Synopsis (from publisher): 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 occurrence 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.
This book is being described as "The Hunger Games meets Harry Potter". To be honest, if I had heard this description, I probably would have rolled my eyes and not read the book.
But I did read it. And I really enjoyed it!
I can see how one can draw parallels to The Hunger Games and Harry Potter, but I really don't think the comparisons are needed. The biggest similarity I can see is that THE UNWANTEDS has staying power. This is going to be a book that quickly catches on among the middle grade readers. I hope teachers read this book soon, because there are a lot of great discussion points as well - government, the arts, friendship, loyalty.
The bottom line is this: THE UNWANTEDS stands strong on its own. The writing is fantastic; the worlds of Quill and Artime are vivid and well drawn; and the entire cast of characters are layered and likable.
I especially love the overall message of Artime - a safe place to speak your mind, where you are free to dance, sing, clap your hands and create. The arts are magical, and Lisa McMann takes that idea to a literal level that is both beautiful and wise.
A Side Note: THE UNWANTEDS had been sitting on my desk for about a week before writing this review. My son had tried to grab it several times already, but I was afraid I would forget to write and post the review if I couldn't see it. A few days ago, I came home from a dinner out with my husband to find our 20 year-old babysitter sitting at the kitchen table half way through it! She started reading it and couldn't put it down!
About the Book:
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Aladdin/Simon & Schuster (August 30, 2011)
About the Author: Lisa McMann is the New York Times bestselling author of the Wake trilogy; Cryer's Cross; and the middle-grade dystopian fantasy trilogy The Unwanteds. She lives with her family in the Phoenix area. Read more about Lisa and find her blog through her website at lisamcmann.com. Or better yet, be her friend on Facebook (facebook.com/mcmannfan) or follow her on Twitter (twitter.com/lisa_mcmann).
*Disclosure: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher at BEA