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?
You can read an excerpt here.
How best to describe this book? Drop Nancy Drew in the middle of a Gothic novel, and you’re starting to get warm. Mix in the sighs, angst, and Mysterious (Yet Hot) Other of a paranormal YA, then dip the whole concoction in a fondue of quirky wit and you pretty much have Sarah Rees Brennan’s Unspoken.
Far and away, my favorite thing about this book was its sense of humor. Brennan undoubtedly can sling witty repartee in highly amusing fashion, and her quirky characters were very entertaining to behold as they went traipsing about their dark and foreboding landscape – and it was all just far more silly fun than I ever expected to have while reading a story built on a foundation of Gothic mystery (i.e. melodrama) and Paranormal YA (i.e. angst). Somehow Brennan manages to lovingly burnish the tropes of both genres while being cheeky at their expense – and while you might think it’d be impossible for a book to be both melodramatic (the good kind) and yet never take itself too seriously, somehow this book pulls it off with style.
As for the aforementioned characters, the heart and soul of this story are the ladies – Kami is a fun bundle of chutzpa, one of those unrelentingly enthusiastic overachievers who won’t take no for an answer, and as for Angela, Kami’s best friend (who was, I think, my favorite character in the entire book), she’s a gorgeous girl who unabashedly does not like people, or care about popularity, and wants nothing so much as to be left lone to nap. The two of them just had personality to spare, so much so that I couldn’t help but think of them as the antithesis of the type of heroines we usually find in these genres – oh, you know the ones I mean, the quiet, naive, bookish, yet unknowningly gorgeous types who inevitably are inexplicably drawn to brooding boys. And that’s really the key to this entire book – everything you’d expect to find is very much in evidence, from the love triangle to the creepy manor on a hill, and yet Brennan takes those tropes and subtly subverts them even as she pays homage. So while yes, this story does have a cold, distant, ridiculously attractive bad boy and a gorgeous golden boy charmer for our heroine to chose between, I think the fact that my favorite male character was actually neither of them, but instead Angela’s hilariously lazy and goofy brother, Rusty, tells you everything you need to know about this book.
As for the mystery – well, if you’re a fan of mysteries, you’ll know what’s coming pretty much the entire time, but you’ll still be having fun. As for me, I found myself far more involved in the emotional tug-of-war than the plotting – which at times I thought felt a bit like an afterthought – but while the final pay-off definitely does deliver, it does so on an emotional level, rather than an investigative one. And even though I was involved throughout this story, no question, knowing whodunit long before the final reveal did kind of deflate the proceedings a bit. But as I said, this story is undeniably fun, and Brennan definitely makes us care about these characters enough to want to see them through to the bitter end. And despite my longing for a bit more mystery to the mystery, I can easily admit that the mystery was never truly the point of this story.
Still, I do think I have to blame the plotting as to why I didn’t full-on swoon over this story, despite being highly entertained throughout. It also didn’t help that towards the end this story strayed more and more firmly into the paranormal YA realm, which frankly was a bit of a let-down for me, as it meant the story strayed further and further away from plucky girl reporter territory – though I do realize how ridiculously subjective that reaction is. But in the end, there is no doubting that Sarah Rees Brennan is a true original, or that this series is going to be a lot of fun – or that it’s entirely Brennan’s fault that I now need to go watch Northanger Abbey and Jane Eyre again. (Good thing I own them…)
Byrt Grade: A-
As Levar Burton used to say – you don’t have to take my word for it…
[A] note to Sarah Rees Brennan: Because you wrote this book that I loved so very, very much, I will love you forever. However, because you also gave this book that I loved so very, very much a SHOCKINGLY PAINFUL ENDING, I would kick you if you were sitting next to me right now. In a nice way.
Kami Glass is the kind of 17-year-old who can roll a sentence like “I can defenestrate my own thugs” off her tongue…Like its characters, the kickoff to Brennan’s Lynburn Legacy series is charming, awkward, and smart, occasionally biting off a bit more than it can chew.
I still can’t believe a book that made me laugh so hard would so utterly and completely break my heart in the end.