Monday, July 29, 2013
Review: Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan
by Sarah Rees Brennan
Published September 2012 by Random House
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Summary from Goodreads: 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?
I became aware that Unspoken existed when I started folliwing Sarah Rees Brennan, the author, on twitter (@sarahreesbrenna). Not because she shameless plugs her books, but because she shamelessly plugs her readers' reactions to her books. It felt like every time I got on my twitter account I would see that another reader of Unspoken was upset by the ending. Many readers express their desire to harm SRB, but it's all in jest-how would they get a sequel? Needless to say, I was intrigued by the strong reactions to Unspoken and snatched it from my library the moment I saw it.
Kami Glass is an aspiring journalist from Sorry-in-the-Vale, a small village in England. She has long thought her town hides secrets, especially when it comes to the Lynburn family, but can't put her finger on exactly what they are. Kami has a secret of her own, one that doesn't have the rational explanation her friends and family want. A secret that comes out when the Lynburn family returns to Sorry-in-the-Vale.
Besides an ending that elicits a strong reaction from readers, I had no idea what to expect from Unspoken. What I got was a spunky main character, an intriguing love interest with a fabulous twist, and a wholly original magical element. I typically have an aversion to third person narration, but Brennan's writing was absorbing, not isolating.
I fell in love with Kami almost immediately. Her sharp wit and big heart were a big part of why I became invested in the novel. I was also intrigued by her unusual relationship with Jared, her "imaginary friend" that she speaks to in her head. In relation to Jared, there were a lot of things I saw coming from a mile away, but I still enjoyed watching them play out.
Though I may have been immediately drawn in by Kami, there's a lot to say for the secondary characters in Unspoken as well. Kami's friends are all dynamic and add something to the novel, though we see them from Kami's view and she can be a bit short sighted about her friends. The adults in Unspoken have their own stories, their own motivations, and become more and more important as the novel goes on, something that I really enjoyed.
Sarah Rees Brennan's writing is very atmospheric. Unspoken has a light Gothic feel to it. The town, Sorry-in-the-Vale, was almost a character in the book. It feels like the book is set in the early 1900s, but it's really set in present day. The juxtaposition of the tone and the modern setting was a lot of fun to read.
Unfortunately, I couldn't completely get behind the magical elements of this story. I felt a disconnect from it, possibly because Kami is an outsider to the magic, or maybe because they don't fully appear until the end of Unspoken. Hopefully the sequel, Untold, will explore these elements more fully.
Unspoken is a novel that I adore. I enjoyed everything: the main character, the setting, the writing, the romance, the intrigue. It felt as though I was reading a novel written in a different time, in the best way possible.