September 13, 2011

Book Review: The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann

Title:  The Unwanteds
Author: Lisa McMann
Publisher: Aladdin
Copy Obtained: For Blog 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.

My Review I've read Lisa McMann's Wake series and enjoyed it, so when I saw she had a book coming out for the middle grades I knew I had to check it out! What I found was a book full of creativity, magic and heart.

The tag at the top of the book cover quoted from Kirkus is: "The Hunger Games Meets Harry Potter." Ok those are big shoes to fill! What I liked about The Unwanteds was that it filled those shoes but in very much its own way. It's not a knock off of those two books at all. It's its own story fully and completely. What I think I enjoyed the most was the use of creativity as a way to use magic. Alex (the main character) is gifted in art, so he uses art within his magic, like he paints himself invisible. Another girl Meghan has a talent for music, so she plays certain instruments that cast spells on people. I found a completely unique concept. Maybe it's been done before, but it felt like such a new idea. I think for those kids who prefer arts (drama, music, art) compared to athletics will really like that it makes those talents powerful. The emphasis on using this magic to make your opponent or enemy immobile - not kill them - was also great. The story was still filled with tension, but less dark. I liked that especially in a MG book.

The world of The Unwanteds was fantastic. I think that was the strength of this book. I completely bought into Artime and how it was described. I could really see it all and how it worked together. It came alive to me, and I forgot it wasn't a real place or even a place that could be possible. Actually there are things in the story I wish I had! Each room has this blackboard that relays messages from friends, makes announcements and general helps you run your life. I'd love to have one! And I'd love for all my students to have one! Another cool thing it does - you can order food from the kitchen from it, and it's sent up! Want!!!! It was details like that, that made the world more alive and real. I worried, like the people who lived there, that their world would be destroyed. It seemed like such a happy and positive place that I didn't want to see it harmed - just like how the characters of the story felt. Now that's a well created world!

The characters were great. I liked Alex a lot. He seemed like a very typical 13 year old boy. When his friends start to use their magic on him he reaction how many kids his age would act - he basically pouts and hides from them! I could completely see that happening. I will admit there were times that Alex's typical behavior frustrated me because I knew he was making a mistake! I saw where his actions were going to take him, and all I could to was watch it play out hoping it would end ok. To go with Alex, I liked the tension that was created by having his twin Aaron be a Wanted and left in the city of Quill. With them being twins, you knew it would be hard for Alex to forget about Aaron and let him go. I was curious to see what would happen because of this. Would he contact Aaron? What would Aaron do if he did? I kept reading to find out the answers. The rest of the characters were good although maybe a tish 2 dimensional at times. The focus was on Alex, so sometimes the rest of the characters really faded to the back. I did, however, really like Lani and understood her anger the most.

Lastly - I showed this book to my students to share what I was currently reading. I told them a bit about it and by the end of the day I had at least 5 kids ask if I had another copy. They were very interested in it. One student went out that night and bought it. He told me he loved it and couldn't put it down. I agree!

For the Guys? For sure!!!!! The main character is a boy, so that's a plus. It also has some great action and moves at a good pace. I also like that Alex is a great model for boys and one they can relate to.

Final Thought: It's not The Hunger Games.  It's not Harry Potter.  It is it's own magnificent self!
Best Stick-With-You Image: Scatter clips.  I want some :)
Best for Reader Who: Like books with magic and creativity - and kids who prefer the arts to athletics
Best for Ages: 9+


  1. I have been wanting this one! Glad to see it has a possitive review!

  2. I really like this one too! It was a great concept and she pulled it off. Also I really want a chalkboard of my own.

  3. Thanks for the great review. I put this on hold at the library already and now you've got me even more excited to read this. Thanks.

  4. hi! i have already read this book and i think this was a great review! i love the sieries and i think the first book is best! i hope the people who havnt read this book will like it as much as i do