What You Need to Know:|
• This dystopian novel features a group of thirteen year-olds as they navigate a world where two societies, Artime
and Quill, struggle over their opposing views.
• The story shifts back and forth between Artime and Quill.
• The connection between twins, Alex and Aaron, plays a key role in the story.
• There are a few violent scenes, including a few deaths, but there are few gory details.
• A very innocent romance, including one kiss, begins for the main characters.
• This book is the first in a series.
• Lisa McMann's other books are geared toward an older audience.
This blend of magic and dystopia, accurately pegged as "The Hunger Games meets Harry Potter", will please young readers. It is partially set in a bleak land, Quill, where youngsters are eliminated like in The Hunger Games, but with only a hint of the violence. In Quill, both creativity and those who create are eliminated, and only those who favor power and strength are allowed to survive. As they regularly declare,
Quill prevails when the strong survive!"
So, at the age of thirteen, Alex Stowe is one of those deemed "Unwanted" by Justine, the High Priest of Quill. They are considered weak (in other words, creative or imaginative), and therefore, they are sent off to die. Alex and the other Unwanteds are shunned by society, even their parents and siblings, as they head to The Death Farm. But death farms are not always what they seem. In this case, there is no death at the death farm. There is no elimination. The Unwanteds actually turn out to be the lucky ones. They end up in Artime, a society hidden from Quill and filled with magic, freedom, truth, humor, and color. It is the exact opposite of Quill.
Alex, is obviously thrilled not to find himself in the Great Lake of Boiling Oil, but life in Artime is an adjustment for all of the Unwanteds. It takes some getting used to, living in a world where artistic talent is admired and developed, especially after coming from a society where singing is illegal and there's not a pencil in sight. Then there are the magical elements, like the animals and statues that speak, the "octogator" who teaches drawing, and the tubes that are used as a mode of transportation. To make things even harder for Alex, he is separated from his twin, Aaron, the Wanted. Alex gets to know other Unwanteds, Meghan, Lani and Samheed, but when they are all chosen to begin their "Magical Warrior Training", months before he is, Alex becomes angry and withdrawn.
It isn't until he confronts his twin, and himself, that Alex understands who he is and where he belongs. Just as the twins must face their differences, so, eventually, do the people of Quill and Artime. And by "face", I mean "fight", although, fighting in Artime terms means using "creative ingenuity" rather than traditional weaponry. They arm themselves with spells that have the power to encase the enemy in splatter paint or make them fall asleep. They paint themselves invisible, bring origami dragons to life, use magic highlighters to blind their opponents, and much more. This unique combination of art and magic is especially enchanting!
Although things don't always add up (like, how can Aaron excel in math class without a pencil, and is there no creativity in economics?), Lisa McMann does an excellent job of bringing both Quill and Artime to life. For readers who are interested in a dystopian novel, but are not quite ready for the violence of The Hunger Games, The Unwanteds is a great selection. Readers are entertained, but also inspired to ponder concepts like government, freedom and good versus evil. And for those who love a sequel, good news, there is more to come.
2011, 390 pages
Family Life, Friendship, Magic, Romance, Self-Awareness/Discovery, Siblings
• Do you think you would have been one of the "Unwanteds"? Why or why not?
• Why was creativity banned in Quill?
• In what ways are Quill and Artime different? Which of the two would you prefer?
• Would you have reported the infractions of your neighbors, like Aaron did?
• What role does Isolationism play in Quill?
• Why doesn't anyone challenge the High Priest Justine?
• Did Mr. Today do the right thing by delaying Alex's magic training?
• How would you choose to fight? Would you use lethal weapons? Why or why not?
• Once they are discovered, why does Mr. Today choose not to seal off Artime from the people of Quill?
• Is fighting less violent if you are using "artistic weapons"?
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