release date: August 30th, 2011
hardcover, 390 pages
intended audience: Middle grade (9-12)
source: from publisher for Kismet book tour
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.
Review: Positively enchanting, and every bit the wonderful work that I have come to expect when I pick up a book by this author. I loved Lisa McMann's Dreamcatcher series and Cryer's Cross, so I was excited to see what she would do for a middle grade audience. I was certainly not disappointed. I love the premise of this, and I especially love how this story was conceived---it came about when the author found out that several art programs were going to be cut out of her kids' school. I hate how often I hear about this kind of thing happening everywhere, but love that it became a story sparker for McMann!
The Unwanteds certainly has a dark and hopeless feeling at the beginning. You first meet the main character and his twin brother as they are basically sent to a sort of "judgement" ceremony to decide who will be a useful addition to the society of Quill...and who will be disposed of. Literally. Those who are rejected are sent the Death Farm to be thrown into a lake of boiling oil. Yikes. Needless to say, one twin is excepted and the other is not. As soon as the rejected children are sent away, the rest of Quill, including their families are ordered to forget all about them. Harsh. Especially harsh is the fact that the reason these children are disposed of is because they showed some sign of creativity and imagination.
Thankfully, the kids are all shocked when they find themselves, not boiling in a lake of oil, but secretly transported to a hidden land called Artimè, where creativity and imagination are encouraged. The kid are taught to enhance whatever their individual strengths are, and are ultimately taught to use their gifts along with magic to both create and defend themselves in the event that their world is ever discovered.
The whole story was such great world-building: the wonderful layered characters that you never quite knew where their loyalties would lie in the end, the many quirky and mysterious teachers, the cold, unfeeling conditioning of the people of Quill, and the many surprises that popped up throughout. It was heartbreaking at moments, especially where the two brothers were concerned, and I loved the little hints of young love thrown into the mix. While I don't like to make the comparison---I would definitely say that this as close to the feel of Harry Potter as I've read yet. A similar feeling of wonderment is there: the magic of finding this whole new world that was right out outside your door, the intense, unpredictable relationships and wonderful characters that are learning to be themselves and appreciate their different gifts. Yet the Unwanteds is, without a doubt, an amazing and unique tale that deserves to be appreciated in it's own right. This is definitely a great start to a series that I'm excited to continue!
Visit Lisa McMann's site here.