Title: Unspoken (The Lynburn Legacy, #1)
Author: Sarah Rees Brennan
Rating: 4 Stars
Unspoken is a novel that now, looking back, I can see had a huge margin for error. In fact, in the hands of a less-experienced author, I am confident that this story would have fallen apart, but Sarah Rees Brennan manages to pull it off. I am always awe-struck by the innovative ideas she thinks of and even more in awe of her flawless method of execution. Yet, despite the precarious line that this story balanced on and my incredibly high expectations, Unspoken managed to be every bit as breathtaking, hilarious, and heart-warming as I had imagined.
Kami Glass has grown up in her small town, Sorry-in-the-Vale, hearing a voice in her head her whole life. While most people seem to think Kami has an imaginary friend, she knows better. Jared, the boy whose thoughts, emotions, and memories she shares, has been her constant companion throughout her childhood, but when Jared moves into Kami’s small town, the situation may just be too bizarre for the two to handle. After all, who ever expects to meet the person who knows their every thought, dream, feeling, and secret? In the midst of this new complication though, animals are being slaughtered in the woods behind Kami’s house and the Lynburns, the aristocratic family of Sorry-in-the-Vale who inspired fear amongst the town’s citizens, have returned. Suddenly, Kami’s life is beginning to become a lot more interesting…and dangerous!
I feel as if I could write an entire post about Sarah Rees Brennan and still not gush enough about her. While I admired her writing style in The Demon’s Lexicon, complete with her signature wit, complex character relationships, and hilarious situations, nothing prepared me for the utter beauty of the writing in this novel. Unspoken flows in a way few books do these days and if the characters of this story hadn’t already stolen my heart, the writing surely would have. Furthermore, while the plot of this novel takes awhile to unfold, it is never boring and has you frantically flipping the pages, uncovering clue-after-clue of the mystery within these pages. Its many plot twists took me completely by surprise and while I feel as if I should have been able to predict what happened, the fact that I wasn’t able to is just another mark of Brennan’s writing prowess and talent over subtlety.
Yet, what really made this novel as wonderful as it was were its characters. Kami is one of the most lovable protagonists I've come across and it seems impossible to me that anyone could resist her intelligence and charm. While she can come across as juvenile at times, her narration seeming to be younger than her actual age, her curiosity and thirst for answers is a journey you cannot help but be caught up in. Furthermore, she is utterly kick-ass with her unparalleled wit, independent nature, stubborn streak, and ability to hold her own. If that isn’t enough to want you to make Kami your best friend, she’s unerringly loyal, intelligent to a degree of insanity, and so strong that I can only admire her. In other words, Kami Glass is a heroine that comes alive on the page and it is her, more than anything else in this novel, which keeps this story shining.
While Kami was the central, and really one of the strongest, points of this book, Jared won me over as well. Jared seems to be like any bad boy from the surface, but as we get to know him better, we begin to see the chinks in his armor - his inner insecurities, his dependability upon Kami, and his immense capacity for love and kindness. Jared is a character who grows on you, stealthily making his way into your heart and staying there, despite the mistakes he's known to make. Brennan makes it so easy for us to understand Jared, even from Kami's perspective, that we sympathize with and love him as our tragic hero with all our heart.
Yet, with all these wonderful characters, Unspoken shines because of the connection between Jared and Kami. None of us (I think!) know what it's like to have a voice in our head or even meet that disembodied voice in reality, but through Kami's eyes, I can picture the situation perfectly. It's one wrought with emotion, misunderstandings, and a delicate balance which Brennan treads with a fine and experienced line. While the romance between these two is extremely subtle (Seriously, Brennan gives subtle a whole new meaning with the love story in this!) and the friendship between Kami and Jared is overwhelmingly tender, it was a union that I fell for at once. It seems obvious that anyone who knows each other as well as these two should be able to see the inner beauty of another person, but the complicated (and blurred!) lines between friendship and romance between Kami and Jared were remarkably well-written. Theirs is a friendship that makes you think and question and ponder and ultimately yearn for that childhood easiness all over again. I can't do enough justice to it, but just know that it is beautiful.
If you haven't already caught the gist of this review, it's basically this: read Unspoken. It contains some of the most well-developed characters I've come across in YA Lit, some of the most complex character relationships, some of the wittiest lines and hilarious moments, some of the best page-turning tendencies, and a mystery that will utterly surprise you with its simplicity and brilliance all at once. Furthermore, Kami's best friends, Angela and Holly, and her family all play a huge role in this story making it all the more realistic and endearing. Unspoken is another must-read of 2012 and Brennan has, yet again, managed to take me utterly by surprise. Trust me; this is one author that simply does not disappoint.