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The Unwanteds
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Gold Star Award Winner!

The setting is the future in a place called Quill. Life there is not easy, especially if it is decided that you are an Unwanted. At the age of thirteen, it is determined that each citizen is in one of the following groups - Wanteds, Necessaries, or Unwanteds. The Wanteds are a privileged group given the opportunity for higher education and positions of power in society. The Necessaries are just that; they provide the necessary services required in daily life. The Unwanteds are sent to the Death Farm and exterminated.

Alex and Aaron are identical twins turning thirteen. They already know their fates. Aaron will stay in Quill and become part of the Quillitary and most likely move up the ranks to become a powerful leader. As a young boy, Alex showed creative tendencies when he was caught drawing in the dirt with a chicken bone. Creativity is not valued in Quill, which means all those with artistic talents are classified as Unwanteds.

The departure of the Unwanteds creates barely a ripple in the lives of those left behind in Quill. Alex's parents and brother almost seem annoyed during the brief farewell required when Alex leaves for the Death Farm. He joins the others headed toward their uncertain end, with only a hope that death will come quickly and painlessly.

Alex and the others soon find that there is nothing to fear. Upon their arrival, they are welcomed by a mysterious magician named Mr. Today and countless other magical creatures. The world they have entered is called Artime, and it is filled with color and beauty beyond their wildest dreams. It is immediately obvious that life in Artime is all about living and enjoying the creative pursuits they were denied in Quill.

After a brief introduction and orientation about the rules and requirements of Artime, Alex and his fellow Unwanteds begin to explore this amazing world. In addition to learning about art, music, and theater, they develop their own magical talents. They are free to roam and appreciate all Artime has to offer, but as Alex settles in he learns there is a definite separation between Quill and Artime. No one in Quill must know about the Unwanteds who escaped extermination. Contact with family and friends would threaten this wonderful world's very survival.

Author Lisa McMann takes readers on an adventure very different than that in her previous novels. Her creation of these two extremely different worlds creates a sharp contrast that had this reader captivated. The underdog status of the Unwanteds pulled me into the story and had me cheering for them right up through the last page. If you are a fan of HARRY POTTER, THE HUNGER GAMES, or just enjoy fast-paced adventure and fantasy, you'll want to get your hands on this one.

Reviewed by: Sally Kruger, aka "Readingjunky"
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 4 May 2012
First things first, what a great cover! It's one of the main reasons I bought this book. Sadly, my love for the contents didn't live up to my love of the cover. I loved the concept of this book. However, I feel the history and rules of the dystopian society weren't as fleshed out as I'd have liked. Which leads me to one of my main concerns with the book, which is totally not the author's fault, but my own. I'm simply too old for this book. If I was about 10, I'm sure I'd have adored this book. But as an adult, even with my Peter Pan syndrome, I found this book too simplistic for my tastes, in writing, world building and characters. This was mostly a fun read, though it did take me until about the last third to get properly into it. I found the book dove straight into the deep end introducing us to the world of Artime, but then slowed down in the middle and became a little too mundane, despite being a story featuring a talking Cheetah statue and an Octopus/Alligator hybrid art teacher.

There were a lot of interesting characters like these that I'm sure kids would love, but I failed to connect too deeply with any of them. Simber, the aforementioned Cheetah statue was awesome (but every time I saw his name I thought of The Lion King so...that ruined it slightly) but I found the main characters, Alex and his friends, a little dull. They are a lot younger than me so perhaps that's why I had a hard time relating to them. There were some cute moments between them, but they're not the kind of characters I missed when I was done with the book. I also found the world building a little lacking. It didn't have enough detail for me to really understand why society worked the way it did, or to feel any of those disturbed, scared feelings a good dystopian should bring. Then again, this is a middle grade book, so I should have expected that. Some of the concepts I found a little silly as well. People in Artime use arts as a weapon, and though this sounds cool as a concept, the execution was a little laughable to me at times. The idea of using paint and clay and dancing to fight someone with a gun...I couldn't really take it seriously. But again, kids would probably enjoy these ideas a lot more than me.

I think this book had a fun, original concept and if there are sequels, I'll probably give them a go. I'd definitely recommend this book to the intended audience, but older readers might want to give this a miss unless they really love the concept and don't mind less developed stories. I give it a 3/5.
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