[Review] Unspoken – Sarah Rees Brennan

“Listen to me. I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know what any of this means. But I know this much. It doesn’t matter. You’re not one of them. You never were. You’re not theirs. You’re mine.”

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Forest deep, silent bells
There’s a secret no one tells
Valley quiet, water still
Lynburns watching on the hill
Apples red, corn gold
Almost everyone grows old.

A gripping mystery for those looking for a magic filled, rural tale of a town with too many secrets and an unpredictable match who can read into each other’s minds and the world was very wrong to let them come together.

3.75/5 Stars 
Recommendation: For those looking for a page turner and a compelling read, but don’t expect so much so as real logic to the actions but still get a lot of relatability with the characters. Good thrills in exchange for a mystery that’s way too convenient and a book that’s a bit too on the nose with its humor.

Imagine what it’s like never being alone.
A voice that knows you and speaks through your thoughts, a familiar presence that has accompanied you ever since you were born. A someone who speaks loud and clearly and brings you comfort, a voice that only you can hear. Now imagine it’s a boy.

Jared has been there ever since Kami was born, while the people in their lives have tirelessly worked to convince them neither is real. But things very much change the day the Lyburns move back into town and Jared practically knocks at Kami’s door.

Kami is an avid and intrepid reporter in the small town of Sorry-in-the-Vale who suffers from teenager who wants to change the world YA syndrome. Despite living in a small town where everyone knows each other, she can’t help but to live with the haunting dread of the secrets that plague every corner of her city and she knows the Lyburns that lived by the woods are at the heart of all of this.  Now they are back into town, people are getting murdered and her relationship with Jared is getting all too complicated.

Some fairy tales sound better when they remained concealed in our imaginations.

This book is too much, it’s just too much and its nothing at the same time- It tries to rebel and go against many classic YA tropes while tightly sticking to them at the same time, to the point where I can’t tell what’s going to happen anymore. I’m not too sure if that’s good or bad, but I suppose its the later because of how fickle these characters feel in nature. Kami is truly an unreliable narrator, and because of her rapid thoughts and switches it’s hard to keep track of motivations, allegiences and who is what and why, to the point it sometimes may just become confusing.

I have very mixed feelings on how this play with tropes was approached, but I’m still glad some was attempted to be addressed and didn’t fall too hard on its face… Where the author was going with said play though, is what I really don’t know. The book also comes with inclusions of what began as a love triangle, spun around and then again I’m left not being sure if that was for better or for worse. One thing was certain and that is that it was practically infuriating in the begging.

The book is also way too convenient, to the point I feel like I’m throwing the world “mystery” lightly. It’s like one of those frustrating mysteries that get conveniently solved because of that one huge incriminating piece of evidence left at the crime scene by the killer. Leads are left out open in the air and go by days without pursuing them —because Brennan was much too busy giving spotlight to annoying love triangles, since that’s the stuff that matters in YA, right?— and it would have no sort of impact in the story. In fact nothing, and I mean nothing made any sort of impact in the long run. Not character decisions because they (mostly Kami) would change their mind at least multiple times per chapter, no tantrum thrown by any character (mostly Jared) or horrible deeds said and done would be forgiven in the matter of one chapter and sometimes maybe even two to act as if nothing ever happened, no terrible secrets uncovered would ever change anyone’s mind or make them act any more wary around this obviously dangerous town. The characters stayed flat and unswaying throughout what was basically the entirety of the novel (with the exception of the final few chapters) and that made it hard trying to ground this novel in reality.

Don’t get me wrong though, if you liked anything like The Caster Chronicles, you will certainly enjoy this book.  The truth is this book isn’t very pretentious in the long run and doesn’t pretend to be (many) things it’s not. While not being the most intricate or fascinating read, this new series is a real page turner that will grip you from beginning to end. It’s not that long either, so it’s a very fast and exciting ride from its beginning to the end. A fair warning however, the book practically feels unfinished. There was a terrible cliffhanger slapped into the ending that is completely INFURIATING and may end up angering you for days on end if you were already fully immersed in the story.

“The Lynburns built this town on their blood and bones.”

“That was their first mistake,” Jared said. “They should’ve built a city on rock and roll.”

The humor is great though. Which is something I often find my YA reads to be lacking (and why I might be such a big fan of Maggie Stiefvater in the first place) and this book was very close to making up for it… The issue is its downfall is the humor as well, just it’s too much and it often enough ruins the tone of the book. The characters find themselves using humor through many of the more serious scenes, and while that helps alleviate some of the well pent up tension it also killed the entire eeriee and gothic mood that it was going for and detatched the reader from any sense of urgency or emergency. If you’re any like me, I actually appreciated it a lot because it almost made the novel self aware and it keeps me from taking it too seriously… In which case this review would be much harsher than it actually is. Perhaps if I graded this as the angsty, Gothic romance the book’s presentation and synopsis made it out to be we’d be in a whole other level…

“Jared told her he used to be an exotic dancer in San Francisco.’

“My body is a gift from God,’ Jared said gravely. ‘Except for my hips, which are clearly a gift from the devil.”

Spoilers ahead and down bellow kiddos ! (Click read more)

Rants for Unspoken:

— Jared. I loved him yet I hated him? I think I must have loathed him more though, sorry…

➜ The constant self loathing and self pitying that made it hard trying to connect with him as a character. This boy has legitimate issues… Which is all fine and great if it had been explored in the least.

➜  “I’ll save you, and later I’ll be better, I’ll do anything you want, be anything you want me to be. Please don’t do it.” This entire quote?

This quote makes Jared entirely unreedemable to be honest— Because this would (shove in my face) convince me that Kami and Jared won’t be together, which is weird considering the premise of the story is their romance? And as valid and nice as it is that she’s not allowing herself to be manipulated or letting Jared be so coodependent, it really confuses me as to try and figure out which direction the book is going.

However, if they do end up together after this quote I will throw this book out the window. I hate overestimating authors. I’m really not sure about what tone the book is trying to go for with this… Are we supposed to take it seriously? Are we supposed to conclude something is wrong with Jared? Are we supposed to be swooned by this or expect the MC to fall for it?

— The entire romantic plot of this novel? It tries to accomplish so much but it is just so poorly done- The author spends so much time trying to establish Jared’s and Kami’s “complicated” relationship before constantly throwing it all out the window time and time again–

➜ In fact, the only serious scenes in the book aim to explore Kami’s and Jared’s relationship, only making the book unnecessarily melodramatic.

➜ The romance between Ash and Kami was so instantaneous I was left feeling very confused, as I never really caught on the moment where they established any sort of romance and was suddenly treated with the two kissing.

➜ But of course, it couldn’t have been up to the reader to chose between two decent and relatable characters. Ash had tot turn out evil. Fun fun.

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➜ Oh and let us not forget the confusing aspect about Kami fighting for so long to let Jared know she wasn’t interested in a romance purely because they shared minds. Or a romance at all without getting to know him properly… And then having her say I love you for some reason before she cut the connection… And then have Jared turn to be an absolutely total jackass, when you’d imagine that’d be the thing he most wanted to hear…?

— Throughout the whole book we’re lead to believe Sorry-in-the-Vale is this super conservative town where everyone knows what everyone is up to, yet a girl dies in the middle of the narrative and everyone is back to friendly bantering on the next day.

➜This girl was supposed to be Kami’s best friend too? I can get behind she was a bitch and dumped Kami at an early age… But even out of respect for their years together, Kami couldn’t be scarred in the ever so slightly? This “twist” seems to be meant to scare more the readers than it ever scared any of the 16-something-year-old characters. And let me tell you, it was boring, not scary.

— Kami’s caricature worth parents. The father is in the story to do nothing but deliver joke lines that could very well be done in writing but just seem very awkward and unlikely in real life. While the mother is only there to be beautiful and provide more than convenient exposition for the sake of cheap angst.

— Jared’s caricature worth family- I can not begin to describe my frustration with the lack of information Jared had regarding his own family. How could you live with the most powerful sorcerers in the world without even knowing they’re something as big of a deal as magic wielders? When his family wasn’t even hiding it from him either. It was only some sort of big and cheap reveal for the sake of the audience that was more infuriating than mind blowing.

— Was I supposed to be impressed by the revelation the Lyburns were sorcerers?
I get the story wasn’t marketed that way, and there was no way I should’ve known (which I didn’t know, in fact) but there was no sort of big secret reveal in my opinion. I was very much prepared to hear they were vampires instead and I could thrive on how ridiculous that would’ve been- Instead we’re treated to a stale, boring sorcerer road that adds absolutely nothing to the story and is fully forgettable.

Praise for Unspoken:

—I was honestly drawn to it by only knowing this would include a couple communicating telepathically. And in fact, it was the only thing I knew about it as well… It very much made me think of Feyre and Rhysand which I very much appreciated- The entire putting up walls and shouting down bonds shenanigans. Much like in ACOTAR, such wished it had been used a bit more often or in more clever ways.

— How little I expected the entire “I’m scared now that you are real” dynamic between Kami and Jared. This book could’ve perfectly gotten away without it just because the fact its YA- But it went the extra mile to add that realism and I very much appreciated it. I just read about it and… it made sense. Which is something I can’t say for any YA work as of lately.

—One of the biggest things addressed is the troubled bad boy in a leather jacket trope. Jared in fact showed real trouble and codependency from a life of being rejected in his own home, in turned he clung to Kami through his mind and real issues of codependency are shown. It is a refreshing twist to see Kami stand against that and soothe those kinds of thoughts throughout the novel, but it tends to only confuse the reader on where they even stand.

Jared is convinced their connection is an act of faith and has everything to do with true love, and while the hard rejection of that fact was a little too on the nose, it was nice seeing a heroine that wasn’t immediately swooned or enthralled with the entire idea and instead looked for a logical explanation.

— Whatever happened when they were 14- I was cracking up every time it was brought up, and I very much appreciated its humor and daringness by including it. Surely would’ve loved some more details, but even vague like that is simply hilarious.

As a small concluding rant, Unspoken was the first of my Waterstones haul to arrive in the mail. And I’ll admit that I was very disappointed, because when I first ordered the book, I was sold this copy:

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And instead had this terrible monster come through the mail:

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What a sad, sad day for humanity…. (God how much do I hate stock picture covers- It doesn’t even make the book any justice, like there was any romance–)

 

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3 thoughts on “[Review] Unspoken – Sarah Rees Brennan

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