Friday, September 9

The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann

In accordance with the FTC, Quill Café would like to disclose that the reviewer received this book as a gift. The opinions expressed are hers alone and no monetary compensation was offered to them by the author or publisher. Cover art is copyright of Aladdin and is used solely as an aide to the review.

In the land of Quill, at the age of thirteen, children are sorted into categories: Wanteds, Necessaries and...the Unwanteds. Quill only wants the best and the strongest in its midst. Creativity is forbidden. Those who show signs of it are marked as Unwanted and sent to their deaths.

Alex and Aaron Stowe are identical twins. While Aaron is proud to become a Wanted, Alex knows his fate. He is an Unwanted and is headed for the Death Farm.

However, when the sentenced children arrive there, what they discover is something quite different. A hidden magical world called Artimé, created and protected by a man called Mr. Today. Artimé is the refuge for the condemned people of Quill, where all are free to express their creativity and live as they wish to.

All seems well in the land of Artimé but Alex can't forget his twin and the harsh, controlled world he has left him in. Artimé is a haven but it is still at risk. The Unwanteds of Artimé must prepare themselves for the time when they are discovered.

Can creativity win over oppression in the end?

I learned of this book from the author herself, at the Book Blogger Convention here in New York City, in May of this year. I'd heard Lisa's name mentioned by many excited book reviewers but I didn't know anything about her or her books. Hearing about her new novel from her was exciting enough but it was the premise that had me hooked.

Two worlds, one where children are punished for being creative and another where it is the most revered of strengths? Not to mention one of these lands was called 'Quill.' I had to read it. Therefore, when Sydnee sent me a copy of the book, I was ecstatic.

I was not disappointed in 'The Unwanteds' at all. Alex is a marvelous protagonist, easy to sympathise with, whom you just can't help rooting for. I was fascinated to see how these children, so stunted from their time in Quill, had to learn what things like "music" and "jokes" were and how to express themselves without fearing what might happen to them if they did.

Creativity may have been a death sentence in Quill but in Artimé it could even be used as as an evasive strategy, a weapon and more. I have read plenty of books that incorporate magic but none quite in the same way as 'The Unwanteds.' Creativity is power, where you can use words to make the mundane magnificent, song and dance to defend yourself and paintbrushes to render yourself invisible or construct a doorway to another world.

I found 'The Unwanteds' to be an enticing read that was hard to put down. There was always something interesting happening, never a dull moment or a lull. I was constantly curious as to what would happen next and things never seemed to unravel in quite the way I would have expected.

The characters are wonderfully written. I liked that Alex was still a flawed character with his own aggravations and insecurities. I was also captivated by the way in which the people of Quill lived. It was interesting to see how Alex's brother, Aaron, was trained to do nothing but succeed and help strengthen Quill. It was amazing to think that in the confined way that the people of Quill lived, they thought they were doing the right thing to purge Quill of all creative individuals.

'The Unwanteds' isn't just a light fantasy. It is full of conflict and conundrums that will twist your gut and keep you thinking, well after the last page is turned. What I liked most about 'The Unwanteds' is that there is no neat ribbon, cookie-cutter resolution. That doesn't mean it's spilling over with loose ends but it doesn't give the façade of "happily ever after."

I recommend 'The Unwanteds' to those looking to be swept up in a fantastical story and to anyone who has ever felt like an Unwanted.

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