Monday, March 18, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: UNSPOKEN by Sarah Rees Brennan - Wit & Thrills!

Unspoken (The Lynburn Legacy, #1)
by Sarah Rees Brennan

Published September 11, 2012 by Random House Books for Young Readers
Find a copy at Barnes & Noble • Amazon • Random House • other stores

GENRE: YA • Urban Fantasy • Mystery • Paranormal Romance • Supernatural

 (Technically 4.7, rounded to 5)

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?
Anyone looking for sharp, brilliant humor and wit must read this book. It is a moral requirement. I stumbled upon this book and must now scream it to the world at the top of my lungs. Bright (yet dark), fresh, engaging and jammed packed with substance, UNSPOKEN is my new favorite toy. MINE. MINE. MINE.

However, I am willing to share with you my fellow book addicts. After reading what seemed to be the same plot over and over and over again, I have been brought home to the mothership of originality. Brennan masterfully fused acute humor, perceptive characters, clarified plot lines and exceptional writing style into a well-balanced work of art. She did not dumb down the characters or simplify the structure. It was a cornucopia of novel deliciousness.

Written in third person, Brennan still managed to cut right to the heart of her characters. The dialogue between the younger characters is chocked full of smart, witty bantering which had me holding my side laughing. Honestly, the repartee was a much needed oasis in a dark setting.

Kami is surprising easy to relate to, even with her unique condition. (Not that some days things can get so upended I think I'm hearing voices. LOL) Sorry, I digress. She's an odd ball with spunk. Despite having grown up her whole life with people thinking she's nuts, Kami is confident, plucky and a girl of action. It would be perfectly normal to hide in her house until she could flee to University, but she put her game face on and braved the ninth layer of hades otherwise known as high school (secondary education). Brennan gave her every characteristic of a perfect detective/investigator. She is the perfect journalist.. except for getting to close to her stories. Brennan made me love her even more for being fallible. Kami made mistakes and misinterpreted. What I found spellbinding was her reaction to the flesh and blood of the voice in her head. Both characters puzzled me with their violent reaction. It wasn't what I had expected, but you know me... a gushy mushy romantic. 

The romance is very lightly handled in this novel. There is no easy path, no standard YA "instant-fall-in-love" crud. It is complicated, twisted, convoluted, nebulous, and unsettled. I LOVED it. Sigh... how refreshing. Kami has several boys who seem to be interested, but it feels as far from a standard love triangle as I am from the planet Saturn. I was constantly questioning what would happen. The scenes were intense and the ending left me dumbfounded.. or gobsmacked as the Brits would say.

The pace was satisfactory, though I felt the first couple of chapters needed a gentle push to start gaining momentum. I was also aggravated by the slow unearthing of the wonderful subplot of the ever changing bond between Kami and the boy who is now the body of the voice in her head. Overall the plot was meticulous. Most of it was focused on the enigmatic Lynburns returning and if there was a connection between their return and the dark and unexpected disturbances that started plaguing the townspeople. Other subplots included Kami's relationship with her mother, Ash and his motives, Angela and Holly as well as Rusty and his place in Kami's life. I found I was riveted in the last half of the book, hiding under the covers with my light to finish! 

Jared was almost like two different characters in this book. There was the before and the after. The one and the other. Sorry, I know I'm being ambiguous. Part of me wanted to snuggle up and cuddle with him and the other wanted to kick him in the boy parts. The ending with him had me completely baffled. Argh! I can't say anymore or I will spoil it.
Ash was a tricky character that had me guessing the whole novel. Who is he really? He also gave me a jolt in the last few scenes. Now I have no idea what to make of him.
Kami's friends from her neighborhood were surprisingly well developed and rich characters. 

After finishing the book late last night, I am seriously committed to this series and am anxiously awaiting the release of UNTOLD (Book #2) on September 24, 2013. This novel is crammed packed with intelligent one-liners, dry wit, multifaceted characters, ever changing directions and thick mystery. The shockingly gut-wrenching cliffhanger only made me confident the next installment will be outstanding. ENJOY!