Sunday, September 4, 2011

Review - The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann (4.5/5 stars)

Reading level: Middle Grade
Genre: Fantasy/Dystopia
Size:  400 pages
Publisher: Aladdin
Release Date: August 30, 2011
ISBN: 978-1442407688
Stand Alone or Series: Stand Alone
Source: ARC through Amazon Vine
Rating: 5/5 stars

I got an advanced reading copy of this book through Amazon Vine.  I enjoyed McMann's Wake Trilogy and was very excited to read some middle grade fantasy from her as well.  This was a great book.  It was a great fantasy full of wonder mixed with dytopian elements.  Think The Giver by Lois Lowry mixed with the first Harry Potter book.

Alex and Aaron are twin brothers living in the drab city of Quill.  But while Aaron is a Wanted, Alex is an Unwanted.  Alex has had many infractions for being creative in a world where creativity is illegal, as a result he is labeled as an Unwanted and sent to his death.  Alex is surprised to find that instead of being put to death in the Lake of Boiling Oil he is actually transported to the land of Artime where creativity is encouraged and respected.

This was a fantastic book, it is very well written and creative.  The beginning of the book reminded me a lot of The Giver; you have a dystopian society where people are encouraged to only follow orders and not express emotion.  People who are too old are put to sleep, people who are too creative are sent to death.  It's a pretty radical extreme, I found it hard to believe something like this could actually happen, but if you just accept that's how that world works then you should be good to go.

Things really start getting interesting when Alex is sent to Artime.  Artime is a magical world that is only limited by your imagination.  This was a fun world to read about and I seriously want to go and live in Artime for a while after reading about it.  The methods of instruction, fighting, and creating that McMann comes up with are creative, fun, and very entertaining to read about.  This is the part of the book that reminded me of the first Harry Potter book where Harry first goes to Hogwarts and is introduced to all of the wondrous and magical things.

As things come to a head between Artime and Quill an epic battle scene ensues.  This battle scene was very well done and I loved all the creative magics that the Artime kids came up with during the fight.

The characters throughout are wonderful.  There are a number of animalistic teachers in Artime that are lots of fun to learn about.  Mr. Today, who runs Arttime, will remind of Dumbledore from Harry Potter.

Not everything is fun and magic though.  Many other things are dealt with in this book; friendship, sibiling relationships, the whole idea of a dystopian society, and what is right and wrong. This is also Alex's coming of age story as he learns to accept who he is as a person and, even more importantly, to accept who the people around him are too.

Overall I really enjoyed this book; it was a wonderful middle grade dystopian fantasy adventure.  Excellently written and paced, with fun characters, and a magical world to explore.  A great novel to introduce the middle grade age set to the concept of a dystopian society, yet still a very fun read full of creative magic.  Highly recommend this to any middle grade fantasy fans out there.

This book goes towards the following reading challenges:

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