The Unwanteds is written by Lisa McMann. It was published in 2011 by Aladdin. It is the first book in the Unwanteds series.
Every year in Quill, thirteen-year-olds are sorted into categories: the strong, intelligent Wanteds go to university, and the artistic Unwanteds are sent to their graves. On the day of the Purge, identical twins Alex and Aaron Stowe await their fate. While Aaron is hopeful of becoming a Wanted, Alex knows his chances are slim. He’s been caught drawing with a stick in the dirt—and in the stark gray land of Quill, being creative is a death sentence. But when Alex and the other Unwanteds face the Eliminators, they discover an eccentric magician named Mr. Today and his hidden world that exists to save the condemned children. Artimé is a colorful place of talking statues, uncommon creatures, and artistic magic, where creativity is considered a gift…and a weapon.
The Unwanteds is basically a cross between The Giver, The Hunger Games, and Harry Potter. It has a fairly unique (and really cool) magic, and I especially loved the paper dragons and the soliloquy spells. Although the world didn’t make much sense to me (it wasn’t incredibly developed), I have always liked the “magic school” idea and I thought McMann handled it well, even if she didn’t break any new ground.
While I thought the characters were a trifle flat, I did enjoy the conflict between Alex and Aaron. Most of the other (young) characters, with the exception of Samheed and Lani, were pretty forgettable, though. Mr. Today was the usual eccentric headmaster, and for most of the book I kept trying to figure out if his name was supposed to be meaningful or not.
I also thought the whole book covered a lot of ground for being the first in a series, and I wonder what the rest of the books have in store since the main conflict between Quill and Artimé is already over.
Recommended Age Range: 12+
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade.
“Work hard on your art first. Once you get really good at it, your instructor will recommend moving you up to Magical Warrior Training.”
“But what is that, exactly? Mr. Today asked us all if we would do it.”
“It’s a class where you learn to defend yourself and to fight, using magical weapons of art. Like—”
“Maybe Quill won’t want to fight us,” Meghan said.
Sean laughed, although not unkindly. “Oh, yes. I’m sure they will. They’ve been gearing up for a fight for fifty years! Why do you think they put their so-called best people in the Quillitary?”
There were some aspects of The Unwanteds that I loved, such as the creative aspect of the magic. Although McMann doesn’t do much to go above and beyond the usual, there is enough originality that none of the tropes feel overused. I did think some of the characters were a little flat, and I would have liked some more development overall, but a solid showing nonetheless.
You can buy this here: The Unwanteds