Author: Sarah Rees Brennan
Series: The Lynburn Legacy (#1)
Publisher: Random House
Edit: 11/2/12 So after reading this snippet from the sequel I will definitely not (though I doubt I would have anyway) be raising this rating to two stars. You know what I imagine closes out that scene? These are the days of our lives... Is this a soap opera or a book, guys? Guess the relationship melodrama keeps on keeping on in book two.
Unspoken really isn't as bad as some of the other one star YA books I've read this year - The Body Finder and Shadow and Bone spring to mind. There really are some redeeming moments in it, and if it hadn't been for that last chapter, I might have rated it just a little higher. Perhaps those moments of redemption are what made this book's betrayal even worse. This was a story we've heard many times before - trying to pretend it was the opposite of that thing - instead of just being honest about what it was.
Kami Glass (Malese Jow in my mind) is quick to let us know that she's not like those girls. She starts the book by disliking another girl for no apparent reason other than her popularity (Holly will be played by Candice Accola) and is called out on her internalized misogyny by the love interest in the book. That, along with the cheeky humor, had me thinking from the very first chapter: I am going to love this book. I know what you're thinking. Where could it have gone wrong when you've got Malese Jow and Candice Accola involved?
I like SRB, and based on reading her blog alone, I know she didn't mean to promote a bad boy type as an acceptable love interest. It's clear that she's trying to do the opposite of that here, by having Kami question and dislike their connection half the time, but here's my issue:
Why include that type of love interest at all? Why include a love triangle? Why spend so much time on romantic melodrama that you don't allow your interesting side characters to develop beyond being perky and loving napping?
This whole story feels like something I've read before. Despite SRB poking fun at these other stories in her writing she chooses to use this Twilight-esque set up that sells anyway. It almost seems worse somehow. At least these other books aren't trying to pretend that they're something superior to what they really are. Ash, the third useless point of the Kami centered love triangle, could have been copied and pasted from any YA book that follows this same formula. Possessive Jared could too.
You can't talk about this book without mentioning the humor. Bad puns and witty zingers abound. At first, it reminded me of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Veronica Mars, and I thought FINALLY a book that isn't taking itself too seriously and is making an effort to be witty. Yet somehow this book managed to take itself too seriously and tell too many jokes. The situations the characters found themselves in were overly dramatic and ridiculous, but they'd always manage to tell a joke anyway. All of the characters began to feel like walking... well... bloggers. I love bloggers, I am a blogger, but no one talks like this in real life all of the time. The dialogue was awkward and jarring. Instead of developing the characters beyond beating us over the head with specific traits (Kami loves investigating and she's not like those other mushy YA girls! Holly is SO nice and perky! Angela LOVES napping and HATES people! Ash likes Kami and is surly! Jared like Kami and is surly AND destructive!) jokes would just be told instead.
The last several chapters (aside from the last one) are the ones I liked at least a little. They are when the only real character development happens and things start falling into place. Kami seems to stick to her guns a lot more; I thought her feelings toward her connection with Jared were well-written toward the end. Jared never gets any more interesting or likeable but I learn to accept it. Ash is doing things besides staring longingly at Kami and randomly making out with her in hallways. Holly and Angela get a thing that isn't just a rehashing of their assigned personality traits. The plot is finally doing something relevant. I thought we were well on our way to two-star-ville.
Then we got to the last chapter. I knew to expect a cliffhanger-trilogy-ending (why are we still doing this?) but I didn't know that it was going to involve the relationship too. I mean, seriously? What was that? I said in the comments that it was like SRB added it just to yell "RELATIONSHIPS DRAMAZ!!! MUAHAHA!" and run out of the room to go hang out with Stephenie Meyer, and I stand by this assessment. I might readjust my rating (might) when I am feeling less... surly... and not... snarling. Seriously, what was that about Angela and Jared snarling at the end? Did we need to focus on their joint snarling? Was that supposed to be a heart-warming bonding moment? I can't.
I would say my favorite thing about this novel is Holly, with Angela as my second choice. Unfortunately, Angela got to be a badass at the end but instead of just letting Angela shine subtly SRB also beat us over the head with a chain and made that into an over-used joke too. While Holly didn't quite get the development that I wanted (because clearly more time needed to be spent on more love triangle and relationship drama) I did think she may be one of the few original parts of this book. It's nice to see the perky blonde girl given a chance to be the friend and not the guy-stealing-skank. There's a reason I cast her as Candice Accola in my mind - but I think TVD does it better. TVD isn't the most original idea on the block, and it's guilty of a lot of the things that this book is, but to make up for it it takes care with its characters (except Bonnie) and never pretends it's something that it's not. Unlike the YA book world TVD also isn't surrounded by hundreds of shows just like it.
Regardless, I liked that SRB explored that hating Holly because she was popular with guys wasn't acceptable, and that it wasn't her fault, and that it wasn't necessarily what she wanted. I liked her relationship with Angela, even though I feel like that was another safe swing and a miss on SRB's part. It felt like another example of this novel stepping up to the plate to be something different and then not making an effort once it got there to actually let it be something different.
I can see why so many of my friends wrote gushing reviews of this book and I'm sure others will continue to enjoy it, but personally, it just rubbed me the wrong way. I won't stop reading SRB's stuff in the future because I feel like she has the potential to write great things. She seems aware of a lot of the things being done poorly in YA today: girl on girl hate, lack of homosexual relationships and POC, girls instantly falling in love with the bad boy without questioning their feelings, etc. I want to give her points for effort for almost stepping away from the pack but she didn't, not really, and I didn't care about the characters or plot enough to overlook this fact. This had all of the potential to be great and as I said before that's probably why it was so disappointing.
Yes, this review was mostly an excuse to look at pictures of Malese Jow and Candica Accola. Thank you.