Review: Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan

25 September, 2012 Reviews 33 comments

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Unspoken by Sarah Rees BrennanUnspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan
Series: The Lynburn Legacy #1
Published by Random House Books for Young Readers on September 11th 2012
Pages: 370
Genres: Mystery, Paranormal Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Young Adult
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Amazon Good BooksBook Depository

Kami Glass loves someone she’s never met . . . a boy she’s talked to in her head ever since she was born. She wasn’t silent about her imaginary friend during her childhood, and is thus a bit of an outsider in her sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale. Still, Kami hasn’t suffered too much from not fitting in. She has a best friend, runs the school newspaper, and is only occasionally caught talking to herself. Her life is in order, just the way she likes it, despite the voice in her head.

But all that changes when the Lynburns return.

The Lynburn family has owned the spectacular and sinister manor that overlooks Sorry-in-the-Vale for centuries. The mysterious twin sisters who abandoned their ancestral home a generation ago are back, along with their teenage sons, Jared and Ash, one of whom is eerily familiar to Kami. Kami is not one to shy away from the unknown—in fact, she’s determined to find answers for all the questions Sorry-in-the-Vale is suddenly posing. Who is responsible for the bloody deeds in the depths of the woods? What is her own mother hiding? And now that her imaginary friend has become a real boy, does she still love him? Does she hate him? Can she trust him?

Dearest Unspoken,

I must regrettably inform you that we must do the unthinkable and separate. I really don’t know where we went wrong, you and I. After my co-blogger, Kat, set us up on that blind date, urging me to give you a go, I thought for sure we would hit it off nicely.  And for a minute we did. Don’t you remember? It was love at first sight as I set my eyes on your gorgeous cover and unique premise. But somehow, along the way, something went wrong.

Unspoken, you were true. You had a solid plot and you were different from any of the others I’ve read before you. But it was clear from the beginning that our cultural differences would be our undoing. With you being so very English and me being a confused American, I just couldn’t keep up with your complexity. But darling, to be fair, you weren’t easy on me. If only your scene transitions were a little more smoother, perhaps I could have understood how much time had passed or when the character PoV had changed. Or perhaps if only the characters didn’t suffer from “just go with it” syndrome, ignoring and dismissing instances where they had the opportunity to learn more about the mystery just for the sake of prolonging the story. Unspoken, let’s be honest with one another. That mystery could have been solved halfway through the story if only the characters weren’t so wrapped up in concealing their feelings. Honey-bunches, it annoyed me.

Speaking of your characters, darling, they were entirely likable. But that’s also the problem because that’s all they will ever be for me, just likable. Not once did I feel connected to them in any way and countless times I paused to consider the possibilities of why. Kami is a smart, witty, no-nonsense girl. Just my type, if you can believe it. But her constant detachment from Jared proved to be more of an annoyance than anything else. The more and more she pulled away from him, the more I felt I lost any type connection. Don’t get me wrong, Unspoken. I really did enjoy the fact that they could read each other’s minds since they were babies. I just don’t understand why Jared never could bear to touch Kami. Why did Kami want to rid herself of Jared after she mentions how much she values their special relationship. Because she was afraid of being hurt? So this one hurdle somehow cancels out the relationship they had developed since they were children? I’m sorry, but that logical pathway confuses me.

Even still, through our rough times, you somehow managed to occasionally make me laugh. The dialogue and humor were perfection and timely placed. Unfortunately, not even your wit could save us. I probably should have mentioned all this before. Looking back, I had seen the ghosts of these feelings at the halfway mark and I struggled to stay in our relationship. I now realize that I shouldn’t have let other’s incessant peer pressure get to me. You see, they told me to just hang in there, that it was all worth it in the end. But by the time you have reached your climax and ending, I remained indifferent. To put it lightly, dearest, your ending is illogical to me. You’re telling me a group of people couldn’t disarm and defeat one enemy? Even with their special abilities combined? And in turn, it took that group of people forever to get to Kami? And dammit I wish I could go into further detail about that, but I know how you feel about kissing and telling.

No, no. I know what you’re doing right now and you shouldn’t even think it. Unspoken, you were fabulous in so many ways. It was like you were telling this hilarious joke and I was standing there waiting for the punchline, only to realize everyone else is already laughing. Which is why I must close this break-up letter with the most clichéd expression ever:

With all my love,

Stephanie Sinclair

P.S. I know that Kat Kennedy will attempt to chivalrously defend your honor tooth and nail in a review war. Please, pass on a message for me: Bring it. 😛

ARC was provided by the publisher via NetGalley.

It’s completely rare for Kat and I to disagree on a book. You can check out her review here.

Steph Sinclair

Steph Sinclair

Co-blogger at Cuddlebuggery
I'm a bibliophile trying to make it through my never-ending To-Be-Read list, equal opportunity snarker, fangirl and co-blogger here at Cuddlebuggery. Find me on GoodReads.

33 Responses to “Review: Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan”

  1. cynicalsapphire

    I’m sad you didn’t like it, though I haven’t read it yet. Soon, though. However, this review is hilarious. So I’m sort of glad you didn’t like it actually, so that I could enjoy reading that. Hmmmm.

    • Stephanie Sinclair

       @cynicalsapphire LOL. Strangely enough, or perhaps not so strangely, someone has said that to me before. 
      But I’m in the minority with disliking this book. It seems to be very well received by other readers. 

      • cynicalsapphire

         @Stephanie Sinclair Eh, I’ve seen a lot of 2 stars and a lot of 4 stars. You seem to really like it or be really disappointed by it. Obvi, I hope to be in that second group, but who knows! I do love British things, though, so I have hopes!

  2. Leah

    I’m about 50 pages from the end and while I didn’t have as much of a problem as you did, I’m definitely going to be in the minority with my rating. It’s a good book. <i>Really</i> good…for the first 200 or so pages. Once the Big Reveal (in regards to the family and Kami’s role) was announced I started to lose interest. The premise was so lovely and it started out great. I wish that momentum kept going to the end.

  3. Holly

    I’m almost halfway through this book, and so far I’m leaning toward your side of things, Steph. 
    I like Kami, but something about the writing style is keeping me emotionally distanced from her.  The “conversation” in this book is driving me bonkers — half the time, no one actually seems to be talking to each other; they’re just rattling off one-liners that have nothing to do with what they’re supposedly talking about.  And like you, I don’t grasp why Jared and Kami are so loath to touch each other — it’s not really established that this has any effect on their telepathy or anything. 
    I keep wondering if my problem is that I keep comparing this to “The Demon’s Lexicon,” which IMO was just about a perfect book, and finding it lacking just because SRB wrote it. 
    But I’ll keep plugging to the end, if only to spend more time with the truly gorgeous cover. 

      • ParomaChakravarty

         @Stephanie Sinclair wait, wait.
        Kami WANTS to touch Jared.
        She keeps trying to and Jared moves back or evades her. She’s so hurt by this she says at one point , “I never thought a guy would want me just for my mind” in disappointed humour.
        With Jared it seems, as much as he wants/needs emotional closeness with Kami he doesn’t want to touch her or anybody else. We don’t know why, but the point has been made strongly enough that I think the sequel, Untold, will probably explain it.
        It’s too bad you guys couldn’t get into it. For me, this book defines excellent story telling and brilliant character building. =D
        But, hey, there’ll always be other books we can agree upon!

        • Stephanie Sinclair

           @ParomaChakravarty Ohhhhh, thank you for that explanation! I knew Kami wanted to touch Jared, but I never understood his apprehension. I didn’t realize it would be explained in the next book because it felt like the characters knew what was going on. At least that was the impression I got because no one really asked any questions. 

        • ParomaChakravarty

           @Stephanie Sinclair yeah, I noticed. The book was wonderful but it wasn’t perfect.
          For instance Rusty and Ash didn’t ask any questions after Jared ran out of the bar because he thought Kami was in trouble. Ash just caught him and said, don’t go if there’s trouble because people would blame a Lynburn. But neither Rusty nor Ash asked HOW he knew to run to Kami.

        • Stephanie Sinclair

           @ParomaChakravarty YES! I thought of that too! Unspoken reminds me of how I felt after reading Anna Dressed in Blood. It wasn’t really my cup of tea, but I’d still recommend it to others because it’s not a bad story.

        • Holly

           @ParomaChakravarty  @Stephanie Sinclair Thanks!  I’d kind of noticed that Kami wanted to touch Jared and he kept avoiding her, but I didn’t notice at all that he avoided touching other people, too.  I’ll have to flip back through and think about that. It certainly seems consistent with his personality. 
          I kept wishing this book was written from Jared’s POV, actually.  Except then it would probably have read too much like The Demon’s Lexicon revisited. 
          At any rate, as I noted in a fresh post, I liked the second half much better than the first half.  So now I’m looking forward to getting some explanations in the next book. 

  4. Jessi

    I’ve seen quite of few disappointed reviews, I think I’ll pass on this one for now. Maybe when there’s not so many other exciting books to read. Fabulous review!

  5. elena

    Hm! I’ve been hearing pretty good things about this book but put it off due to its cliffhanger. I totally get what you mean about characters being merely likable, it’s frustrating when they’re at a standstill. Thanks for your review, Stephanie!

  6. sofie_hatter

    Please post more breakup letters. This is on my TBR list because of Kat, but I won’t get to it for a few months, so for now I’m highly entertained. 😀

  7. christinashoe

    Awww. I haven’t read this book yet, but I was really looking forward to it. I guess I’ll still give it a try, but now I have less enthusiasm for it.

  8. MusingsinRed

    The cover captured my interest…the goodreads’ summary sounds okish…but your review just made me skittish about actually reading it…sigh :((
    p.s. Thanks for the snarky review!! :)) It was great!! love it…you’re so creative!! You genius, you!! :))

  9. Realm of Fiction

    I’m sorry you weren’t more impressed by this, Steph! I really loved it myself. This seems to be either working for people or not doing it for them much at all. Oh well, I hope your next read is better. Lovely, honest review! 🙂

  10. MonaCD

    Really? I was looking forward to this book from Kat’s review. I am so mad that my B&N Noble is carrying it!!

  11. Holly

    Well, I’ve finished the book and enjoyed the second half FAR more than the first 190 or so pages.  Was it worth the slog to get there?  I’m still on the fence regarding that. 
    Is it really a cultural differences thing, the first half of this book?  Because one of my biggest problems was that no one seemed to talk WITH each other then — but then, finally, they started addressing all the stuff that should have come up 100 pages earlier, and I found myself much more absorbed and interested.  Also, things that should have been scary and important in the first half ended up seeming trivial and tedious to me because of the determined light tone.  That really put me off. The second half got urgent, and dark, and gripping — all the things that were missing from the build-up. 
    I still can’t quite explain the mythology of the story … but I’m interested enough now that I’ll probably read the next book. 

    • ParomaChakravarty

      The mythology was simple I think. A bunch of sorcerers founded the town and decided to settle there, infusing the valley with their magic and taking magic from all living things in it. Eventually, Sorcery in the Vale turned into Sorry in the vale, and the non magic residents refused to speak of what they knew unless your ancestors had lived through times in the Vale where a yearly human sacrifice was the price for bountiful crops and good luck. 
      I agree with Holly, Stephanie, I don’t think its the cultural difference that stumped you with the book. I’m Indian and usually I can tell the narrative difference between an American author and one from Ireland or England. It seemed to me that SRB used very few local phrases and words to keep the writing comprehensible to people overseas. I really didn’t have any trouble picturing what she was painting, so maybe it’s more a matter of preferring a different narrative style for you? 
      And Holly, again I think it’s personal preference, because where the pacing seemed perfect to me, to you the first half dragged till (I presume) the whole magic thing was revealed, Jared punched Ash and they all finally found out how Jared and Kami shared their connection. =D
      Stephanie mentions in her review that she couldn’t understand why Kami kept pushing Jared away. Now this mostly happened in the first half (and maybe you felt the same disconnect between the protagonists?) and I thought it was explained pretty well.
      Kami was trying to escape from Jared’s physical presence at first after the first shock of finding out about each other’s existence. Their mutual fear and discomfort was evident. They had always loved the comforting, bantering voice in their heads, but even as they confided their troubles and secrets they had always assumed it was safe because it was ‘just the voice in their heads’.
      Not real people. With real opinions they could form about you.
      Not real people who might really have pushed their dad down the stairs.
      Kami was the one to force them to start getting used to each other’s presence, but she was nervous around him. She sought privacy from him in a way she never needed before because now he was a real boy who knew too much about her even as she could feel him hiding certain things from her. It made her seem distant.
      The reason I write all of this is because I think SRB used the first half of her book to express the discomfort, awkward awareness and budding interest between Jared and Kami. And to me this was essential to the story, while to other people it might have been a lot of the same thing till she finally got to the good stuff. =)
      /I’ll shut up now. 

  12. a_wordsmith

    I agree! I actually like the first half or 2/3 of the story more than the last 1/3. It felt Twilighty in some instances which disappointed me and I too liked the characters but enough to have FEELINGS that many people claimed I had. Sarah Rees Brennan is a hilarious writer but this story was a “nice” and not a “fantastic”. Plus, it was nice to have a proactive and strong female lead.

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