Joelene Reviews: Sarah Rees Brennan's - "Unspoken"

For all of her life Kami has spoken to a voice inside her head. Perhaps Jared isn’t as well-adjusted as imaginary friends should be, and he might tend to make Kami a bit of an outcast in her small town home of Sorry-in-the-Vale; but he is there whenever she needs someone. Better still, in a family where she sometimes feels like a fifth wheel, Jared makes Kami feel as though she belongs.

He is also real. But things are happening in Sorry-in-the-Vale; something is screaming in the woods outside Kami’s house late at night, the mysterious Lynburns are returning to their ancestral home and, as the school’s investigative reporter, Kami wants to get to the bottom of all of the town’s dark secrets. Her imaginary friend coming to life is just another strange event in a long line of them.

At times like these, I feel that I should be able to just say that I love this book and people should feel it strongly enough that they would innately understand that the book had touched me morally, emotionally, empathically, intensely. And yes, it has. But to quantify, Unspoken is a swirling conglomeration of all of those things that Sarah Rees Brennan does so well; humour, empathy, love that may be deep but isn’t necessarily unconditional, family and heartbreak. But better. Her story-telling, pacing, build-up and conclusion have all evolved to a whole new level in Unspoken.

I have said before that I love the way that Brennan writes families; in this book, I loved the way she wrote romance. Like any teenage girl Kami’s not really sure what she wants; but she’s pretty sure that a boy who can get in her head is not it. The bond between Kami and Jared is powerful but, when they both realise that the person in their head is real, it becomes tenuous. Rather than Kami and Jared using their link as proof that they are meant to be together, which would be so easy to do; they head down the more rocky and realistic path of wondering whether they can trust one another. Jared is hot-headed, inclined to lash out when he’s stressed; and in his whole life, Kami has been the only one to continually stand by him. When she’s in his life as flesh and blood, there’s every chance that she’ll find out what he’s really like and turn her back. As for Kami; she’s used to being the one that isn’t anything special. When Jared was in her head it was different; but everything may change now that he’s in her day-to-day life.

The dynamic between Jared and Kami works really well. His temper was something that I didn’t like; but I did like that Kami never gave in to him. As much as he might sulk or rage at her, she would hold her ground. She behaves the same way around all of the people in the novel. Her response to someone telling her to stay away from an investigation because it’s dangerous is to say: “What an interesting thought…Thank you for sharing it with me. Let me share a thought with you: Actually, I can walk myself to class. And I can also handle myself so I’ll be doing what I want.” We’re used to reading books in which males characters don’t have to apologise for the dangerous situations they get into; it’s refreshing to see the same thing happen for a female character even if it’s not always so subtle.

Jared’s violent streak is one of the only things that let Unspoken down. While I’m not squeamish about violence, I do need my protagonists to have a good reason for any damage they inflict on the people around them. As someone who hits people hard enough to draw blood when he hasn’t been provoked, Jared is not a character I can empathise with. Hopefully he will develop as the trilogy progresses.

The characters and plot pull together to give Unspoken an atmosphere of haunting beauty. While it is funny as hell and probably should not be read whilst eating or on public transport; it also has emotional and moral integrity. The next book in this trilogy will be out in August 2013; and until it finishes The Lynburn Legacy will be the series I’m waiting for. Unspoken left me yearning for more.

Unspoken – Sarah Rees Brennan

Simon and Schuster (September 11, 2012)

ISBN: 9780857078070

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