First published: 11th September 2012
By: Random House Children's Books
Kami Glass is in love with someone she's never met—a boy she's talked to in her head since she was born. This has made her an outsider in the sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale, but she has learned ways to turn that to her advantage. Her life seems to be in order, until disturbing events begin to occur. There has been screaming in the woods and the manor overlooking the town has lit up for the first time in 10 years. . . . The Lynburn family, who ruled the town a generation ago and who all left without warning, have returned. Now Kami can see that the town she has known and loved all her life is hiding a multitude of secrets—and a murderer. The key to it all just might be the boy in her head. The boy she thought was imaginary is real, and definitely and deliciously dangerous.
I wasn't in the mood for 'quirky', but Unspoken did end up winning me over. The style and the tone of the writing is very different from what you'd normally find in paranormal YA: Most of the characters speak in the kind of "I sound super-serious and formal, but really I'm being funny" banter you'd find in a 1950's flick. Example:
She found Rusty stretched out on the hearthrug with his arms behind his head.
"You disgraceful object," said Kami. "What are you doing here?"
"I'm buying a shotgun," Dad announced. "I live in the country. A shotgun is a reasonable thing to own."
It took me a while to get into, but the humorous dialogue comes so thick and fast that even if only about half of it lands, it still adds up to a very funny read. It wasn't long before I was sufficiently charmed.
I liked all the characters. They're all given some idiosyncrasy to their personalities to make them amusing, like Kami's dad calling his children by the wrong name or Kami's friends and their epic laziness. Kami herself follows in the grand tradition of plucky girl reporters, throwing herself into sticky situations in her eagerness for a story.
What stands out in Unspoken - other than the quirky dialogue - is the unique premise of Kami and Jared's relationship. Kami's spent her whole life talking to a voice in her head that she thought was imaginary, only to discover it belongs to a real person. Despite its whimsical nature, Unspoken treats the implications of this bond very seriously and the novel is at its most interesting when it's examining what it's like to share a mind with another person; to know someone completely but to also never have anything you can truly keep to yourself. Added to that is the fact that Jared is a pretty damaged individual, who grew up in an abusive home and I really felt for Kami with the pressure she was under, to not think anything that would upset him.
This balance of lightness and seriousness also comes with a dash of creepiness. I love the idea of a town full of secrets and the more tidbits Kami discovers about Sorry-in-the-Vale and its history with the Lynburn family, the more I was dying to know what the secrets were. You know when worried townspeople warn you off asking questions and say "You don't want to know!" and it just makes you want to know even more? Happens all the time in this book and really builds an atmosphere of eerie mystery.
I appreciate that, despite being the first in the series, Unspoken didn't leave me hanging when it comes to revealing the truth about the Lynburns. However, I did find the reveal somewhat anti-climatic after a 300 page build-up (it's not really anything new or different) and I felt the ending in general felt messy and unfinished (I can't say more without giving away spoilers). Still, there was a lot to enjoy here and a slightly disappointing ending can't make me forget how much of this novel did make me smile.
Rating: 3.5 stars
This book was provided to me by the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for a fair and honest review.