Monday 7 April 2014

Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan

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?

This was a modern take on classic Victorian Gothic; it had the small town with a big secret, a big family trying to stay in power, and even a bit of the unexplainable magic thrown in for the fun of it. It told of Kami, journalist/detective in training, her weird telepathic powers with new boy in town and his family's claim to fame: 'We neither drown nor burn'. Sounds nice, huh? 

Kami wanted to be a journalist and the whole book had this 'there's a secret and I must know' feel which led a powerful mystery narrative, which was really fun to read alongside what I take to be Brennan's typical display of witticisms. Kami is investigating the return of the power family, the Lynburns, starting with the teen cousins in her school. Now, the Lynburns were... let's just go with interesting. Nothing about them seemed to make sense and it was frustrating to be left in the dark. But I guess that was the point! As for Jared, he was highly entertaining, if annoying to all hell; he was stubborn and disagreeable, weirdly protective and considering we were basically in his head, he was very difficult to read. His and Kami's interactions were either adorable or extremely awkward; I can understand it being a bit weird to find your imaginary friend come to life but that doesn't mean you have to hold her at arm's length!

I'm not sure I liked how the mystery took a back-burner for the first half of the book, just to explore Kami and Jared's relationship; it made the clues piece together funny and the time seemed to drag, as well as their relationship not really progressing much. Jared was stubborn enough to make it have a 'two steps forward, one step back' feel. But they were quite sweet together when they weren't over-thinking it, and they made a good team in the hunt for clues. Speaking of team, Kami's best friend Angela was a nice saving grace from all the weird. She was very funny and lazy to the point of useless but she clearly cared for Kami and would follow her in her stupidly dangerous hunts, if only to make sure she came back. And Holly, new comer in their Scooby Gang, was clever and eager to help.

All in all, I really liked this but I had my moments of doubt; some plot points were rushed even though they were crucial, and some interactions (as I said) were awkward after they appeared to make a great step towards proper friendship. But not over-thinking the characters weirdness, the plot had a great twist-and-turn feel with all the little mysteries adding up to one big secret that endangered the entire town.  

Published 11th September 2011 by Random House.

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