Wednesday, November 9, 2011

THE UNWANTEDS by Lisa McMann

Title: THE UNWANTEDS
Author: Lisa McMann
Publisher: Aladdin
Release Date: August 30, 2011
Number of Pages: 390
Source of Book: ARC sent to me from fabulous high school teacher/blogger Danielle at Mercurial Musings
Author's Website: lisamcmann.com

Goodreads Summary:
     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.
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THE UNWANTEDS was an absolute joy to read. I think every middle school teacher should have this book in his or her classroom. In fact, just reading the first chapter to my own students had them clamoring to get their hands on a copy to find out what happens next. This middle grades dystopian-fantasy is about friendship and loyalty and family ties and creativity and trust and working togther and discovering what's important in life and fighting for it. Lisa writes this book in a third person narrator style along the lines of classic fantasies like Narnia.

The creepy dystopian world that Lisa created in this book is frightening in the fact that any child who is creative in any form or way, is considered Unwanted and sent to their deaths. Unbeknownst to any of them, they actually enter the world of Artime, where creativity is supported and encouraged and thrives in this fantastical world that is hidden from the Wanteds and Necessaries in Quill. It takes the Unwanteds awhile to learn to trust that they are able to be creative and don't have to hide it and can thrive there. It's a wonderful message to send to children that they should embrace their creativity and there can be many different types of strengths in the world. There are pieces of this world (the chalkboards!) that are so creative and entertaining that they made me wish I could visit Artime. The fantasy elements of this story are wonderfully balanced with the political intrigue elements of the dystopian world that keeps the two sides at odds with each other and suspensefully moves the plot forward.

This all leads to a battle at the end, which is entertaining in the ways that the fighting occurs on the side of the Unwanteds and the way they use their art, music, and acting skills against the Quillitary. There are many secrets and surprises that come out in the end, and everyone learns that there are those who can't be trusted, but there is a positive resolution. The way to winning this battle is through teamwork and trust and working together creatively and helping each other. The book leaves an ending that shows there will be another. This feels to me like it can be another epic fantasy adventure over several books and I look forward to seeing where Lisa takes these characters and this world next.

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