given The Archived's vast departure in genre from her debut, The Near Witch).
  • The Relationships/Romance:  Although part of the story, which I addressed above, I felt like I had to address these elements separately   First off, can we say, "Yay!" for no love triangles?  Yes, there is a sort-of whisper of one, but it never felt like a true love triangle to me because I don't think it ever felt that way to Mac.  Secondly, I loved that there was no insta-love.  Mac actually questions her feelings about Wesley more than once, wondering if they weren't more to to with the fact that he could relate to her and what she does, and whether they were more out of loneliness than actual romantic inclinations.  I felt like that showed a level of maturity that I wish was present in more YA.  That aside, I really enjoyed the relationship between Mac and Wesley and I can't wait to see where it leads in book number two.  As for the other relationships, I felt intense emotions as it related to Mac's relationship with her grandfather, Da, from whom she took over her Keeper position.  He trained her and vouched for her, even when the powers that be felt she was too young.  He wasn't the warm and fuzzy type, but still made her feel loved, but also left her t figure a lot of what she does out on her own, which made things quite complicated.  Same was true for her connections to her parents and late brother.  Her feelings toward her brother were intense and heartbreaking, and while her feelings toward her parents were strained because of her brother's untimely death and their difficulty coping with it, they were very real.  I also wanted to touch on Mac's relationship with Roland, her sort-of mentor at the Archive.  Another rather complex one, full of secrets, but very rich for its intricacies.  There were some very key twists involving Roland, and I'm glad I paid attention to him from the beginning.  Finally, there was Owen.  I'm not going to say a whole lot about him, but he is a major player in this story, and the emotions he brings forth are puzzling, at best, which is why I found myself so drawn to his story, as it related to Mac's feelings toward him.
Well- that was exhausting, as I actually ended up writing an entirely different review than the any of the ones I had written out longhand.  It turned out to be a conglomerate of all of them... I guess if you get nothing else from this review, get this... YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK!  It is brilliant and it really is perfection.  Victoria Schwab experienced no "sophomore slump" with The Archived!  She will forevermore join the ranks of  likes of David Levithan, John Green, Cassandra Clare, Libba Bray, Ellen Hopkins, and Neal Shusterman, as an author whose books I will read without needing to know anything except that she wrote them.  (Pretty good for someone with two published books under her belt!)

My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★++++ 

Grade Level Recommendation:  This book is perfectly fine for MS readers and up.  I would even give it to a lot of 5th graders, because content-wise, it is fine.  That said, I think the ideas behind it would be more intriguing to the more mature readers.  Ages 10 and up (5th grade+).

**Don't forget to enter my GIVEAWAY for a hardcover copy ofNOBODY and a paperback copy of EVERY OTHER DAY by clicking HERE!! Ends Sunday, February 17th. USA/Canada**


  1. Wow ~ Love this review.. I already knew I wanted to read this novel ~ and after reading the "sneak peek" available through NetGalley, I know I'm already hooked... It's difficult to find something truly original these days, so paint me super excited to finally get my hands on The Archived...

    Keely @ Realms of an Open Mind

  2. I adored this book! I really can't wait for the second one to see what happens with Wes.

  3. I adored this book! I thought the world building was excellent and the whole idea was so unique. Great review!

    Kate @ Ex Libris


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