The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann
Series: The Unwanteds #1
Release Date: August 2011
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
When Alex finds out he is Unwanted, he expects to die. That is the way of the people of Quill: Each year all the thirteen-year-olds are labeled as Wanted, Necessary, or Unwanted. Wanteds get more schooling and train to join the Quillitary. Necessaries keep the farms running. Unwanteds are set for elimination
It’s hard for Alex to leave behind his twin, Aaron, a Wanted, but he makes peace with his fate—until he discovers that instead of a “death farm,” what awaits him is a magical place called ArtimÉ. There, Alex and his fellow Unwanteds are encouraged to cultivate their creative abilities and use them magically. Everything Alex has ever known changes before his eyes, and it’s a wondrous transformation.
But it’s a rare, unique occurrence for twins to be divided between Wanted and Unwanted, and as Alex and Aaron’s bond stretches across their separation, a threat arises for the survival of ArtimÉ that will pit brother against brother in an ultimate, magical battle.
Plot: The tagline says Harry Potter meets Hunger Games, but I’m not quite sure it fits. I’ve been saying The Unwanteds is what would happen if Matched, Unwind, & Harry Potter had a baby. While there were elements that I had seen in other books, nothing quite like what McMann brought to life. A world that almost instantly drew me in and didn’t let go. The story was fast paced and enjoyable from start to end. Alex can be moody and whiny at times, but he and his group of friends were great characters. I kind of wish the friends, especially Samheed and Lani, had gotten more page time, but overall they were a nice rounded group.
I think the other thing I would have liked to seen more of was Quill and maybe even ArtimÉ. Don’t get me wrong McMann paints a decent picture of both, but I would have liked to have seen the people/creatures/things in each world a little more. We actually see very little of Quill. It is mainly through flashbacks and through Aaron’s eyes, which both felt a little jaded to me. I would have like to have seen the world through Samheed’s eyes a bit more–he was one of the few characters who had loved Quill, but wasn’t a complete monster. With ArtimÉ, there was just so much. I would have liked to learn more about the past student/families and the various creatures that lived there. And OH, the blackboards. I could have done with a lot more interaction with them!
The battle that comes is of no surprise. McMann foreshadows that almost from page one. However, the twist and turns that happen during the battle are nice. There were several things I had not seen coming and was pleasantly surprised, even if it did wrap the plot up into a nice little bow. I’m not sure if McMann is planning to turn this into a series, there is certainty room to, but works well as a stand-alone. And while a little on the larger side, I think this quick read is perfect for MG reluctant readers.
Audio/Narrator: There is something to be said about good narrators. Often they are what make an audio book and Simon Jones is no exception. There were a couple of his voices that took me a bit to get used to — like Simba’s and a couple women’s voices — but once I did they worked perfectly. Ms. Octavia was probably my favorite voice; the southern sweet drawl he used fit her like a glove. The different voices Jones used helped distinguish the character and really brought them and the world to life. I enjoyed his narration/story so much I even brought the discs into work with me one day so I could continue to listen. It goes without saying that I would happily listen to any book that he narrates in the future.
Have you read/listened to The Unwanteds? If so, be sure to let me know what you thought!