Okay, so this is something I did not plan on doing, but I’m so smitten with this book that I refuse to do anything else. So! My friend Devon, who has supported me numerous times in the past few months, commissioned me to read the preview of Sarah Rees Brennan’s newest book, Unspoken. I obliged, and I made videos (1, 2, 3) of my live reading of the first three chapters.
I liked the book. It was interesting, and I grew up reading a lot of gothic horror. The setting was instantly fantastic, and I was intrigued by the framing device of the character Jared.
Then I read more.
Then this book temporarily took over my life.
So, first things first. I’m going to talk about this book very generally at first, then I will head into a TOTAL SPOILER SECTION. Tomorrow, I will post my videos of me reading the final two chapters of Unspoken so I can document just how unprepared I am. Thanks to Carl for commissioning those videos, as I don’t think this would have turned out like this without them!
Why You Might Like Unspoken and Should Read It
- This is a stylistic preference, so I don’t necessarily think Unspoken is for everyone. I read a lot of Jane Austen, Poe, Lovecraft, Mary Shelley, etc. If Victorian Gothic fiction is particularly a favorite of yours, this might be for you. This is not a gothic fiction book necessarily, but it borrows a few themes, motifs, and tonal influences from the genre and the setting.
- Stylistically, I like Brennan’s writing here. It’s simplistic for the most part, but it’s youthful and silly at times. It might not be your cup of tea. I get that. But it’s an easy read that is very clear and even quite darkly poetic, too!
- THE SETTING ABSOLUTELY MATTERS, AND THAT’S AWESOME. Sorry-In-The-Vale is an incredible place for this book to take place.
- A rich cast of characters with plenty of time spent on the main bulk of the cast. Even random people in this town matter in the narrative, and that’s awesome.
- Plot twists. If you like a twisty, mind-bending, and shocking story, just… just read it. Like, a lot of reviews might spoil the very early twist that takes this book from “average YA paranormal fiction” to “HOLY SHIT WHAT THE FUCK DID I JUST READ,” so don’t read them. Just read the book. You will be rewarded very quickly, and honestly, not knowing this twist made the experience wholly enjoyable to me.
- Queer stuff. I don’t want to spoil it. It’s there, it is canon, and stuff.
- A main character who is a mixed POC and a woman and this is addressed explicitly in the text in really satisfying ways.
- The story respects the main character’s (Kami) agency and right to choose what she wants so much, and again, this is not subtext. Hell, IT’S THE ENTIRE POINT OF HALF THE STORY.
- God, I can’t tell you anything else. You just need to trust me.
BELOW THIS ARE SPOILERS AND THEY ARE HUGE SPOILERS AND DO NOT READ ANY OF THIS IF YOU THINK YOU MIGHT ENTERTAIN THE NOTION OF READING THIS BOOK BECAUSE IT WILL RUIN YOUR LIFE
- Okay, it won’t ruin your life, I swear.
- So, after I read the first three chapters on video, I took my Kindle with me to the gym so I could keep reading. The book hadn’t totally clicked, but I wanted to give it a bigger chance. I was on the treadmill when I read chapter six. When I got to the reveal about Jared’s identity, I tripped and nearly fell off the goddamn machine. I’m not even kidding. See, NO ONE DOES STORIES LIKE THIS. It was so shocking to me to experience that moment in the elevator because… what the fuck, that doesn’t happen ever.
- This book was just a non-stop rollercoaster of terror after this. I think that at times, I was confused about who certain people were. Hell, for at least half the book, I couldn’t tell the Lynburns apart except for Ash and Jared. There are so many of them! It’s the only thing that distracted me from the hellish narrative. That’s probably more my own fault than anything else, though.
- Like HOW DO YOU EVEN TALK ABOUT THIS BOOK. It’s so fucked up! But what I came to love about it is how Brennan takes these deeply serious topics – trust, identity, and privacy – and finds a way to discuss them amidst a story about sorcerers. It’s brilliant, y’all, and it’s the logistics of the moral conundrums that come with the problem of the Lynburns that intrigued me the most. Did Kami’s mother do the best to protect her family? Is it fucked up that she never told her husband what she did? How much of Kami’s upbringing was ruined because she was told she was losing her sanity when it was actually the fault of two mothers? How can Kami exist as a friend to Jared when she lacks any and all privacy with him?
- Honestly, the single most redeeming factor about Unspoken – and there are a lot of good things here – is how Brennan writes Jared and Kami’s friendship. It is fucking stunning. She openly addresses things we take for granted. We can all get momentarily irritated with our friends, and those thoughts are always private. This is not the case for these two. And Brennan navigates these explicitly complicated nuances with grace and style. I was so impressed with how Kami and Jared’s thoughts were woven into the dialogue and narration. It never felt awkward and unnecessary.
- So, I guess I should say something about the end? I’m afraid to because I am so unsure of where this is going. I do not want Angela to die. My god, a canon queer character revealed at the end of the book? PLEASE, I WANT MORE ANGELA, PLEASE. There’s also the issue of what Kami’s going to do with Jared. I honestly think she’ll keep the connection between them. I don’t think she’s quite motivated enough to sever it. But I don’t believe that can last; there’s been enough signs along the way that Kami needs her own life separate from Jared’s, and she certainly deserves that.
- My big prediction is that Rob dies at the end of this book. Dudes, someone is dying. Someone has to pay for what happened to Nicola!
So, tomorrow at the same time (12pm PDT), I’ll post the videos here on Mark Reads of the ending of Unspoken. H E L P
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