The Unwanteds – Lisa McMann – Aladdin – Published 30 August 2011
When Alex finds out he is Unwanted, he expects to die. That is the way of the people of Quill. Each year, all the thirteen-year-olds are labeled as Wanted, Necessary, or Unwanted. Wanteds get more schooling and train to join the Quillitary. Necessaries keep the farms running. Unwanteds are set for elimination.
It’s hard for Alex to leave behind his twin, Aaron, a Wanted, but he makes peace with his fate—until he discovers that instead of a “death farm,” what awaits him is a magical place called Artimé. There, Alex and his fellow Unwanteds are encouraged to cultivate their creative abilities and use them magically. 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 divided between Wanted and Unwanted, and as Alex and Aaron’s bond stretches across their separation, a threat arises for the survival of Artimé that will pit brother against brother in an ultimate magical battle.
I was forced to read this book. It has quickly become a favourite amongst my book club members and I was fearful that my membership (despite being the group leader) was going to be revoked if I, too, did not read it. I was also intrigued when those same readers said they would rather go to Artimè from the Unwanteds than Hogwarts from Harry Potter. I thought that a) it was obviously a fantastic book or b) they were all crazy. Now I have read it for myself and, while it is certainly a fun book that teems with creativity and fresh ideas, I would still (and will probably always) choose Hogwarts, should my letter ever finally arrive.
I cannot overstate the popularity this book has amassed in the last few months at our school. It has been quickly passed from hand to hand, spreading through word of mouth and recommendations. The middle-school boys have been the driving force behind the fandom, but girls from that age group, and older, have equally loved it. And I can understand why. The Unwanteds is the ideal book for readers – those who value creativity and imagination for whom simple articles of stationary or clay or drawings or anything can always be more than they first appear.
In the land of Quill creativity and imagination of any sorts is a crime punishable by death. Children who show signs of creativity are Purged (killed) at thirteen. For twins, Alex and Aaron, their Purge date is upon them. Aaron dreams of becoming a Wanted, going to University and serving the High Priest Justine. For Alex, he already knows that he will be Purged and eliminated. However, as Alex and his fellow Unwanteds are taken to be killed they are rescued by the mysterious Mr Today and invited into an amazing world where Unwanted have hidden for years. That world, Artimè is a world where creativity is valued, where the Unwanted can finally learn to sing, draw, act, paint, dance and show their feelings and even turn these skills into magic. Despite being surrounded with friends, Alex mourns his brother, but if those in Quill should ever discover Artimè’s existence then all the Unwanteds’ lives would, once again, be in grave danger.
The first book in the Unwanteds is a fantastic adventure, first in the discover of Artimè and everything this magical world has to offer and then in the defence of this world and its inhabitants. It is a beautiful book to read, clever and full of imagination. One of those books where the ideas are so simple you can’t help think why didn’t I think of that? And yet that’s what makes the creativity so surprising and delightful.
I am sure this book will remain hugely popular with readers, particularly those who enjoy fantasy and adventure.
Category: Children’s fiction, Middle-grade fiction.
Themes: Magic, fantasy, family, twins, belonging, creativity, imagination, art, adventure.
Reading age guide: Ages 8 and up.
Advisory: Fantasy violence, battles, injury and death.
Published: 30 August 2011 by Aladdin
Format: Hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook. 390 pages.