Author: Lisa McMann
Publisher: Aladdin (a Simon & Schuster imprint)
Release Date: September 4, 2012
Number of Pages: 416
Source of Book: ARC from publisher at ALA
The battle is over. The magical barrier between the dreary land of Quill and the fantastical world of Artimé is gone. Now residents of both places are free to mingle, but tensions are high. The artistic warriors of Artimé struggle to forgive those in Quill who condemned them to death, while the Quillens attempt to recover from the shock of Artime’s existence, the loss of their leader, and the total collapse of their safe, orderly world.I really loved THE UNWANTEDS when I read it last year - it's a great mix of dystopian and fantasy in a spot-on voice that Lisa McMann wrote with for her first jump from young adult (which are also great) to middle grades books. It is also highly engaging and makes a great book talk opportunity to hook middle schoolers with the premise of kids being "sent off to their deaths" for being creative in any way. Knowing all of that, I was eagerly anticipating the release of ISLAND OF SILENCE to find out what would happen to Alex and his friends and the magical land of Artime now that Quill knew of their existence. I was not disappointed.
14-year-old Alex Stowe has recovered from his physical wounds since his death-defying role in Artime’s victory, but his confidence is shattered. He battles self-doubt after Artimé’s beloved mage, Mr. Today, makes a stunning request, which is further complicated by the mysterious arrival of two silent, orange-eyed teenagers.
Meanwhile in Quill, Aaron is devastated by his fall from grace and seething with anger toward his twin brother Alex. Spurred by rage, Aaron recruits a team of Restorers and devises a masterful plan of revenge that will return him to power…if no one gets in his way.
Bestselling author Lisa McMann delivers another trademark page-turner in this second book of The Unwanteds series, as Alex and Aaron's parallel stories ultimately come together for a shocking climax that will leave readers desperate for more.
From the very start, I was drawn right back into this fantastically creative, yet at times frightening, world that Lisa McMann has created with this series. I didn't have any of that feeling of trying to remember what happened in the last book that I read over a year ago. All of the favorite characters were back including the magical creatures that Mr. Today created. While the Artimeans are figuring out how to handle everyone knowing about them, we alternate chapters with Aaron back in Quill and his continuous struggle to gain power back and eliminate his twin brother and all of the magic. Aaron is systematic and smart and frightening in his single-minded focus on ridding Quill of Artime. Meanwhile we have many characters who we don't know if we can trust because they're acting suspiciously, and a few who seem to be "double agents" but we're never really sure. As we get further into this story, there doesn't seem to be such a clear-cut right or wrong way to act for many of these characters. In addition, we're introduced to the islands outside of the one these characters all live on, now that they know there is more beyond where they exist, and find out there may be more evils out there than even exist in Quill.
Along with all of the external battle going on, Alex has his own internal battle to contend with. He just doesn't see himself as the leader that he needs to be and others want him to be, and he has to figure things out. Because Alex's own twin has turned out so evil, and his own parents don't want anything to do with him, he does feel very alone. This is where the creatures of Artime come even more into play as Simber and Ms. Octavia and Ms. Morning and Florence and Clive and the others all become the support system that he needs. My absolute favorite scene of the entire book comes on pages 168-169. It exemplifies the battle that Alex is having with himself, and why he feels the way he does, and what Artime means to him. I adore that scene (and I love Simber!) so much it has stuck with me for days.
It seems such a universal feeling for kids (and some adults) to want to feel included and able and believed in and supported and to have someone who will always be there for you. This book has that universal theme of needing someone to believe in you throughout. As Mr. Today says, "There will always be times we struggle, make bad decisions, even fail. What's important is not that we fail, but that we learn and grow. And that we know that there is always someone out there who believes in us" (p. 250). That's the type of book quote I want to always remember and post on my classroom wall. This kind of message, along with all of the excitement of the story, but with this at its heart, is part of the reason that I love this series.
Overall this book was a strong second book in a uniquely creative series with action, emotion, plot, excitement, characters, and heart that draw the reader in. The ending definitely left me hanging though, and I am dying to read the next book to find out what happens with Alex and Artime next. I was left heartbroken by the events toward the end of ISLAND OF SILENCE, but hopeful at the same time. That's a pretty good place to be left in an engaging book series.
I don't know for sure how many books will end up being in this series, but I do know absolutely for sure that I will be reading them all and sharing them with my students as well. This is a series that should be in every middle school classroom and book-talked for students to snatch it up. Just this week one of my students picked up the first book because he loved THE HUNGER GAMES and HARRY POTTER and since THE UNWANTEDS is touted as a combination of the two, he wanted to read it for sure. The next day he walked up to me hold the book in his hand and said, "This is the best book I've ever read in my whole life." No higher praise than that!