Friday, August 17, 2012

Review: Unspoken by Sara Rees Brennan

Friday, August 17, 2012 with 8 comments
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Title:  Unspoken
Author:  Sarah Rees Brennan
Series:  Book 1 in The Lynburn Legacy series
Publisher:  Random House Books for Young Readers
Publication Date:  September 11, 2012
Source:  Netgalley
Purchase:  Amazon | Barnes & Noble

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?

The minute word of this novel reached me, I knew I was going to love it.  For one thing, I'd read anything Sarah Rees Brennan wrote, even if it was a cookbook.  Secondly, it's a gothic mystery with a very new-age Nancy Drew vibe.  How could I not read it?  And then there's the matter of that spectacularly creepy yet beautiful cover.  I was so glad to see such a unique cover on a YA novel, but then I was equally as sad to hear from the author that the cover is probably one of the main reasons that B&N has decided not to carry the title in-store.  Brennan has since removed the post from her blog, and I failed to get a screenshot of it, unfortunately, but that doesn't make it any less true.  I'm sure there were many deciding factors in whether or not the stores stocked the title, but in my opinion, this cover shouldn't have been one of them.  I think this cover is one that the author and publisher should be very proud of…different and unique is good, right?  At least it's not a girl in a pretty dress or a big ole eye staring at you.  Moving on….

I don't think there was any doubt that Kami was going to be one of my favorite aspects of this novel.  She's smart, determined, and virtually unflappable.  And Kami's quick-wit and sarcasm only added to my infatuation with her.  Her gutsy nature and bravado meant that she leapt into situations whole-heartedly, but she isn't the type of girl to go into a situation without a plan.  This girl is prepared for anything.  And her friends are all along for the ride, even if they may not be entirely on board with the idea.  Kami is a journalist at heart and she WILL get her answers, whether you help her or not.  Let's just hope she's really read for the answers when she gets them.

“If I wasn't going to be a world-famous journalist and if I didn't have such respect for truth and justice, I could be an amazing master criminal.”
"She typed out: "With the advent of sperm banks, women realized the sheer uselessness of men, and by the year 2100 they were largely extinct" with extreme force."
Jared is the other half of this dynamic duo.  He and Kami have always been able to communicate telepathically, and it never bothered them in the slightest.  That is, until they meet face-to-face.  Then everything changes.  Neither one of them are sure of themselves anymore.  Jared pushes Kami away in one instant, only to pull her back when she needs him…or when he thinks his cousin Ash has designs on Kami's affections.  But Kami and Jared are a perfect match for each other:  where Kami is outspoken and calculating, Jared is strong and silent but still up for any of Kami's outlandish proposals.  They work really well as a team…and when they do work together, hilarity almost always ensues.

“My body is a gift from God,” Jared said gravely.  “Except for my hips, which are clearly a gift from the devil.”
You might be thinking that this novel is going to be dark.  And you'd be partially correct in that assumption.  But it is also funny and sad and a thousand other things.  Sure, there's a dead girl, and animal sacrifices are involved, but there's also magic and a mystery to solve.  And because of the connection Kami and Jared share, there's such a sense of camaraderie between them.  As the story unfolds, that camaraderie extends to the rest of their rag-tag little group.  Instead of a creepy Masterpiece Theater-type mystery, think Scooby Doo.  Seriously.  It's fun but with a slightly more grown-up creep-factor.
"He didn't feel angry with her, only surprised, his mind turned to hers naturally, like brushing the back of someone's hand and having him link your fingers together."
"Right," Holly said. "Well. If the unicorn is pink, about two feet tall, with a sparkly mane, we'll know my imaginary friend is real, too."
Another aspect of this novel that I found refreshing was how important family was.  I generally hate to make comparisons, but you and I both know that most YA novels have a distinct lack of familial attachments.  Not so in this one.  Kami’s parents are both involved in her life and we even find out more about Kami and her relationship with Jared through her parents’ history.  Family plays an even bigger role in Jared’s upbringing and is actually part of the story behind the Lynburns return to Sorry-in-the-Vale.

Ah, Sorry-in-the-Vale.  I couldn’t ask for a more perfect setting for this story.  A quiet little town in England, set in a valley and cut through the middle by the Sorriest River.  A creepy manor, owned by the even creepier Lynburns, sits atop a hill overlooking the town.  You can picture it already, can’t you?

If you’ve read The Demon’s Lexicon series, you know that Brennan can unravel a fantastical tale, no matter who’s doing the storytelling.  I thoroughly enjoyed Kami’s POV, but I can promise you that it wouldn’t be any less of a great story if it had been told from Jared’s perspective, or even from Angela’s or Ash’s POV.  And if you’ve read the aforementioned series, you also know that the author likes to switch things up.  After the rather unexpected ending in Unspoken, I wouldn’t be surprised if Brennan did just that for the next installment in the Lynburn Legacy series.

There are about a million things I'd like to say about this novel, but I think it's better going into a story not expecting anything and ending up pleasantly surprised.  And so I’ll leave most of what I want to say unspoken, though I’ve probably said too much already.  This is a novel that can speak for itself, if given the opportunity.  Please, please give it the opportunity.  I can’t promise you’ll love it as much as I did, but BLAST, you will love it, or my name isn’t  Jen von Biggerbum.  (Okay, that’s really not my name, though some might beg to differ.)  All I’m saying is, just trust me on this one.

Rating:  Photobucket but I'd give it all the stars in the universe, if I could

I may have used creepy -- or some variation of the word -- too many times in my review.  It was not intentional, though, maybe subconsciously, it was.


  1. I just finished Unspoken too. I loved it too. SO good. Some of the dialogue made me laugh out loud it was such a well written book.

  2. I REALLY want to read this book. I've read so many great things about it, I hope NetGalley approves me for this. Great review!

  3. I can't wait to read Unspoken. The very first time I saw that cover, like you I was completely sucked in. I have never read anything by Sara, but I have heard amazing things about what that woman can do to the pages of a book. It really blows my mind that B&N would turn away a book because of a cover that is this amazing. I am not a huge fan of the store(ie:price), but I think that would keep me from shopping there anyway. Anywho, I am glad that you enjoyed this book. Now I can go buy in peace, and read, read, read!

  4. I cannot wait for this book!!! I'm a HUGE fan of the Demon's Lexicon series and I need more SRB in my life! I wish I would've gotten a chance to read it early as well, but Negalley turned me down *sigh*
    The quotes make me look forward to the dialogue now ^^ This is gonna be loads of creepy fun! :D

  5. I loved this book! As an employee of Barnes and Noble, I find it hard to believe they'd actually NOT carry a book just because of the cover? Although I'm not a fan of this cover, I've seen covers that are horrible! And this one isn't bad, just not really what I'd think of for this age. Interesting. Now I have to check in the computer tomorrow, and make sure my store has some ordered in! :-)

  6. I was approved for this on NetGalley. I never accepted it though. there is just something about it I wasn't sure of. I have never read any of her stuff, so maybe that's what my hesitation was. I think i'll go check if it's still available to download though, because you have me wanting to read it. if not I will buy it for the kindle.

    I love that there is parent involvement. Coming from a childhood where there wasn't, it pleases me to read books where there is good relationships going on. :)

  7. Glad you loved this one so much! Thanks for linking up :)

  8. Wonderful review Jen! I loved this "new age Nancy Drew" as well. The humor was excellent and fun. Love the quote you pulled: “My body is a gift from God,” Jared said gravely. “Except for my hips, which are clearly a gift from the devil.” :)


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