Unspoken, by Sarah Rees Brennan

unspokenKami Glass is normal in most ways – lives in a small British town, runs the school newspaper, has a great best friend, loves her family – but she’s got one peculiarity that sets her apart: she never grew out of her childhood imaginary friend. His name is Jared, and she knows that he’s not real, that he’s only a voice in her head that provides comfort and companionship. For the most part, she manages to hide his existence from the world. Now, though, things are changing. The Lynburn family, feared by the town but absent for almost two decades, has returned, and Kami is determined to get to the bottom of their secrets. What she doesn’t expect is to discover that her Jared is not only a real person, but a Lynburn, and possibly dangerous.

I loved the concept of this book. Imaginary friend and/or schizophrenic voice turns out to be a real psychic connection to another person? I couldn’t wait to see what came of that, how Kami and Jared would react to this discovery! What an interesting idea! I finally got the book in from the library, and began to read it immediately. My first two thoughts while reading: 1) these characters are a lot of fun, and they make me laugh often, and 2) something about the writing itself feels weird and incongruous. These pretty much stayed my thoughts through most of the book.

To get the negative out of the way first, the writing itself kept startling me. It’s not as if it was badly written, but the book felt like huge sections had been edited out, only to be referred to later on, so that I was stuck trying to remember things I was clearly supposed to remember, but which weren’t actually in the book. It was as if I was skimming and missing critical information, when I was actually reading every word. Unfortunately, my only examples are spoilers. This one is a minor spoiler, from near the beginning of the book: When Kami is rescued from the well, she just pops out with the fact that Jared didn’t kill his father – something which had not been referenced before, and didn’t fit into the context of the scene at all. Then later, she tells her friends that she told the police she had fallen into the well rather than being pushed, but during the actual rescue scene, she told them she was pushed, just not by Jared. It’s conceivable that she knew of the police’s suspicions about Jared’s father from Jared himself, and conceivable she told the police she fell at a different time, but neither of those things are in the book, so the reader is left to catch up on their own. There were a lot of moments like that. I felt like I was constantly readjusting what I knew to what the characters knew and the author hadn’t told me.

But despite the missing references, I really enjoyed the book. It was great to sort of let go and just read for fun, because I liked the interactions between all the characters. They each came to life for me, and they made me smile and laugh a lot. I needed that – too few books have that perfect touch of humor. I cared less about the mysteries and magic in the book, and far more about the idea of Jared and Kami coming to try to figure out this bizarre connection between them. I appreciated that it didn’t mean they fell instantly in love in some sort of soppy romance, because really, when you discover that someone you thought was just in your head is a real person, it’s not necessarily a positive thing. They know everything about you – everything – your secrets, your pettiness, every thought you’ve ever had. You have no privacy, and they can hurt you more completely than anyone else could. It’s scary, and I appreciated that this book explored that.

And actually, I could have done with more characterization, more exploration of the relationships and impact of this psychic connection, and less of the mystery, magic, and explanations. I was a bit disappointed when every single little thing had to be explained. I like an air of mystery about some things, and I felt much the way I always feel when I read Phantom of the Opera – a story which starts out beautiful, and then is made mundane in the last half by explaining everything away. Still, even then, I probably would have said I liked this book more than I disliked it, if not for the last few pages. Here, we venture into spoiler territory again:

I hated the way the book ended. I hated that Jared turned on Kami after their connection was severed. I hated it for many reasons, foremost because it didn’t fit Jared’s character or his relationship with her. I could see someone else, someone who wasn’t Jared, closing up and attacking because he was afraid she had actually wanted to sever the connection, or because he was afraid that she wouldn’t care about him anymore, and he was just trying to protect himself. But I can’t see Jared doing that, which leaves me with only two logical conclusions – either that’s what the author intended, in which case, I loathe the sudden twist in his character that makes no sense to me, or he really did lose all his feelings for her when the connection ended as his uncle claimed he would, and honestly that might even be worse. How do you get over the psychological impact of discovering that your lifelong best friend actually never cared for you at all, that he just thought he did? I don’t like it. And honestly, I have a feeling the former is true, that Jared is trying to protect himself, and I can’t buy that. It feels like an unnecessary twist to entice the reader into next volume, and I wish that instead, it ended with the two of them floundering, unable to know what to do now that they are no longer connected. End spoiler.

There will be other volumes of this book, but I’m not sure I will read on. I would have gladly, if not for the ending. And that makes me sad. I really enjoyed this book for a long time, but walked away feeling far more disappointed by it than if it had just been mediocre from the beginning.

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About Amanda

Writing. Family. Books. Crochet. Fitness. Fashion. Fun. Not necessarily in that order. Note: agender (she/her).
This entry was posted in 2012, Prose, Young Adult and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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