Review: Unspoken

By Casey Wilson

It has been a long time since I’ve fallen as hard and as fast and as completely for a book as I did this week with Sarah Rees Brennan’s Unspoken. So know that up front: this is a brilliant book, one that I already can’t wait to reread.

As Rees Brennan said over at John Scalzi’s The Big Idea, Unspoken is a mash up of a gothic novel and a girl detective novel – a combination that works incredibly well, as the girl detective is very keen on figuring out exactly what’s up with that weird Gothic manor and the people who live in it. But this is also a book about friendship, identity, and how much of ourselves we can share with someone else…and a number of other important and heavy ideas, all buried under a landslide of humor.

Kami Glass is the aforementioned girl detective. When we first meet her, she’s typing an article about her determination to find the secrets of her little village, because she’s sure they exist. Kami is quirky and funny and part Japanese and maybe not the prettiest of her friends, all of which factor significantly into her identity and outlook on the world. As does the imaginary friend she talks to in her head – the one who might not be so imaginary, after all.

The characters who surround Kami are also fully realized with depths beyond their surface descriptors: Jared, the “imaginary” friend with a bad attitude who trusts and needs Kami above all else; Ash, Jared’s cousin, the good-looking new boy who joins in Kami’s school newspaper crew; Angela, Kami’s best friend who hates people and loves to nap; and Holly, the pretty girl who none of the other girls seem to like. Even more minor characters like Kami’s brothers are drawn with care and warmth. I could go on at length about characters not even mentioned in the above list (Rusty! Kami’s dad!) which, to me, is always a good sign.

As the mysteries begin to unravel, Kami’s life gets more and more complicated. Nearly everyone in this book has a secret, big or small, and that only adds to the atmosphere of the novel. I’ve seen a lot of talk – on Twitter and elsewhere – about the way the book ends, and while I won’t give anything specific away, I will say that the ending is deeply emotional and intensely earned.

There are two more books to come in The Lynburn Legacy trilogy. But don’t wait – read this one now. It’s quite possibly my favorite book of the year so far.

Casey is a PhD student who looks forward to being able to teach this book someday.

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