SCARLET (The Lunar Chronicles #2) Author: Marissa Meyer Read Date: 21 April 2014 Rating:3.5 out of 5 stars
Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison–even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive. Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn’t know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.
KIDS THESE DAYS: STORIES FROM LUNA EAST ARTS ACADEMY, VOL.1 Author: Various Read Date: 28 February 2014 Rating:3.5 out of 5 stars
The stories from LUNA EAST ARTS ACADEMY are about love. And also, friends, food, kissing, rumors, mean people, insecurities, birthdays, breakups, making up. We set it in an arts academy because we wanted everyone to have a talent, and know it. Because no one is ordinary, if you know them well enough.
Who are you, at LUNA EAST? Are you a popular kid, a wallflower, a drama club diva, a debate whiz? Visit lunaeastacademy.org to read more stories from #LUNAEAST, and submit your own. For readers 16 and up.
Luna East Arts Academy is a project of Mina V. Esguerra and the writers who were part of her online #romanceclass, but it is open to anyone who wishes to write a story. The school – Luna East – is a collaborative setting that Mina mentioned is a lot like the set-up for the Sweet Valley High series, where different stories establish characters, important events, the school structure, relationships, and other aspects of the world. The stories are Young Adult / Coming of Age, since Luna East is a high school.
The first volume contains 14 stories, most of which already make use of common characters and events. The collaborative aspect of the world-building seems to be working very well, and with continued editorial care and maybe the assignment of a continuity editor, hopefully that will not change (and only get better!) when the next volumes are published.
There are several very promising talents in this volume aside from those like Mina, who already have publishing credits. There are a few who are still a bit green, but I’m sure they will improve as they write more stories and as other more experienced collaborators give them advice.
The beauty of a project like this is that people are encouraged to start and finish their stories and are then given a medium by which to share them. When future volumes are published, though, I hope that more editorial direction (beyond just grammar checks) will be given to each story that will be included, and that there will be more variety in terms of the plot hooks and story arcs. I am aware that the setting will limit the variety a bit, but Sweet Valley was able to accomplish this to a certain extent, so I would really love to see the collaborators stretch their legs more.
My favorite stories in this volume are: Mina’s “Fifty-Two Weeks” (because the romance is really subtle), Ronald Lim’s “Yours Is The First Face That I Saw” (because indeed, Tyler and Sebastian’s story was kilig), Anne Plaza’s “Senpai’s #1 Fan” (because I can relate to the geekiness), D.R. Lee’s “Picture Me Naked” (because…well, I got valuable advice, ehem), and Stella Torres’ “Be Creative”.
Chrissie Peria’s “Sitting in a Tree” gets a special mention because of this dedication:
and because, hey, kissing booth.
And this calls for a Scoring the Book song (or Scoring the Story) because how appropriate is it that one of my favorite Korean artists, K. Will, came out with a collab song with Wheesung and the rookie group Mamamoo called “Peppermint Chocolate”? (He’s not in the video because he never appears in his music videos…except once, and then his character died…ummm, that’s another story.) So this is for you, Chrissie. 😉
English Translation, in case the closed captions don’t work for you: click!
The wonderful Kate Evangelista will be launching her new book, “Til Death”, on March 15th at National Book Store Glorietta 1. Come and meet Kate and find out more about her YA and NA novels, which have been published internationally. 🙂
College sophomore Hannah Maquiling doesn’t know why everyone tells her their love problems. She’s never even had a boyfriend, but that doesn’t stop people from spilling their guts to her, and asking for advice. So maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise when the cutest guy in school tells her that she’s going to have to take on this responsibility — but for all humanity.
The Goddess of Love has gone AWOL. It’s a problem, because her job is to keep in check this world’s obsession with love (and lack of it). The God of the Sun, for now an impossibly handsome senior at an exclusive college just outside of Metro Manila, thinks Hannah has what it takes to (temporarily) do the job.
This is my first time to participate in a blog tour. I’m excited! Yay! I don’t normally sign up for tours because my schedule is erratic, and I’m worried that I will not be able to do my part after I’ve committed. But “Interim Goddess of Love” is special to me because it’s a great story, and I tagged along with both Mina’s and Hannah’s journey from the beginning.
Back when the first book came out, I was able to interview Mina for an author profile for GMA News Online. We talked about a lot of things, but the profile ended up mostly chronicling how she got published—both independently and traditionally—and her aspirations as a writer.
When we did the IGoL Trilogy Audio Commentary, it was Mina’s turn to ask questions. And so I still haven’t managed to ask her things about IGoL and other random stuff. I finally got another opportunity through this tour!
For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.
But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn’t want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.
Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she’s made for herself—and realizes that the life she’s always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.
Before I write about the book itself, I have to say that I don’t know why people were so attracted to the cover of the book. It’s an interesting looking dress, yes, but that is also such an awkward pose. Ladies don’t sniff their underarms in public, my dear. 😛 Anyway…
I read this book in one sitting. I was entertained by some parts, and it kept me interested enough to read to the end and to even move on to the next installment. So in my book, this wasn’t a horrible read; it was just okay.
But it was also problematic because I felt like a lot of things in the story are too forced and contrived.
The Rithmatist Author:Brandon Sanderson Read Date: 10 June 2013 Goodreads Reading Status Updates: None. I was too busy reading and bookmarking on Kindle for PC! Rating:5 out of 5 stars Review Preview: Adults will appreciate the layers and complexities in the world and in the plot that Sanderson so carefully constructed, while younger readers will definitely enjoy the brisk plot and the familiar YA and fantasy elements, as well as Sanderson’s trademark humor. And everyone will be creeped out by the twists and turns and the story’s villain.
✎ ✎ ✎ ✎ ✎ ✎ ✎
More than anything, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist. Chosen by the Master in a mysterious inception ceremony, Rithmatists have the power to infuse life into two-dimensional figures known as Chalklings. Rithmatists are humanity’s only defense against the Wild Chalklings — merciless creatures that leave mangled corpses in their wake. Having nearly overrun the territory of Nebrask, the Wild Chalklings now threaten all of the American Isles.
As the son of a lowly chalkmaker at Armedius Academy, Joel can only watch as Rithmatist students study the magical art that he would do anything to practice. Then students start disappearing — kidnapped from their rooms at night, leaving trails of blood. Assigned to help the professor who is investigating the crimes, Joel and his friend Melody find themselves on the trail of an unexpected discovery — one that will change Rithmatics — and their world — forever.
To be honest, this must be Sanderson’s most WTF-inducing magic system yet. I mean, hello, moving chalk figures?! The thing is, it’s also one of his most inventive and exciting creations so far.
WARNING: Here There Be (mild) Spoilers. I won’t spoil major plot points, but I will discuss the magic system, and I have to mention a few significant events.
Lauren Kate is back with a new book, and it looks and sounds magical!
Never, ever cry. . . . Eureka Boudreaux’s mother drilled that rule into her daughter years ago. But now her mother is gone, and everywhere Eureka goes he is there: Ander, the tall, pale blond boy who seems to know things he shouldn’t, who tells Eureka she is in grave danger, who comes closer to making her cry than anyone has before.
But Ander doesn’t know Eureka’s darkest secret: ever since her mother drowned in a freak accident, Eureka wishes she were dead, too. She has little left that she cares about, just her oldest friend, Brooks, and a strange inheritance—a locket, a letter, a mysterious stone, and an ancient book no one understands. The book contains a haunting tale about a girl who got her heart broken and cried an entire continent into the sea. Eureka is about to discover that the ancient tale is more than a story, that Ander might be telling the truth . . . and that her life has far darker undercurrents than she ever imagined.
From Lauren Kate comes an epic saga of heart-stopping romance, devastating secrets, and dark magic . . . a world where everything you love can be washed away.
Publication Date: 22 October 2013
Eureka’s name should have been Alice…who went to Wonderland and cried a lake into existence. (^_^)
Unravel Me (Shatter Me #2) Author:Tahereh Mafi Read Date: 27 February 2013 Goodreads Reading Status Updates:click! Rating: 4 out of 5 stars. But only because of Warner, who’s worth maybe a whole star, maybe more. (What?! The rest of the book was only mildly interesting.)
time for war.
Juliette has escaped to Omega Point. It is a place for people like her—people with gifts—and it is also the headquarters of the rebel resistance.
She’s finally free from The Reestablishment, free from their plan to use her as a weapon, and free to love Adam. But Juliette will never be free from her lethal touch.
Or from Warner, who wants Juliette more than she ever thought possible.
In this exhilarating sequel to Shatter Me, Juliette has to make life-changing decisions between what she wants and what she thinks is right. Decisions that might involve choosing between her heart—and Adam’s life.
*SPOILER WARNING FOR PRETTY MUCH ALL THE MATERIAL IN THIS SERIES*
So I thought that life-changing decision they were talking about in the synopsis will be something really epic, but as it turns out, it’s just Juliette finally succumbing to Noble Idiocy.
I first encountered the term when I got into Korean dramas, and perhaps one of the best examples is illustrated here: Noble Idiotic Cancer-afflicted Characters. If you’ve read “Unravel Me” and that scenario sounds familiar, well…now you have a term for it. 😛
I was annoyed with Juliette for most of this book, and to be honest, I really wanted to punch her in the face. If only she weren’t so powerful and so…fictional. 😛
First, there’s that noble idiocy. (I am a monster, I can kill you, therefore, we cannot be together. *gives Adam torturous looks for the rest of the book*) I do understand her plight and her genuine fears, but I was disappointed that she didn’t even give herself or Adam a chance to at least be trained or to even actively find a solution.
Juliette: ‘I can’t help but wonder what my life would’ve been like if someone had taken a chance on me.’
Me: Well, sister, you will keep wondering if you aren’t even willing to take a chance on yourself.
I liked, though, that Adam wasn’t willing to take all this bullshit from Juliette and kept insisting that he wanted to make things work. (Although sometimes, I think he’s just sexually frustrated. Sorry. I mean…right?) At least he redeemed himself after making the mistake of not telling Juliette that he wasn’t as immune to her as they thought.
Second, she was just so emo. It’s the book’s saving grace that Tahereh Mafi got Kenji and Castle to call Juliette out on being a selfish, whiny, anti-social brat. I really, really appreciate Mafi hanging a lantern on that. It’s a pity because you would’ve thought she’d be a bit more optimistic and proactive now that she has a Professor X in her life. You know, just a bit? Not to mention an awesome awesome friend in Kenji. If Kenji dies in the next book, I will seriously cut a bitch.
Also, I do think Mafi writes beautifully, and sometimes the similes and metaphors are so pretty they touch my heart, which is proven by the many tabs now sticking out of my copy of the book. But there are times, too, when it all gets cheesy and overbearing. Emo Juliette + Juliette’s voice in melancholic prose = a particularly trying time inside the character’s head. I do get that this is part of the character’s DNA, but I just wish there was some semblance of evolution in this aspect now. It was acceptable to see her so introspective and defeated only when she was locked up in an asylum. I don’t expect her to stop being this way entirely because then, she wouldn’t be Juliette. But maybe just…a little more positive? A little more willing to change her circumstances and to fight back? I loved when she was being funny and light-hearted and even sarcastic—those are some ray-of-sunshine moments!
The character who I did not expect to be such a fancy thinker was Warner (omo, he reads Shakespeare!), although reading “Destroy Me” changed that perception. Oh, Warner Warner Warner. There’s some hate for him out there as a love interest, especially post-“Shatter Me”, and I understand that. In fact, I approve. I felt the same way!
But I, like Juliette, find something compelling about him that I cannot name. He’s been described by other readers as a psycho, a warfreak, a megalomaniac. Well, he does own up to being a murderer and a troubled, unforgivable person, but people give him too much credit.
Anyway, that doesn’t mean he can’t make you swoon. After all, bad boys are attractive, right? And Warner is a very bad boy who you just might want to do bad things with. CHAPTER SIXTY TWO. ‘Nuff said.
Juliette: ‘I don’t know why my heart is losing its mind.’
Me: Damn. My heart lost it too. But I know why.
I don’t know why she keeps giving Warner flack about going Darth Vader on her Luke Skywalker, by the way. (*in Darth Vader voice* Join me, and together, we will rule the galaxy…) Warner wants her to realize the true potential of her powers. Sure he wants to do it for World Domination (or so he says), but what about Castle? Castle wants her on their side so they can overthrow the Re-establishment, but he also admits that they will do it when they’re ready to rule. So both sides want Juliette on their side so they can gain power. Castle may have more noble intentions, but sometimes, when it comes to Warner, I think Juliette doth protest too much. It’s a good thing she’s not a hypocrite about her other feelings for him.
‘Warner is the one person I can be completely honest with. I always feel like I have to protect Adam from me, from the horror story that is my life…But with Warner, there’s nothing to hide.’
I am not yet too hopelessly romantic to think that Juliette will end up with Warner just because I like him, of course. Author Kate Evangelista once said that there seems to be an unspoken rule that the heroine must end up with the one who saved her first, and that was Adam.
Actually, I’m still not convinced that Warner will be good for Juliette in the first place. As of this book, he does have his own agenda despite his feelings for her, and nothing can erase his past, his crimes, and his family background. Basically, if Juliette was still living with her family, her mother would tell her to stay as far away from Warner as she can. And until things change in the third book, I’d have to agree with her.
I personally like him because he has more potential as a character, he has more depth, and he’s been brutally honest about what he’s really like so far, and I appreciate that. And also, yes, that compelling something I still cannot name. And the feels. But being on Team Warner/Team 62 doesn’t mean being on board the Juliette/Warner ‘ship entirely. In this book, for me, it just means I’m rooting for the character.
It’s telling, though, that the times when I liked Juliette in this book were when she was with either James or Kenji.
I also like that in the love configuration, it’s Juliette who is the more powerful entity. In most YA love triangles, it’s often the girl who’s the normal or weaker one—the human—and it is often the boys who have power or wealth or who are supernatural beings. This is a nice variation to the trope. I hope that she lives up to the hype when we get to the last book.
I should probably stop talking about the romance now. I just couldn’t help it because the plot didn’t really move forward as much as could be expected from such a thick book, and the romance constitutes a good chunk of it. 😛 You can’t even really argue for character development taking up a lot of space because there wasn’t much growth or change in Juliette.
Okay, let’s talk about abilities. The gist: the series has gone all dystopian X-Men on us.
Yes, I did expect to see a lot of mutants because the story is now set in Omega Point, but I didn’t want EVERYONE to be a mutant! Sure, I was willing to accept that maybe Adam was, and I kinda saw the Warner revelation coming after that. But even James?! Being Adam’s brother is not an excuse.
The only normal major character in this is Supreme Commander Anderson. And who knows, maybe he’ll also find out later that he’s a mutant, especially considering how his kids turned out. Statistical probability just got thrown out the window. It’s all just so…to quote James himself, convenient.
Sometimes I feel like the Omega Point and mutant rebel action plot thread belongs to a different story. I think it’s because of Juliette’s voice, which is so personal, internal, and emotional; it fits the romance aspect more than the action and secret mutant rebellion scenes which are best narrated in a more straightforward voice to be better appreciated. I’m hoping that Mafi will be able to more smoothly intertwine internal Juliette with heroine Juliette and the outside world.
I also hope that Juliette will live up to her potential, not necessarily as a powerful being, but as a proper heroine in the next book. Nothing like almost-death to get you motivated, huh?
♪♫ ♪♫ ♪♫
And now to Score The Book. This has everything to do with Warner and Chapter Sixty Two. Sorry, Juliette.
♪♫ ♪♫ ♪♫
Read this book:
Only if you’ve read “Shatter Me.” Reading “Destroy Me” is optional, but recommended.
Destroy Me (Shatter Me #1.5) Author:Tahereh Mafi Read Date: 26 February 2013 Goodreads Reading Status Updates:click! Rating: 3.75 out of 5 stars
In Tahereh Mafi’s Shatter Me, Juliette escaped from The Reestablishment by seducing Warner—and then putting a bullet in his shoulder. But as she’ll learn in Destroy Me, Warner is not that easy to get rid of. . .
Back at the base and recovering from his near-fatal wound, Warner must do everything in his power to keep his soldiers in check and suppress any mention of a rebellion in the sector. Still as obsessed with Juliette as ever, his first priority is to find her, bring her back, and dispose of Adam and Kenji, the two traitors who helped her escape. But when Warner’s father, The Supreme Commander of The Reestablishment, arrives to correct his son’s mistakes, it’s clear that he has much different plans for Juliette. Plans Warner simply cannot allow.
Set after Shatter Me and before its forthcoming sequel, Unravel Me, Destroy Me is a novella told from the perspective of Warner, the ruthless leader of Sector 45.
*SPOILER WARNING FOR BOTH THIS NOVELLA AND “SHATTER ME”*
It’s great that we now know more about Warner and why he did the things he did in “Shatter Me”, even though he turns out to pretty much be your usual villain who dons a mask of cruelty to hide a troubled past (and present) to the point of driving the love of his life away. It’s a little too cliché, actually, but there’s something compelling about Warner that I am gravitating toward—especially compared to Adam—so I will just have to accept this.
Also, he picked up a dog and happily fed it, so now it’s gonna take something truly devastating to make me hate him after that. Gorgeous, emotionally compromised men who are nice to women (when they’re not possessed by bouts of noble idiocy or necessary pretense), children, and dogs: there you have it, ladies and gents, my literary male character kryptonite.
The passages from Juliette’s notebook are a great addition here, by the way, as there really isn’t much of the actual content of the notebook in “Shatter Me”. They shed a little more light on Juliette’s captivity (pre-Adam) and how she dealt with her isolation.
“Destroy Me” seems like such an apt title for this novella because, dude, Warner was just crumbling right before my eyes. He falls apart so many times that it’s painful to read. I personally don’t think it’s necessary to paint him this way—in a level of pain that is almost close to Juliette’s—when he didn’t suffer as much as she did. And this difference is magnified even more when the revelations in Juliette’s notebook entries are put parallel to Warner’s trials and tribulations. Sure, he empathizes with her, especially with how they were both treated by their parents. But when you consider how he is in a position of power and privilege, he comes off as too emo, no matter how helpless he actually is when it comes to Juliette. I can still sympathize with him as a reader and understand his motivations as a character even if he were written just a little less emotionally than this.
I wrote about how the portrayal of love can still be epic and thrilling and intense without being suffocating, as Laini Taylor pulled off so well in “Daughter of Smoke and Bone”, and Maggie Stiefvater also did in “The Scorpio Races”. I loved how measured but still swoon-worthy the romance there is, and I wish there was a little of that kind of calculated restraint here and in “Shatter Me”. But the intensity and heightened emotions seem to be part of the style and the theme of the series, and it certainly isn’t something alien in dystopian YA, so I suppose it all comes down to personal preferences, but I just had to say it.
And I thought it was just Juliette, but is thinking in very dramatic similes all the rage in this world? (Loved them at first, but they can get exasperating.) I dread to hear what Adam is thinking.
But…okay, I’ll bite, because I’m a sucker for this tortured love thing sometimes. I’m on board for “Unravel Me”, but the payoff better be something that will rock my world.
Read this novella if:
You’ve read “Shatter Me”.
You’re curious about Warner.
You were waiting for a Warner shower/bath scene. 😛 (What?! It’s his turn.)
✻ ✻ ✻ Share Your Story in the Pensieve: What is your literary character kryptonite? (What kind of characters do you most gravitate toward?)
An Abundance of Katherines Author:John Green Read Date: 16 January 2013 Goodreads Reading Status Updates:click! Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
When it comes to relationships, Colin Singleton’s type is girls named Katherine. And when it comes to girls named Katherine, Colin is always getting dumped. Nineteen times, to be exact. On a road trip miles from home, this anagram-happy, washedup child prodigy has ten thousand dollars in his pocket, a bloodthirsty feral hog on his trail, and an overweight, Judge Judy-loving best friend riding shotgun–but no Katherines. Colin is on a mission to prove The Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability, which he hopes will predict the future of any relationship, avenge Dumpees everywhere, and finally win him the girl.
Okay, so, yay, I survived this book and actually understood the math! If I didn’t, I’d probably be ashamed for my university degree. It did bring up some horrible memories of Math 17, Math 53, Math 54, Math 54 (Take 2), Math 54 (Take…nevermind)…and Math 55, which I’d rather do without, but…yay for being able to understand the math! I know that shouldn’t be the thing that I take away from this book, but I’m just so relieved that I got it.
But hey, understanding the math isn’t a requirement for enjoying the book. Green wrote this in a way that is easy for math haters to get the gist of Colin’s Theorem, and also easy for math lovers to geek-out over all the graphs, equations, and proofs.
Anyway. This is the first full-length novel of John Green’s that I’ve read (I read his story on “Geektastic”), and I can tell why so many people like him. His writing style is very engaging, and he has a way with words that makes him so quotable.
“An Abundance of Katherines” has a cool premise, although, in keeping with the theme, you probably have to wonder at the statistical probability of someone falling in love (or some form of it) with 18 different girls named Katherine (not Catherine but KATHERINE), and getting into a relationship (or some form of it) with one of those twice. But hey, Green managed to suspend my disbelief, so…good job!
It took me a while to get into the narrative rhythm of the book for some reason; I guess I didn’t care too much about the incidental happenings and characters compared to Colin’s trials and tribulations. On hindsight, this was weird of me because while I ended up liking Colin, I had a difficult time, in the beginning, trying to empathize with his character. He was too quirky, and I hovered over my computer monitor being all judgmental, mentally chiding Colin “maybe this is why you were dumped by 19 girls.” I also found the footnotes and anagrams and the math just a little too gimmicky, but later on, when I got used to the narrative style, they didn’t bother me anymore. When I got that out of the way, I was able to power through the latter half of the book because the character interactions also became more interesting by then.
The plot was infinitely simpler than the math and was a little too predictable–no equations necessary–but that’s not a deal-breaker here because the story really is more about the characters’ metaphorical rather than their literal journeys.
I think one of the reasons why this book works on the character level is because of Green’s uncanny ability to capture the thoughts and emotions of young people and to express those in highlight-worthy words.
“I just want to do something that matters. Or be something that matters. I just want to matter.”
“I think we’re opposites, you and me,” she said finally. “Because personally I think mattering is a piss-poor idea. I just want to fly under the radar, because when you start to make yourself into a big deal, that’s when you get shot down. The bigger a deal you are, the worse your life is. Look at, like, the miserable lives of famous people.”
I also loved Green’s little shout-outs to books and storytelling.
That’s how I remember things, anyway. I remember stories. I connect the dots and then out of that comes a story. And the dots that don’t fit into the story just slide away, maybe. Like when you spot a constellation. You look up and you don’t see all the stars. All the stars just look like the big fugging random mess that they are. But you want to see shapes; you want to see stories, so you pick them out of the sky. Hassan told me once you think like that, too—that you see connections everywhere—so you’re a natural born storyteller, it turns out.
Books are the ultimate Dumpees: put them down and they’ll wait for you forever; pay attention to them and they always love you back.
Friends who’ve read many of Green’s books tell me this is actually his “happiest”. Well, this did end happily, although (SPOILER ALERT!) the next question is: how will Colin fare in a long-distance relationship?
Pick up this book if:
You like math and anagrams.
You don’t necessarily love math or anagrams but you want to read something that showcases a different perspective on relationships.
Your name is Katherine.
You have been dumped before.
✻ ✻ ✻ Share Your Story in the Pensieve: Do you want to matter or do you prefer flying under the radar?
Kami Glass loves someone she’s never met . . . a boy she’s talked to in her head ever since she was born. She wasn’t silent about her imaginary friend during her childhood, and is thus a bit of an outsider in her sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale. Still, Kami hasn’t suffered too much from not fitting in. She has a best friend, runs the school newspaper, and is only occasionally caught talking to herself. Her life is in order, just the way she likes it, despite the voice in her head.
But all that changes when the Lynburns return.
The Lynburn family has owned the spectacular and sinister manor that overlooks Sorry-in-the-Vale for centuries. The mysterious twin sisters who abandoned their ancestral home a generation ago are back, along with their teenage sons, Jared and Ash, one of whom is eerily familiar to Kami. Kami is not one to shy away from the unknown—in fact, she’s determined to find answers for all the questions Sorry-in-the-Vale is suddenly posing. Who is responsible for the bloody deeds in the depths of the woods? What is her own mother hiding? And now that her imaginary friend has become a real boy, does she still love him? Does she hate him? Can she trust him?
This book’s premise is one of those that make me go “why didn’t I think of that?!” But I don’t think my brain is wired for writing novels, so I’m just thankful that a skilled author actually thought of it and wrote it.
“Unspoken” is my first Sarah Rees Brennan book, and I’m happy to discover that I like her writing style. She’s easy to read, helps me conjure up great mental images of her story and characters, and she’s sassy and witty in a way that reminds me of Libba Bray.
“I knew we should not have brought you,” Mom said. “The Lynburns built this town on their blood and bones.”
“That was their first mistake,” Jared said. “They should’ve built a city on rock and roll.”
Brennan describes the book as “Sassy Gothic,” which is an apt label. “Unspoken” definitely exudes gothic vibes complete with old creepy mansions and a lot of…ummm…murder, and the writing style and humor take care of the sassy part. The only thing that was iffy for me with regard to the sass is it seems most of the characters are that way. I’m okay with Kami bringing it on, but even Jared, Ash, and Angela have that same kind of humor. It’s not necessarily a bad thing–and hey, we get more punch lines!–but it diminishes Kami’s uniqueness as a character by several notches.
“That’s true,” Kami said. “What I would think of you, I do not know. So what does brown leather mean, then?”
“I’m going for manly,” Jared said. “Maybe a little rugged.”
“It’s bits of dead cow; don’t ask it to perform miracles.”
“I am fascinated by gardening,” Kami agreed solemnly. “Tell me about fertilizer, Ash.”
“I dunno, we haven’t known each other that long, that’s kind of racy talk,” said Ash.
Holly was laughing. “Jared told her he used to be an exotic dancer in San Francisco.”
“My body is a gift from God,” Jared said gravely. “Except for my hips, which are clearly a gift from the devil.”
“I’m surprised she didn’t call the police,” Ash muttered. “I would have.”
I won’t talk about the mechanics of how the “imaginary friend” thing works, but the conflict that arises when Kami and Jared finally meet sure is fascinating. It’s akin to meeting a long-time pen pal or Twitter friend or blog / message board correspondent face-to-face for the very first time, except that this other person was privy to your innermost thoughts, feelings, and fears. It was fine when you can pretend he was just “imaginary”, but finding out he’s real and realizing just how much he knows and how much power he actually has over you because of that gives an even more dangerous meaning to the phrase “blackmail material.”
All the words she knew to describe what he was to her were from love stories and love songs, but those were not words anyone truly meant. They were like Jared, in a way. If they were real, they would be terrifying.
On hindsight, I think this is also how Ginny Weasley must have felt in “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” after pouring her heart out to Diary!Tom Riddle and learning later on that he was just using her to become more corporeal and to get revenge on Harry.
The fantasy element of the novel is interesting as well. Brennan built a magic system that really suits the setting of the book and complements the whodunit story line. For a while there I thought she was going to go in the “normal heroine discovers she is supernatural” direction, which would have made for interesting character interactions considering what everyone else was, but she subverted that nicely and went for what I thought was a more satisfying arc, especially when one considers the ending.
The characters are fleshed out well. Each one has enough back story and a significant role, although most are cast to type, especially the two lead boys (Jared: Emo, bad boy object of romance; Ash: Talented, nice guy, love triangle material). A couple of the secondary characters became pawns in some late-stage plot developments, which is generally okay, except that these had that slight contrived feel to them. But maybe it’s just me.
Kami is a little too Luna Lovegood-quirky for my personal taste, but I like that she has courage and wasn’t willing to just sit around and wait while blood continues to be shed in some isolated shed deep in the forest. I also like that she can be insecure (about her looks), but is confident in other aspects of her personality, like her Elizabeth Wakefield-esque journalistic sense.
Her exploits with the rest of the gang reminded me too much of “Get a Clue”, though. It was fun when they went on their Scooby Gang mission the first time, but the “investigations” happened a little too often (again, for my personal taste) to account for Kami finding various pieces of the mystery. I prefer more event and plot-driven revelations, especially since there are a lot of opportunities for those in the narrative. This doesn’t cripple the story, though, so it’s not really a problem, and maybe the Scooby vibe really is what Brennan was going for; for the third time, I guess this is just a matter of personal taste.
One other remarkable thing about Kami is before the story started, she’s practically normal–with a complete, loving family and a normal school life–except for her imaginary friend and her tendency to space out. In that, she’s rather different from most YA protagonists who tend to carry more emotional baggage into the story with their broken families, heartbreak, attitude problems, criminal records, and the like. It’s refreshing to read about such a character and to witness how Brennan managed her development.
“Unspoken” is paced well, it has fascinating conflicts and relationships, an atmospheric setting, and a magic system that has a lot of potential to develop more in the sequels. The characters are likable enough that I root for them, although they don’t particularly evoke enough emotion from me to be more scared or happy or thrilled along with them. Nevertheless, I am now invested in the series and I will continue reading the sequels because I feel like Brennan has more great, fun stuff up her sleeves, and I really want to know what happens after that cliffhanger of an ending.
If you liked the “Beautiful Creatures” series by Kami Garcia (namesake!) and Margaret Stohl, then you’ll probably appreciate this one as well. 🙂
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Sarah Rees Brennan wrote a prequel short story for “Unspoken” entitled “The Summer Before I Met You,” which gives us more details about certain things that happened in the past to Kami and Angela that were referenced in “Unspoken”. It’s free, and can be read here: click! (You don’t need to read “Unspoken” before reading this, I think, though the references will have more impact if you did.)