Laurel's Reviews > The Unwanteds

The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann
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's review
Sep 13, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: please-be-good, kiddy-ture, fantasy, that-cover-unf, you-have-my-respect, look-something-original, badass-kids-taking-names
Recommended to Laurel by: My eyes
Recommended for: People interested in new places
Read from October 03 to 05, 2011 — I own a copy

“The Hunger Games meets Harry Potter!”
Someone tell me how and I’ll reconsider my being against that

I love fantasy. I love someone telling me in a book that there is a giant tiger-wolf-bird guarding a castle and there are no questions asked. I love it because as illogical and unlikely it would seem, no one gives a crap because, how cool would it be? You’re too busy dreaming about this massive creature, interpreting what animal is more visible in the combination, to think, “What the? Those don’t exist.” GOLD STAR FOR YOU, they don’t exist. For children’s books in particular, imagination is at its freest. You can say anything, and children will take it in and say, “Cool!” And that is why I still call myself a child at heart. If I wanted something realistic, I’d go outside. Books are an escape, they’re meant for people with imaginations.

I long for originality. Originality brings me the ultimate happiness in a series. That’s why I love The Thief of Always, why I love Eyes Like Stars, why I love this book. There are so many components that stand out and say, “Excuse me, I have some things to say, and most of them are awesome, magical, and just plain breathtaking.” So I sit myself down and take a bite.

The Unwanteds starts with a dark path of life. Anyone who is dull and intelligent lives on in the society of Quill; anyone creative and interesting goes to their death in the Great Lake of Boiling Oil. Yeah. Ohhh, dark like The Hunger Games! Every futuristic society is like this. Don’t just pin it on whatever dystopian is most popular so it can get some pick up. I hate that more than I hate bad literature. Wanna know what drew me to this book? It wasn’t that damn gimmick.

It was that brilliantly done cover. The stunning, riveting cover with the complimentary color scheme, realistic depth of perception, and compositional eye candy. Owen Richardson, Karin Paprocki, you are truly gifted people. Never stop what you’re doing. (I wanna hire you for my covers. I dunno how that can happen but I will make it happen.)

Of course the cover is just a little bit of the battle. Because I hate the “IT’S LIKE THE OTHER POPULAR STUFF” gimmick, I walked into this story with mild expectations. My only diehard expectation was getting to see the lion statue do awesome stuff (which is actually a cheetah, which irks me because the cover statue’s face anatomy is off. I’m nitpicking, sorry.) Don’t expect Hunger Games because that never shows up here. Nothing close and that is in the best of ways. Don’t expect Harry Potter either because the only thing that it has in common with The Unwanteds is that there is magic.

Shall we begin the breakdown?

Writing style. I have never read McMann’s other works, but I enjoyed her style here. It’s simple for her intended audience, and whenever she does use poetic prose or larger words, she gets them right into the context clues and any younger child would get into this no problem. No dictionaries needed. Like Heather Brewer, there is nothing truly amazing in this writing. She tells you how it is, and that’s the way it was. I did expect some great writing with more of the magical aspects of Artimé, but instead, I got more on how gloomy and boring Quill was. At least it made me love Artimé and hate everything about Quill.

McMann needs a little work in pacing. I never mentioned it much in my status updates, but the plot did start rather slowly. I mean, we got to Artimé right away, but after that, it took a while to get the ball rolling. I do forgive McMann though, because she took the time she had to build up Artimé and its magical tendencies. I applaud her because I got a hit of her originality in some aspects (all-purpose blackboards) and in others not so much (throwing two random animal species together).

Her POV was a bit confusing at times. She started with a few chapters of alternating between Aaron and Alex, but then within those chapters, she’d switch to Lani or Meghan. Interesting characters, but I can’t worry about who we’re following and would rather follow exactly where the plot is going. And that was with Alex/Aaron.

Now that I mention it, these characters were fairly simple cutouts. Alex and Aaron were twins, Alex was creative and Aaron was not. Alex was scared for his brother and missed him like any person would, Aaron was a toolbox and forgot Alex near immediately. But as near cookie cutter as these two are, they are still interesting because they interact with better, well-rounded, hilarious, and awesome characters. In Harry Potter, I never gave two shits for Harry, but I loved everyone else. That’s how I feel here.

Mr. Today is a wonderful old man. I’d mix him between Willy Wonka and a legit magician, because he is. He is so nice and loving, and whenever he does something that makes you say, “Hey waitaminute...”, he’s able to back it up with good intentions. He is brilliant and just a sweetheart.

Simber (my LOVE) is a giant winged cheetah statue. That lives. If you find that uninteresting and boring, you are pretty boring yourself. I’m sorry. Simber is a player in this story, and he comes of as very protective and commanding in a necessary way. He’s brilliant. I’m gonna get me a Simber someday. Someone tell me where to find winged cheetah statues in Harry Potter. That’s right.

Lani Haluki is the hinted love interest, and she was just precious. She was a bookworm, but McMann wrote her very well because she wasn’t bashing my head in with that stereotype. Lani is a delight. Here is an example of simple romance. Nothing huge, no LOVE here. True, it’s simply a children’s book, but YA can take notes from this. Perfect example of a slow-burning build. High-five, McMann.

ALL of these characters are a delight. The only fart I have with them all is that the minor characters are dropped by the way side, this being Jim the GIANT WINGED TORTOISE (you heard me right suckahs), and Meg’s brother, Sean.

Plot-wise, as I stated earlier, jumped, then slowed for good reason, then steadily built up with good pacing. I don’t want to say too much or I’ll spoil, but this was where McMann actually got her POV passages right on and I was able to follow the entire climax a-okay. Slowly but surely, we watched Aaron get more and more twisted, we watched Alex get more and more worried, and we saw everyone training for preparedness because nothing as perfect as Artimé lasted forever.

Now I will be very clear. I thoroughly enjoyed myself with this book, but I am not in love with it. I was not crying when something crazy ridiculous happened, but I was cheering for the characters. I cared about them, and they cared about me. There were so many clever and original aspects of Unwanteds that it would be a sin to give the book less than 4 stars.

However, there is enough stuff to set it right at 4 stars. This is not a perfect book, but I guarantee that something somewhere in this book will click your interest, whether it be giant cheetah statues, ridiculing blackboards, or painting doorways in order to get to new places.

Whoever first thought it was like Harry Potter and Hunger Games is a dunce, because if they do related somehow, it’s the littlest smidge. I’m surprised my prediction was right: this book had its own song. Not a bright, life-changing, heart-stopping song, but one worth hearing out and trying for yourself.

I most certainly recommend this book because it brings back my imagination. It has reawakened my need to write. It can collect dust on your shelf for all I care, but that cover is one I can appreciate with the utmost respect.

For all you writers out there:

If you want me to be impressed, you better be original, or I won’t even try to enjoy your story.

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Reading Progress

10/03/2011 page 1
0.0% "I wanna know what that flying lion statue is on the cover. I want this to make me happy again."
10/03/2011 page 1
0.0% "THERE ARE LITTLE DRAGONS AROUND CHAPTER BEGINNINGS. This is fueling the dragon-lover in me."
10/03/2011 page 6
2.0% "They...they don't even care that one of their twins is BEING SENT TO HIS DEATH? YOU HATEFUL PARENTS!! YOU SHOULDN'T EXIST!" 1 comment
10/03/2011 page 9
2.0% "I don't like you, Aaron. You're gonna be a tool, aren't you?"
10/03/2011 page 17
4.0% "A GIANT WINGED TORTOISE. A GIANT WINGED TORTOISE. I'm glad I picked up this book. Now it's sucked in my love for all things turtle."
10/03/2011 page 21
5.0% ""Tell me, children. How does it feel to be eliminated?" - Marcus Today after he changes a boiling pit of death oil into A MAGICAL WONDERLAND THOUGHT UP BY ROALD DAHL. Ohhhhhh boy. <3"
10/03/2011 page 25
6.0% "The turtle's name is Jim. Awesome awesome awesome. Did I mention that this cover art is beautiful? It stuns me still. Sorry, I should be reading more critically."
10/03/2011 page 32
8.0% "Well well, Justine seems just SUCH a kindhearted High Priest...>:[ I bet Alex is gonna stomp on your ass, Justine. JUST YOU WAIT."
10/03/2011 page 33
8.0% "Artimé...HAHA OH MY I GET IT. Artimé for the CREATIVE PEOPLE, and Quill for the Intelligent, SMART PEOPLE. Ha, I'm a hardcore Artiméan."
10/03/2011 page 37
9.0% "Mr. Today knows everyone's names. That isn't creepy or anything..."
10/03/2011 page 42
11.0% "AHAHA, Mr. Today you're a troll. I already like you."
10/03/2011 page 45
12.0% "A breathing winged cheetah statue. A WINGED CHEETAH STATUE BY THE NAME OF SIMBER. I get one, right? I GET ONE?"
10/03/2011 page 62
16.0% "Ohhh yay, that's so wonderful! Meghan's reunion is nicely written and adorable. Also, I would like a magic blackboard, too."
10/03/2011 page 67
10/03/2011 page 70
18.0% "HOLY SHIT! Awwww, Lani you poor thing! :( The parents in this book..."
10/03/2011 page 75
19.0% ""The High Priest Justine wanred that writing led to creativity, and creativity led to revolt, which was very bad." SMART. SMART SMART SMART."
10/03/2011 page 91
23.0% ""My brother is not evil!" Alex, dude, turn to page 8, and you'll see your twin Aaron threatening your parents because he is now a higher status than them. Yeah, he's a toolbox." 1 comment
10/03/2011 page 93
24.0% "AARON IS A LITTLE SNITCH!! Ohhhhhh, Aaron, you've only existed for like...four pages total and I HAAAATE YOUUUUUU."
10/03/2011 page 102
26.0% "These children are all being brainwashed. Except Aaron. He's the Hitler of this bunch. He's all for this disastrous "Quill prevails when the strong survive!" mantra."
10/03/2011 page 113
29.0% "SOMEONE's cranky. Jeez, Alex, don't get all up in your friends' cases. D:"
10/03/2011 page 115
29.0% "Gotta stop for a bit. work...must...stop...reading."
10/04/2011 page 118
30.0% "Simber, why you bee so hush hush? D: YOU'RE A BIG WINGED CHEETAH! STOP HIDING."
10/04/2011 page 125
32.0% "Alex, stooooooop. Urrgh."
10/04/2011 page 143
37.0% "You're a brat, Aaron. SUCH a little kiss up!! FFFFFF."
10/04/2011 page 159
41.0% "Simber's a bamf."
10/04/2011 page 163
42.0% "Props to Mr. Today for not hiding anything and being an overprotective leader. I'm glad he is warning all the children rather than create false happiness."
10/04/2011 page 171
44.0% "Oh my god an army of little paper dragons SOMEONE PINCH ME." 2 comments
10/04/2011 page 175
45.0% "I don't see why people are comparing this book to Hunger Games and Harry Potter. Oh, so there's magic. My book has magic too, is THAT gonna make it like Harry Potter? This is a completely different premise from both books. It's also lovingly original, which I can't really say about Hunger Games." 1 comment
10/04/2011 page 197
10/04/2011 page 203
10/04/2011 page 211
54.0% "Oh Alex, you're so silly. He makes some pretty stupid decisions. :P"
10/04/2011 page 215
55.0% "Painting 3D objects that create new rooms/defensive spells?! PAINTINGS MAKE NEW PASSAGEWAYS? Where is this Artimé. I wanna go."
10/04/2011 page 218
56.0% "Laniiiii! :'("
10/04/2011 page 225
10/04/2011 page 234
60.0% "You have good intentions, Mr. Today BUT SAMHEED AND WILL NEED A GOOD KICK TO THE CROTCH!"
10/04/2011 page 248
64.0% "Too many times am I swapping back and forth between LOVING Mr. Today and getting slightly suspicious of him."
10/04/2011 page 255
65.0% "Will is a little lost in the head. Yup, definitely has a few screws loose."
10/05/2011 page 262
10/05/2011 page 264
10/05/2011 page 264
68.0% "Mr. Today you are so wonderful. AARON YOU ARE THE SCUMMIEST LIL' 13 YEAR-OLD I'VE EVER SEEN.........READ ABOUT. Fuck you, Aaron. I loooathe your."
10/05/2011 page 275
71.0% "Mr. Today for President."
10/05/2011 page 276
71.0% "From the way their voices go, it's like...Alex is Aaron's younger brother rather than his identical's funky."
10/05/2011 page 280
72.0% "Bad egg since he was little. Fuckin' Aaron."
10/05/2011 page 287
74.0% ""Great cats! That smarts." W-what? Who shouts that? 'GREAT CATS THAT HURT!' o-o I almost wanna use that to see who laughs first in my apartment." 1 comment
10/05/2011 page 300
10/05/2011 page 304
10/05/2011 page 306
78.0% "Oh Sean, there you are. Where have you been THIS WHOLE BOOK?"
10/05/2011 page 306
78.0% ""How dare you defy me!" Ahhh some clichés don't get old. It's okay for Justine to say it cause she's like....approaching 80 years old."
10/05/2011 page 322
83.0% "YEEES Simber is Alex's commander! Simber simber simber. I want Alex to ride on Simber's back as he SOARS DOWN AND DESTROY EVERYTHING WITH HIS AWESOME STATUE ABILITIES."
10/05/2011 page 323
83.0% "I'm just gonna leave this here... *Ahem* SQUIRRELICORN. *bows and leaves*"
10/05/2011 page 329
84.0% ""
10/05/2011 page 339
87.0% "YEEEES GET ON SIMBER, ALEX...You've made a good decision!"
10/05/2011 page 351
90.0% "Simber I love you never change."
10/05/2011 page 355
10/05/2011 page 364
10/05/2011 page 371
95.0% "Mr. Today's like an ancient Willy Wonka. Justine, you HYPOCRITE!"
10/05/2011 page 373
96.0% "SIMBER. SIMBER. <33333333333 I love you Simber! LANI! LANI YOU ARE AWESOME. EVERYONE IS AWESOME. Except Alex because he's still...unconscious."
10/05/2011 page 378
97.0% "Pretty clever! Samheed is officially awesome."
10/05/2011 page 384
98.0% "Aaron is Hitler in the body of a 13 year-old. He's a big steamy pile of SHIT."
10/05/2011 page 390
100.0% "That was a cute end. Okie dokes. Time to gather up my thoughts for a review!"
10/25/2016 marked as: read
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Comments (showing 1-12 of 12) (12 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

Laurel Sure thing! So far, it's nothing like the two but in a great way! :)

message 2: by Amber J. (new) - added it

Amber J. please review ASAP when you're done, because the synopsis really does scream Katniss and Harry Potter had a baby named The Unwanteds, so let us know if it's bigger and better than that, thanks =)

message 3: by P. (new)

P. In Harry Potter, I never gave two shits for Harry, but I loved everyone else.

This book sounds awesome, and I think I'll be reading it for sure.


I really hope you enjoy it, or at least find something in there that makes it worth your time! :)

message 5: by Larissa (new) - added it

Larissa This book seems very interesting (: Added it to my t-read list. nice review!

Laurel Thank you so much! :)

Reagan You are exactly right friend me

message 8: by Jess (new) - added it

Jess I would argue that this book has more similarities with HP than just magic. (granted it is very original and you have to search a little bit for more common ground) The main character in both is a young boy. If I'm not mistaken Harry celebrates his 12th birthday in the first book, while Alex is 13/14 in The Unwanteds. Both boys are largely ignored by their respective families. While the methods of arriving at the magic school are different, in both books the boy finds himself at the aforementioned unknown-to-the-rest-of-the-world location. Wise old wizard man? Check. Hallways and rooms one cannot always locate after first discovering them? Check. Creatures in magical forbidden woods that can help or hinder? Check. Weird teachers? Check. Sneaking around said magic school under the cover of darkness? Check. Invisibility spell/cloak? Check. I realise the last couple are a stretch but hey, those are just my thoughts. Not hatin'. :)

Holly I am in 100% agreement with you--I noticed I got confused myself sometimes with the POVs switching around all the time, particularly at the beginning. And count me in as another fan of Simber. :D

Abigail Paige Huff I read this book ,but I do not totally agree with you. Magic is inside every child.Who says it is not real?But I agree with everything else

Anjali Negi I liked everything about your review.. except when you said that you don't give shit about harry.. I have met quite a few people who don't care for harry.. I think its probably because harry doesn't have a self pitying bone in his body.. any other character in another story with a similar past would be like oh am soo different.. soo unfortunate.. you guys would never understand me.. so don't bother..

message 12: by Cara (new) - rated it 5 stars

Cara I loved the book, but I don't think it is a mix between Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, even though it does have a little in common. It is still very unique, and has ideas I never would have even thought of thinking about. And I agree with Abigail P. H. Who knows, maybe everyone has magic in them, but sometimes we lose the ability to find the magic within us when we are too busy with stuff that if you think about the whole world, is so unimportant.

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