At my internship there is a whole wall made up of a bookshelf with a sign that says, “the perks of being an intern.” We are encouraged to take books home for our reading pleasure and of course I immediately went to the YAL section of said shelf whereupon my eye was instantly drawn to book one in the self titled series The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann.
It could be the future, it could be an alternate world where we’ve never existed, but the people of Quill would never know the difference because there is a wall around Quill and no one has been on the other side of it, unless they were condemned as Unwanted. And really, who would want to leave Quill? There is order and structure and everyone knows their place. Every year all thirteen year old children are Purged and sorted (sound familiar?) into Wanteds, Necessaries and Unwanteds. The Wanteds go to University to study and better the future of Quill, the Necessaries do manual labor that consists of anything and everything the Wanteds won’t do. The Unwanteds, the creative type who show possibilities of thinking outside of the proverbial box, are taken to the Lake of Burning Oil and disposed of. It is shameful to have an Unwanted child and to have two means you can never have another child.
Alex and Aaron Stowe are twins and it is their year to be purged. Aaron is called forth and deemed Wanted. Alex on the other hand has been caught drawing more than once and there is no question that he is Unwanted. After the Purge the Unwanteds are bused to their death without a word to their loved ones because they have no loved ones. What they find on the other side of the wall is not a burning lake but an oasis that is full of amazing creatures like beavops and squirrelicorns and platyprots; there is a jungle and an ocean and people smiling. Artimè is a magical place that literally thrives on creativity. There is so much to learn in this new world and we journey with Alex as he and his friends discover that there is much more to life than being Unwanted and that their creativity is something that should be explored and expanded upon.
For fifty years Artimè has existed peacefully without the knowledge of those in Quill; but Utopias cannot exist and the inevitable begins.
McMann creates such a vivid world with characters whose outlooks on life are vastly contrasted and it is interesting to see these contrasts illustrated through identical twins. Despite being YAL and despite the growing trend of children being sorted, there are twists and turns in this story that are not template young adult lit. This is something that made me even more intrigued to pick up book two. There is much more to Quill and Artimè than one might expect as Alex and Aaron find out for themselves as they take their own seperate and individual paths. After all, you can’t make an individual; they are created.
This is a story to which I give four and a half books.