The two prequels to Sarah Rees Brennan’s brilliant new novel ‘Unspoken’ are fantastic. I’m loving this new trend to release novellas prior to a new book, it starts the hype about the book, it gives you a taste of what’s to come, and in this case it offered two unique and beautiful new insights into our characters from sources that we would have never otherwise seen.
Let’s start with ‘The Summer Before I Met You’ which is Kami’s story, even though it is told through Liz who ran the fateful summer cricket camp. It gives us an outsiders look at Kami and Angela and Sorry in the Vale and how Kami might seem to someone who isn’t used to her odd moments of ‘awayness’ with Jared. It also gives us a brief look into an event that shapes the Kami we know from ‘Unspoken’ with a family death. Everything gravitates towards Kami, she is like a little sun that pulls everything and everyone into her own orbit. I loved seeing these characters, a bit more of Rusty and the previous boyfriend and Angela, and the sheer insanity that seems to happen around Kami whether she means for it to or not. It’s a fantastic novella and one that works really well to set up and offer that little look at what Kami must seem like to outsiders.
However my real love lay with Jared’s novella ‘The Spring Before I Met You.’ We see so much of the inside of Jared’s mind through Kami in ‘Unspoken’ that it was jarring and fascinating to see him from an outsider, an unqualified guidance counsellor Mariel, who wants to help the obviously troubled Jared, but genuinely has no idea how to do so. Mariel is so completely baffled by him, and how she might be able to help him, but seems unable to stay away. She, like the rest of us, seems to fall prey to the study in contrasts that is Jared, both capable of destruction and terror, but kindness as well. There were some really lovely moments that I loved witnessing that really screwed up Jared’s bad boy image. It was heartbreaking to see him in this setting, to see more of his dysfunctional unit with his mother and the desperate determination to cling to ‘Kami’ and his acceptance of Mariel only when she wants to talk about his imaginary friend. The novella was darker and more heartbreaking than ‘Summer’ and yet the perfect study in contrasts to lead us into Unspoken.
I really hope that we get to see some more novellas with the release of books two and three in the trilogy, because I loved the added insight and little corners that we get to see that we never would have had access to just from Unspoken. For fans of Unspoken these novellas are a must read, and for those of you debating whether to launch into Unspoken, these two will give you a free and fantastic taster of what’s in store for you.