Tuesday, 28 February 2012
(Review) The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann
Page count: 390
Genre(s): Middle Grade/Fantasy/Dystopia
Buy it: Amazon/Book Depository
Add it on: Goodreads
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.
Synopsis from Goodreads
First things first, what a great cover! It's one of the main reasons I bought this book. Sadly, my love for the contents didn't live up to my love of the cover. I loved the concept of this book. However, I feel the history and rules of the dystopian society weren't as fleshed out as I'd have liked. Which leads me to one of my main concerns with the book, which is totally not the author's fault, but my own. I'm simply too old for this book. If I was about 10, I'm sure I'd have adored this book. But as an adult, even with my Peter Pan syndrome, I found this book too simplistic for my tastes, in writing, world building and characters. This was mostly a fun read, though it did take me until about the last third to get properly into it. I found the book dove straight into the deep end introducing us to the world of Artime, but then slowed down in the middle and became a little too mundane, despite being a story featuring a talking Cheetah statue and an Octopus/Alligator hybrid art teacher.
There were a lot of interesting characters like these that I'm sure kids would love, but I failed to connect too deeply with any of them. Simber, the aforementioned Cheetah statue was awesome (but every time I saw his name I thought of The Lion King so...that ruined it slightly) but I found the main characters, Alex and his friends, a little dull. They are a lot younger than me so perhaps that's why I had a hard time relating to them. There were some cute moments between them, but they're not the kind of characters I missed when I was done with the book. I also found the world building a little lacking. It didn't have enough detail for me to really understand why society worked the way it did, or to feel any of those disturbed, scared feelings a good dystopian should bring. Then again, this is a middle grade book, so I should have expected that. Some of the concepts I found a little silly as well. People in Artime use arts as a weapon, and though this sounds cool as a concept, the execution was a little laughable to me at times. The idea of using paint and clay and dancing to fight someone with a gun...I couldn't really take it seriously. But again, kids would probably enjoy these ideas a lot more than me.
I think this book had a fun, original concept and if there are sequels, I'll probably give them a go. I'd definitely recommend this book to the intended audience, but older readers might want to give this a miss unless they really love the concept and don't mind less developed stories. I give it a 3/5.