Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann

In Quill, people are divided at the age of 13 into three categories, Wanteds, Necessaries, and Unwanteds.  The Wanteds are sent to university and get the higher level jobs, the Necessaries do the menial labor and the Unwanteds are sent to their death.  But all is not what it seems because at the Death Farm, there is a magical world, Artimé, behind the gates that takes in the Unwanteds and grows their artistic talents (the reason they are Unwanted in the first place).  Alex is an Unwanted with a drawing ability while his twin brother, Aaron, is deem Wanted.  The two brothers are very different and that might cause the biggest problems of all between Quill and Artimé.

I really did feel sorry for Alex and all the other Unwanteds.  Sentenced to die for having creative ideas is terrible.  But the High Priest is determined to keep everyone under her control and forward-thinkers would challenge that so out they go.  But luckily for them Mr. Today, the so-called "Death Farmer," has created a magical parallel universe hidden from Quill to save the Unwanteds and not only foster their artistic abilities but to teach them magic based on their abilities.  So the drawing students learn to paint themselves invisible and use clay to bind people and many other pretty awesome things. The Unwanteds thrive in this world.  But they must say hidden from the land of Quill otherwise the consequences would be dire. It's a pretty neat concept and I liked the magic involved as well as the characterization of Alex and his Wanted twin, Aaron.

I was expecting more older middle grade but this was read younger middle grade to me.  The story was very simple and everyone was fairly straightforward.  Nobody really had gray areas in their personality.  But it was cute and I enjoyed it.  The cover says The Hunger Games meets Harry Potter and that is far from the truth, having neither the grittiness of The Hunger Games nor the world-building of Harry Potter.  It is still charming though.  If I compared it to anything it might be Diana Wynne Jone's Chrestomanci series but it still lacks that intangible quality that makes those books great.  What I'm getting at is that it is cute and fun and provides a largely one-sided view of creativity and that it is worth reading, but it lacks that something that makes a book a classic.  Children will enjoy it, some adults will enjoy it as well.  I would recommend it, just don't go looking for greatness.

Provided by the publisher
Publisher: Aladdin (Simon and Schuster)
Publish date: 8/30/11
ISBN: 9781442407688


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