by Lisa McMann
To be released on August 30, 2011.
Reviewed from copy received through Giveaway hosted by Charlotte's Library.
Every year in Quill, thirteen-year-olds are sorted into categories: the strong, intelligent Wanteds go to university, and the artistic Unwanteds are sent to their deaths. Thirteen-year-old Alex tries his hardest to be stoic when his fate is announced as Unwanted, even while leaving behind his twin, Aaron, a Wanted. Upon arrival at the destination where he expected to be eliminated, however, Alex discovers a stunning secret—behind the mirage of the "death farm" there is instead a place called Artime. In Artime, each child is taught to cultivate their creative abilities and learn how to use them magically, weaving spells through paintbrushes and musical instruments. Everything Alex has ever known changes before his eyes, and it's a wondrous transformation. But it's a rare, unique occurrence for twins to be separated between Wanted and Unwanted, and as Alex and Aaron's bond stretches across their separation, a threat arises for the survival of Artime that will pit brother against brother in an ultimate, magical battle.I am not a big fan of dystopia novels, most of them seem really dark and depressing, But this year I've read two very good ones. The first Blood Red Road is definitely young adult and is rather depressing, but the strength of the characters and the gripping plot make it hard to put down, if you can get past the way the narrator speaks. The second dystopia book is the one I'm reviewing today and I have to admit, it's going on my favorites shelf. Here's why.
I loved the characters. McMann's characterizations are superb. An author who can create characters so vividly that the reader almost feels like their friends is talented indeed. The 'bad' characters create a mix of empathy and distaste, while the 'good' characters, especially Alex create a feeling of empathy and friendship. At a couple of places in the book, I cried because the connection was so strong. I appreciated the adult mentor, Mr. Today. He reminds me of Dumbledore in Harry Potter. He mentors Alex and all the students at Artime, but as a reader you know that he won't be around for always and he's trying to prepare the others for that day.
The plot starts a bit slowly at the beginning, but that is because the author needs to build a world and set the stage for what is coming. McMann does a great job of this creating both a world that no one would want to visit (Quill) and a world that everyone would want to visit (Artime). The contrast between the two highlights the difference between what is real and what we choose to believe is real. The plot starts building from the page where Mr. Today lets the students know that conflict with Quill is a likely possibility and each of the characters must face their own weaknesses. I appreciated the fact that not all the loose ends were tied up at the end. As in real life, some things can not be fixed, and change takes time. Highly recommended for those who love a gripping story and characters that you can't help but care about.