Unspoken (The Lynburn Legacy #1) by Sara Rees Brennan
Published: Random House Books for Young Readers (2012), eBook, 384pg
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy, Fantasy, Fiction, Mystery, Paranormal
Kami Glass is in love with someone she’s never met—a boy she’s talked to in her head since she was born. This has made her an outsider in the sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale, but she has learned ways to turn that to her advantage. Her life seems to be in order, until disturbing events begin to occur. There has been screaming in the woods and the manor overlooking the town has lit up for the first time in 10 years. . . . The Lynburn family, who ruled the town a generation ago and who all left without warning, have returned. Now Kami can see that the town she has known and loved all her life is hiding a multitude of secrets—and a murderer. The key to it all just might be the boy in her head. The boy she thought was imaginary is real, and definitely and deliciously dangerous. (from Amazon)
SARAH REES BRENNAN, I LOVE YOU. Really I could just end my review right there, but I’ll keep going.
Admittedly, after reading The Demon’s Lexicon, I couldn’t get up the urge to read the rest of the trilogy (even after rating the first one 4 birds). I liked it (I guess) but I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about the series as a whole. But of Sarah Rees Brennan herself, I have no complaints. She’s basically like a wackier (female) version of Neil Gaiman’s online persona, and if you like NG’s blog you’d like SRB’s blog, too. It’s hilarious, and she’s brought that hilarious-ness into Unspoken.
Not that it’s a comedy book– no way. But if you’ve read SRB’s blog you’d recognize that same voice in Kami’s characterization, and that could be either good or bad, depending on what you like. Since I’m a fan of SRB’s humor, I (mostly) liked it, but I also kept thinking “this is totally how SRB talks in her blog.” Which was very distracting! And I feel weird for complaining that an author sounds too much like herself (??) but it DID keep throwing me out of the narrative, unfortunately. I’m not saying it’s unrealistic dialogue, or that it’s not GOOD dialogue. It’s entertaining! It’s witty! Lots of good snarky humor, etc. I’m just saying I couldn’t get over how much it reminded me of how SRB herself talks online (and maybe offline, though I’ve never met her so I don’t know for sure). So while I still enjoyed reading the book, that little “what is going on here” thing kept bugging me like an annoying buggy thing.
Let’s move on from that for now: let’s talk about the OTHER characters! They were much more rounded than what I remember in Demon’s Lexicon, which to me signals a leveling up of author skills. Kami was the only one who had author!speak problems, and even then that was only when she actually talked to something. In her characterization, and in the secondary characters’, there were no problems. I loved reading about all of them, even the wackadoodle Richie Riches living at the top of the hill. My FAVORITE thing, for example, is the whole interaction between Angela and Kami and a new friend of theirs and how the new friendship shifts the balance between them, and all the little subplots running along side that. Probably anyone who’s been to high school has experienced something similar at least once, and usually I think when authors stick real life drama stuff into books they blow it way over the top. Not so here. SRB stuck it in, made her point, and moved on to something else. It was PERFECT– just dramatic enough to make your heart go “ow” but not SO dramatic that you wish you’d never even SEEN a teenager, let alone been one.
The town itself was a kind of character, too, and I love that SRB went that route because towns-with-personalities is one of my favorite things to read about. They’re almost always creepy in some way, and the creepiness of Sorry-in-the-Vale1 did a lot of interesting things to the atmosphere of the story.
The plotline was mostly exciting. I think the first half was mostly focused on atmosphere and characters, so it went somewhat more slowly than I expected. However, the pacing picked up in the second half, with a WHOPPER of an ending that made me both a) scream with frustration and b) got “wtf just happened.” THAT ENDING. It’s effective, but boy is it a killer. It’s the kind of ending that makes you wish the sequel was coming out NOW instead of a year+ into the future. ARGH.
Romance! As this is BASICALLY a YA paranormal book, I’m sure you’re all waiting for me to complain about the insane romance subplot or whatever. Well, HA. There isn’t any. In fact, Unspoken is basically a SUBVERSION of that trope I hate, so if you’re like me and can’t stand most YA paranormal-with-romance books, you’d probably like this one because it goes almost in exactly the opposite direction from most other books.
For all that, though, the relationship between Kami and Jared is still very enthralling to read about. They’re uncomfortable with each other, they love each other but, at the same time, they can’t stand to be around one another. Their emotions are being manipulated by magic, so they can’t even trust that the way they feel about each other is “true.” It’s so different to the “normal” YA PNR relationships that I couldn’t help but hug my Kindle with glee. Yeah, it’s totally romantic when people go all Romeo and Juliet and collapse into their own Black Hole of Romantic Feelings, but that’s totally not what this book is about and I applaud Sarah Rees Brennan for trying something different and new and pulling it off so well.
Oh, and this MIGHT be a spoiler but whatever: there IS a romantic sub-subplot with two of the supporting characters, and it’s a GLBTQ one. Plus! Did I mention? PoC main character. IT’S LIKE EVERYTHING I EVER WANTED IN A YA PARANORMAL BOOK and okay, I’ll stop yelling now. I’m just so HAPPY.
So! Let’s sum up: Creepy town! Magic! PoC main character! GLBTQ (supporting) characters! Romance that isn’t really a romance but it’s still very good in a way that I can’t fully explain! Slight miss with the “voice” of Kami, and there was also a (temporary) sorta-love triangle with another character that I didn’t talk about before2, and the revelations came a little too fast and thick at the end. But really, when you’ve got a book about a teen girl reporter/detective and she’s not just another white girl and she’s not in love with a vampire/werewolf/something and there is SPOOKY STUFF HAPPENING then how could you let some non-awesome things overshadow the AMAZINGNESS of the rest of the book? Eh? EH?
That’s what I thought.
Read: August 14, 2012
Reading SRB’s Sleuth Thursday series at her blog is what really convinced me to ask for Unspoken for review. Check it out if you’re not sure you really wanna read Unspoken yet!