Friday, April 3, 2015

The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann

The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann is a dystopian fantasy for young readers.

In the highly regimented land of Quill, children who exhibit even the slightest leanings toward creativity are Eliminated at the age of 13, sent to the Death Farm. Alex Stowe, who has been known to take a stick and draw in the mud, knew he was going to be Eliminated, but he consoled himself with the thought that his twin brother Aaron would not be. But Alex soon learns that the Death Farm is really the land of Artimé, where creativity is encouraged and magic is possible. Alex embraces his new life, but he wonders: why couldn't his twin have come, too? Will Alex's desire to rescue his brother from his gray, dingy life in Quill precipitate a war between the two lands?

I had a really hard time getting into this book. I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Simon Jones. I've listened to other books Jones has read and enjoyed them, but even his narration was not enough to save this one for me. I just found the premise too hard to swallow: death for all children caught exhibiting creativity? Really? And everyone just went along with this? I also found the wise old wizard who rules Artimé way too Dumbledore-esque. Maybe that's because the publisher made the mistake of touting this at Harry Potter meets The Hunger Games, a level of hyperbole that's bound to get a mediocre book into trouble when harsh reality meets with high reader expectations. I do think some young readers will enjoy the art-based magic of Artimé and the interactions between the young characters, but it's not one I'd particularly recommend.

(Reviewed from an e-audiobook borrowed through my library system.)

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