Book Review: The Unwanteds

Book Review: The UnwantedsThe Unwanteds by Lisa McMann
Series: Unwanteds #1
Published by Aladdin on August 30th 2011
Pages: 390

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 occurence 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.

Billed as a magical tale with a sprinkle of dystopian, The Unwanteds came to my attention simply due to my previous experience with McMann's work. Through her Wake series, I fell in love with her writing and ability to take readers to the edge. Now with her branching into the Middle Grade genre, I knew that I had to give The Unwanteds a shot.


While Reading:

In the land of Quill, everything is by the book. You follow their rules. Their ideals of how this society should function. If you step out of bounds, you can earn an Infraction; which, if you are a child, can then lead you down the path to being an Unwanted. You see upon a child's thirteenth birthday, they are separated into one of three groups, The Wanteds, The Necessaries, and The Unwanteds. Being selected as an Unwanted is a death sentence. But here in Quill, there is more than meets the eye. As our hero discovers, classification as an Unwanted is not the ending, but rather the beginning.

McMann begins The Unwanteds building up her worlds. The black and white world of Quill. The horror of the classification system. The parents moving on as if nothing happened if their own child is declared an Unwanted. I found this world to be beautiful in its starkness. The rules. The structure. The absolute certainty that losing Unwanted child was for the best. In contrast is Artime. A world full of color. Where the Unwanteds go to explore their creativity. Art… music… writing… and find the hidden magic of these talents.

While I was somewhat bothered by the lack of other creative outlets, I also understood that McMann cannot mention every creative talent out there. If she had, then the book probably would have been considerably thicker. But I still wish that there had been some variety. Maybe a scientist or two to showcase that creativity, imagination is used in places that many might not think of.

Final Verdict:

The Unwanteds is a fun, exciting read that kept me entertained all the way through. I loved the contrasts of the worlds. The characters were varied. Each having their own voices. I will admit to liking some a lot more than others. But as a whole, a very solid offering. I will hold back on trying to comparing it to Harry Potter or The Hunger Games simply because I did not see it. Yes, it is a middle grade novel. Yes, it has dystopian hints. But that does not instantly make it like the other novels. The Unwanteds is simply an original tale that captured my imagination. End of story.

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