Reviews for Unwanteds


Booklist Reviews 2011 October #1
In her first novel for middle-grade readers, McMann (author of the Wake trilogy) explores the fate of a nation that values strength over creativity. Each year, the isolated, militaristic nation of Quill celebrates the Purge, in which 13-year-olds are divided into three categories: Wanteds, who train to serve in the Quillitary; Necessaries, who form the service class, which keeps the infrastructure running; and Unwanteds. Too artistic to be useful, Unwanteds are sent to perish in the Great Lake of Boiling Oil. Fortunately, Unwanteds are actually rescued by the mage Mr. Today, who has created Artime, a secret and safe world on the border of Quill. Here, Unwanteds can develop their artistic talents and become magical warriors. Quill, which brings to mind present-day North Korea, never rises above a land of caricatured evil, but McMann has fleshed out an interesting world in Artime, and the idea of previously doomed children discovering that they really are valuable will have immediate appeal for preteens. Fantasy readers will find enjoyment here. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2012 Spring
Creativity is a death sentence in Quill, but unbeknownst to Quill's leaders, the locked execution area is actually Artimi, a magical world that nurtures purged citizens' talents. All the secrecy is catastrophically undone by Unwanted Alex, who desperately misses his Wanted twin. Quill is a caricatured dystopia, but Artimi sparkles with magic, action, and newly liberated teenage creativity.

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Kirkus Reviews 2011 April #2

The Hunger Games meets Harry Potter in this middle-grade departure from McMann's string of paranormal mysteries with romance for young adults.

On the day of Purge in totalitarian Quill, which is run by the High Priest Justine, 13-year-olds learn if they are deemed Wanted to attend the university, Necessary to tend the land or Unwanted and purged by execution. Without a good-bye from his Wanted identical brother Aaron, Alex Stowe and the other Unwanteds travel to the Death Farm. Instead of death, they meet the lush and magical world of Artimè, kept secret from Justine by mage Marcus Today. In a third-person narration characterized by even pacing and whimsical inventions, Alex and his peers learn that their creativity threatened Justine's power. Surrounded by talking blackboards, transporting tubes and such fantastical creatures as an octagator (with the head of an alligator and body of an octopus) for instructors, the teens hone their drawing, music and acting skills while also wielding paintbrushes for invisibility spells and iambic pentameter to stun attackers during Magical Warrior Training, in preparation for battle against the Quillitary. As the youths explore fear, responsibility and free thinking, their spells may be used sooner than they think when Alex's twin bond is tested and rivals vie for Aaron's new position in Justine's government.

Blending elements from two popular genres, this is sure to be a double hit. (Dystopian fantasy. 10-14) Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Kirkus Reviews 2011 July #1

The Hunger Games meets Harry Potter in this middle-grade departure from McMann's string of paranormal mysteries with romance for young adults.

On the day of Purge in totalitarian Quill, which is run by the High Priest Justine, 13-year-olds learn if they are deemed Wanted to attend the university, Necessary to tend the land or Unwanted and purged by execution. Without a good-bye from his Wanted identical brother Aaron, Alex Stowe and the other Unwanteds travel to the Death Farm. Instead of death, they meet the lush and magical world of Artimè, kept secret from Justine by mage Marcus Today. In a third-person narration characterized by even pacing and whimsical inventions, Alex and his peers learn that their creativity threatened Justine's power. Surrounded by talking blackboards, transporting tubes and such fantastical creatures as an octagator (with the head of an alligator and body of an octopus) for instructors, the teens hone their drawing, music and acting skills while also wielding paintbrushes for invisibility spells and iambic pentameter to stun attackers during Magical Warrior Training, in preparation for battle against the Quillitary. As the youths explore fear, responsibility and free thinking, their spells may be used sooner than they think when Alex's twin bond is tested and rivals vie for Aaron's new position in Justine's government.

Blending elements from two popular genres, this is sure to be a double hit. (Dystopian fantasy. 10-14) Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Library Media Connection Reviews 2012 March/April
Combining elements of Harry Potter and the Hunger Games, fantasy readers will be drawn to this plot. In the futuristic society of Quill all emotion and creativity are met with a death sentence. At age 13 children are sorted into categories based on past offenses, with the "unwanted" purged from society. However, an eccentric mage has created a magical world designed to save the unwanteds and prepare them for what he feels will be an eventual battle between the two worlds. Readers will enjoy the talking statues, magic spells, and plot twists. The story moves quickly and the chapters are short. The descriptive vocabulary is not overwhelming, making this an appealing novel for the younger reader. The ending, while satisfying, leaves the possibility of a sequel. Don't expect this to stay long on your library shelves. Susan Boatwright, Teacher-Librarian, Prairie Crest Elementary, Cedar Rapids, Iowa [Editor's Note: Available in e-book format.] RECOMMENDED Copyright 2012 Linworth Publishing, Inc.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2011 July #3

In her foray into middle-grade fiction, McMann (Cryer's Cross) delivers a fun mix of magic and science with a retro SF novel whose setting echoes classic artificial dystopias of the 1960s like Logan's Run and Make Room! Make Room! In the city of Quill, all signs of creativity are shunned, and any children who so much as sing or draw are declared "Unwanted" when they turn 13 and sent off to be killed. When Alex is culled from his family and sent to die, he is surprised to discover that the Unwanteds are actually taken to a hidden city called Artim, where they are not only trained in the traditional arts, but also in the magic that these arts unlock. McMann juggles a handful of point-of-view characters nicely (focusing largely on Alex), showing their fear and wonder as they learn more about their world. The subplots--including young romance and murderous conspiracies--are skillfully interwoven, and if some of Quill's harshness borders on caricature (the city makes Sparta seem decadent), it serves the story well. Ages 8-12. (Sept.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2010 PWxyz LLC

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School Library Journal Reviews 2011 August

Gr 4-7--A young teen leaves his mundane world for a school where he will learn magic under the direction of a kindly head master. A precocious girl reads extensively and thus discovers spells unknown to her friends. McMann takes these familiar elements and makes them her own through the creation of two realms. In the dystopian land of Quill, 13-year-old Alex is judged by society to be an Unwanted and is sentenced to be cast into the Lake of Burning Oil, which is hidden behind a gate that is unlocked but once a year. He is stunned when the Death Farmer reveals himself to be, in reality, a benign mage and, rather than face a painful death, Alex and the other Unwanteds are welcomed to the magical world of Artim. There they are instructed in the arts, which are forbidden in Quill, and eventually learn magical skills. Alex can't stop thinking about his twin brother, who is living as a Wanted in Quill. Aaron is rising quickly at Wanted University and becomes a protg of High Priest Justine. In Artim, McMann has created a world of magical whimsy full of talking blackboards; intelligent statues; and spells that are sung, painted, and recited. There's never really a sense of menace as the Quillians are more mean-spirited than frightening, and their technology is pitiful. This is a good starter fantasy or dystopia without the darkness in titles for older readers.--Eric Norton, McMillan Memorial Library, Wisconsin Rapids, WI

[Page 111]. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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