My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Initial reaction: So “Unspoken” was the first book by Sarah Rees Brennan I’ve ever read and I have to say it impressed me as far as the structure of the narrative, the characters, the mystery and paranormal elements, as well as the overarching flow of the story was concerned. And the humor is spot on, it’s a good sign when a story can make me grin and engage me with respect to the story narrative in the way this novel did. I’ll certainly be looking forward to the sequel.
I still have a difficult time putting into words how much I enjoyed “Unspoken”, because while it has familiar elements in a YA paranormal coat, it manages to tell an engaging gothic-mystery story with charming wit. Kami Glass is awesome, a young spunky journalist who has a very unique ability – she’s lived most of her life with a voice inside her head. Sure that might sound a little crazy to the outside personality (and she’s often noted as little on the odd side), but Kami couldn’t imagine a life without Jared, and the two have a camaraderie that involves each other knowing their innermost secrets.
Kami didn’t realize that Jared would actually turn out to be more real than she imagined, and the start of their relationship truly begins with the arrival of the mysterious, powerful Lyndburn family in Kami’s hometown of Sorry-in-the-Vale. Furthermore, the Lyndburn family might have more to do with some of the mysterious happenings in Sorry-in-the-Vale that involve disappearances, deaths, and near attempts of murder, and Kami’s determined to get to the bottom of it one way or another, but it involves her making some tough choices in the measure of things.
I didn’t expect to like “Unspoken” as much as I did and I think a large part of my enjoyment came from the humor peppered in the story and how it kept me wanting to know more about the mysterious events going on in Sorry-in-the-Vale. The prose is appropriately paced and the atmosphere established in the writing is quite strong – I enjoyed reading about Sorry-in-the-Vale, following the complimenting quotations that are peppered in with the story’s thematic, and following the overarching mystery and dynamics of the characters. This story really doesn’t have the typical passive female that’s featured in a lot of YA paranormal stories as of late – Kami is proactive, she’s funny, she’s independent in a sense and capable of embracing change. I liked Jared’s character as well to an extent, but I found him more hot and cold than Kami’s character. Granted, I understood after a time that he and Kami were linked, and he has some very rough relations within his family (especially considering his relationship with his mother and the suspicions mounted against him). I didn’t always like his aloof attitude in spurts, but I definitely liked his humor and some of the moments where one can tell he genuinely cares about Kami.
Which made the ending of the novel all that more frustrating (though appropriate) considering the scheme of events. I figured once the pieces of the mystery revealed and the respective players came about that it would likely come down to a change that would put Kami and Jared’s relationship on rocky territory. Ash, Jared’s cousin, was a likable character in his own right, though I did sense his role in the conflict coming after a time, and it didn’t surprise me. I’m interested in seeing how Brennan chooses to develop the story in the next book as to the relationships and revelations that are given in this work. I couldn’t give this higher than the respective 4-star rating because the ending, for me didn’t click as well as I’d hoped, though I understood its aim. I had my respects for each of the character’s reactions, but their decisions still struck an odd chord with me and it’s a cliffhanger that leaves me in a bit of limbo. Others might feel differently about it. Still, I think “Unspoken” is a novel that will strike YA gothic mystery fans who like a bit of humor and atmosphere in a paranormal coat. It definitely does a lot of paranormal/supernatural elements better than peer novels I’ve read in the past year, and I’m looking forward to seeing what turns it takes in future installments of the series.
Overall score: 4/5
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Random House BFYR.