Monday, 24 September 2012

Review: Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan

I've tried to keep spoilers to a minimum, but I highly recommend reading the book before this review. However most of what I talk about you could learn just from reading the blurb - but consider this your warning!

Kami Glass loves someone she’s never met . . . a boy she’s talked to in her head ever since she was born. She wasn’t silent about her imaginary friend during her childhood, and is thus a bit of an outsider in her sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale. Still, Kami hasn’t suffered too much from not fitting in. She has a best friend, runs the school newspaper, and is only occasionally caught talking to herself. Her life is in order, just the way she likes it, despite the voice in her head.
But all that changes when the Lynburns return.
The Lynburn family has owned the spectacular and sinister manor that overlooks Sorry-in-the-Vale for centuries. The mysterious twin sisters who abandoned their ancestral home a generation ago are back, along with their teenage sons, Jared and Ash, one of whom is eerily familiar to Kami. Kami is not one to shy away from the unknown—in fact, she’s determined to find answers for all the questions Sorry-in-the-Vale is suddenly posing. Who is responsible for the bloody deeds in the depths of the woods? What is her own mother hiding? And now that her imaginary friend has become a real boy, does she still love him? Does she hate him? Can she trust him?

I’m gonna be upfront and warn you there is going to be a lot of gushing and love for this book in this review – there may even be glitter and overuse of italics. And probably insanely long. In fact we should probably just entitle it ‘Love Letter to Sarah Rees Brennan’ and have done with it. Just to warn you.

I have been waiting for this book for what feels like forever. Sarah is a tease with her giving out the first few chapters at a signing last October, because I have been pining for this book ever since. And then it finally arrived. And I was so smitten with both the UK and US covers that I have done something I have never done before and I have bought BOTH. That’s right, I will have two copies of Unspoken sat on my shelves, but they are just so PRETTY.

So yes, the book itself. Guys, I would read it if Sarah chose to write on the walls in crayon. Seriously, I have been a major fan girl right since the fan fiction days, so I was primed to love this book from the start, and it in no way let me down. In fact it way exceeded my (very high) expectations.

Let me state one thing first off, I love the Demon’s trilogy, they are brilliant and awesome, but Unspoken is even better. Sarah’s writing is tighter, her jokes are even funnier, and the whole thing practically sparkles it’s so well constructed. I am in awe.

Kami is fantastic. She’s feisty, she’s determined and intrepid and wickedly funny. But there’s depth and emotion and at times I just wanted to scoop her up and hug her and stop everyone from being terrible. She came alive right from the first page, and she has immediately gone into my list of favourite heroines ever. She’s quirky, she’s curvy, she’s sassy and she has an imaginary friend. What more could one want? And Kami steers clear of some of the usual pitfalls of heroines in fiction, which made me cheer. For example, a point where she’s trying to work out who the bad guys are, she considers for a moment that of course Jared couldn’t be the bad guy, and then promptly puts him back on the list until she can prove (other than her fuzzy feelings) that he is innocent. I loved that she was strong enough and sure enough of herself to stick to her beliefs and core even when everything around her was turning dark and treacherous and she could really use someone to trust.

And speaking of imaginary friends, Sarah has a talent for creating fantastic bad boy (read: rugged and manly) incredibly broken, terrible yet loveable men. And Jared takes this to whole new levels. There is a vulnerability to him that stops him from being full blown bad boy, and I loved seeing the juxtaposition of the outward appearance to the Jared revealed in his connection with Kami. His devotion takes on slightly darker undertones though, and I cannot wait to see how their relationship is explored further in book two. They have such an incredibly complex relationship filled with beautiful bittersweet moments as well as the funny and darker ones.

“’How do you deal with it?’ Kami asked Jared. ‘The laughing at nothing and occasionally stopping dead in your tracks.’
‘I have a system where when I stop, I lean casually against something,’ Jared told her. ‘It makes people think that I’m a bad boy. Or possibly that I have a bad back.’”

Part of what I love best about Jared and Kami, is how Sarah turns the much used troupe of insta-love, and strange soul mate-ish connections completely on its head. She really explores the darker side of having someone else in your head. It stops being this cool, hey look, I have someone to talk to all the time! And instead shows the darker elements of having someone know all the petty, awful, childish things you ever think. Someone who knows every corner of you and can use that to hurt you.

“She could not escape, could not untangle the strands of herself from him. She tried to visualize walls in her head, shields that she could hide behind.”

The fact that you are never your own person, you’re two halves of a whole, but not in a romantic way, in a ‘I have no idea what are your feelings and what are mine’ kind of way. It’s dark and twisted and utterly brilliant. I really felt for Kami, and one of my favourite moments was a moment just after she and Jared meet for the first time:

“She felt like he’d killed the Jared she knew.”

Sarah just captures this impossible idea so perfectly and shows both the brilliant moments of humour and tenderness and companionship, against the darker moments where they can’t separate themselves and have no idea of their own identities and feelings because they are constantly on a loop to the other person. It’s horrifying and fascinating and utterly fantastic, and Sarah handles it so deftly and brilliantly that something so strange seems so completely normal and yet twisty at the same time.

Kami and Jared lead a whole host of fantastic characters, and I had a little fan girl moment of glee when the whole Scooby gang was assembled and I cannot wait to see more of them working as a team in the next book. There’s something for everyone! Delicious golden good looks from Ash, curvy bubbly fantasticness from Holly and aloof awesome from Angela – there is such a diversity in her characters, in race and sexual orientation, and it’s so great to see more of this explored in YA fiction. Some of my favourite moments where when Kami had assembled the troops to get to the bottom of the mysteries in Sorry-in-the-vale. There is quite literally someone for everyone, and whilst the set up is fantastic, I cannot wait to get to the making out in book two, and to see a bit more behind each of this band of intrepid ninjas.

There is such a deliciously dark atmosphere and sense of foreboding throughout Рhighlighted against some of the lighter moments and scenes, and it creates a beautiful balance. Sarah has created a brilliant blend of gothic novel, paranormal young adult with romance and mystery galore. I wish we could see more intelligent and sassy novels like this, because it combined all the elements I love in books and manages to side step all the clich̩s pit falls you often find in YA novels at the moment.

There are the little titbits for crazy fan girls as well. There’s a family of Fairchild’s for fans of Cassie Clare, but the moment that made me squeal the loudest (actually there were two moments, but one was just me personally.) was when I got to chapter 16 and discovered it was called ‘Underwater Light’ – for all of you who have been there from the beginning I hope you squealed too. The second moment was when Rob calls Rosalind ‘Rosy’ I think I woke my mother with my shrieks they were so joyous. I have NEVER seen my name spelt properly in a book ever, not even in passing reference to a random character, and I actually had a moment over it here (and yes I am pretending that it was deliberately after me, don’t burst my bubble.)

And then we have the ending, which has created quite the emotional storm on the interwebs. Mostly people yelling at Sarah for crushing their hearts and ALL THE EMOTIONS. And yes, it is fantastic. It was the perfect end to the book, just the right amount of hook and pull into the second book with shadowy tones and oh my god moments. I loved it. And yes I did get to that last page and shriek a little bit, because really, a whole year until I get to slap Jared about a little bit for that? It broke my heart and smushed it up a little bit – to the point that having finished I stared at it for a full five minutes and then just flipped back to page one and started reading again.

So basically, I am a huge fan of Unspoken. It’s a brilliant new book (and start to a new series) from Sarah, and showcases some of her best writing to date. I will be busy buying copies and thrusting them at people at every available opportunity, and re-reading it until I can get my hands on book two…

1 comment:

  1. It's quite nice to see a really gushy, positive review of this book! I was really excited to read it before it was published and then I read more than one mixed review of it and I was a little bit more hesitant to find myself a copy. I think my excitement to read this book has resurfaced after reading your review, so thanks :)