Friday, September 7, 2012

Me on Unspoken

Title: Unspoken
Author: Sarah Rees Brennan
Release Date: September 11, 2012
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers

Kami loves someone she's never met... a boy she talks to in her head. Since she was never quiet about this imaginary friend, she's a bit of an outsider in her sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale. Still, she hasn't suffered too much, she has a best friend and she runs the school newspaper while only occasionally caught talking to herself. Her life is in order, despite the voice in her head. But then the Lynburns return, twin sisters belonging to a family that's lived in Sorry-in-the-Vale for centuries and their teenage sons, Ash and Jared, one of whom seems strangely familiar to Kami. Kami's not one to shy away from the unknown, she's very determined to discover the answers to the question Sorry-in-the-Vale is suddenly posing. Who is responsible for the bloody deeds in the forest? What is her own mother hiding? Would she still love her imaginary friend if he suddenly became a real boy? Could she trust him?

Unspoken is both humourous and darkly mysterious, a well-thought out and a well-told story with a stellar cast of outrageously complicated characters. What the story is at its core works, a girl determined to discover anything and everything about her quiet English town because she knows there must be a secret or two hidden away beyond her own relationship with a possibly imaginary friend. All the plot twists and the history between the characters joined together to become a book I couldn't stop reading, a book I relished reading right to the end.

Quite often, teenage girl protagonists are self-absorbed, paying attention to the world around them when it impacts their lives. As normal as this is for real-life teenage girls, it's refreshing to come across a character like Kami. She's quirky and odd and is completely focused on discovering all she can about Sorry-in-the-Vale, discovering everything about the Lynburns, why they left and why they came back. She's not as angsty or self-centered as other girls. It's like coming across Nancy Drew, only more of a reporter-type Nancy Drew, less crime-solving and more secret-unearthing.

The return of the Lynburn family is the author's opportunity to show the reader some very interesting family dynamics. Secrets and mysteries abound in the family, even between those members still living, and suspicions about motives and character never run dry. It must be emotionally draining to be part of a family like that, needing to keep your guard up at all times, constantly watching to see who else might be around.

While the summary claims that Kami is in love with the boy she talks to in her head, that's not necessarily how it felt to me at the beginning. It felt more like they were close friends, with him perhaps a bit closer than her, and it wasn't until later, after the possibility of him being real arose, that I felt she had some actual romantic feelings for him. It's not until the situation becomes complicated, that this pseudo-secret best friend in her head becomes a flesh and blood best friend, that I got more out of their relationship. She has no idea what to do if he's suddenly beside her, when she can actually hear his voice and have other people hear it as well.

The book poses a number of questions about small towns, about what secrets they hold. What is truthfully at the heart of Kami's small village? How long do you have to live in a small town before you're no longer considered an outsider? How long does your family have to live there?

It was the wonderful combination of humourous and complicated characters and the dangerous and mysterious secrets of a small village that made this book so entertaining. The ending was rather surprising, and because I was surprised, I'm very much looking forward to the next book. So many questions were left unanswered, questions about Sorry-in-the-Vale and the Lynburns and Kami's own family, and Kami and Jared and Ash, and I can only hope that a fraction of them will be answered.

(I received an e-galley of this title to review from Random House through NetGalley.)

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