Monday, October 29, 2012

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: The Unwanteds

Today’s pick: The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann

Aladdin, 2011

From the publisher:
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 graves.

On the day of the Purge, identical twins Alex and Aaron Stowe await their fate. While Aaron is hopeful of becoming a Wanted, Alex knows his chances are slim. He’s been caught drawing with a stick in the dirt—and in the stark gray land of Quill, being creative is a death sentence.

But when Alex and the other Unwanteds face the Eliminators, they discover an eccentric magician named Mr. Today and his hidden world that exists to save the condemned children. Artime is a colorful place of talking statues, uncommon creatures, and artistic magic, where creativity is considered a gift…and a weapon.

My take:
This novel was easy to read and had an intriguing concept. I liked the idea of a hidden magical world (and there were lots of magical devices and spells). I especially enjoyed the art and creativity woven into the story, and how the characters in Artime could invent their own spells based on their artistic talent.

This book is often referred to as a cross between Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. It does remind me of Harry Potter, since the main character, Alex, is learning about a magical world that is all new to him, and there are many magical elements and spells. But the story is also told at times through the eyes of his twin brother, or one of his friends (there are some girl characters with strong personalities, too). Although there is fighting, it lacks some of the gruesome elements of YA novels like The Hunger Games.

As a writer, I thought this was an excellent example of a good MG fantasy novel. The writing style was straightforward and direct, with lots of cool elements that would appeal to readers.

How I discovered this book:
I heard about the sequel to this book The Unwanteds: Island of Silence in one of Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts, and then saw the first book on the shelf at my local library and checked it out.

Other info:
Lisa McMann lives in Arizona but was born in Michigan. She has wanted to be writer since she was in Grade 4.

When Lisa McMann was working on writing this book, her own children helped her think up some of the magical rules and spells. Over at Nerdy Book Club, she posted You Don’t Have to Be a Grownup she talks about how her own children helped her come up with ideas for the story and gives this awesome advice to kids: “And you certainly don’t have to be a grownup to come up with amazing ideas for a book, or a movie, or a comic, and start writing. You can do all these things right now. You can start working on your own magical world today.”
Lisa McMann also has this advice for writers on her website: “Be prepared to write a second or third or fifteenth novel if the first ones don’t sell. Be prepared to put the words you love in a drawer for a long time while you work and work to get better at writing.”

Other books written by this author include:
The Unwanteds: Island of Silence
Dead to You (YA)
Wake (YA)
Fade (YA)
Gone (YA)
Cryer’s Cross (YA)

For more, visit Lisa McMann’s website.

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday was dreamed up by the incredible Shannon Messenger. Visit her blog for an up-to-date list of all the bloggers who are participating and posting about middle grade books today!


  1. Great choice Andrea. I liked this for the same reasons you did. And Island of Silence is really good too.

  2. I'm about to order the sequel for my 12 yo. I haven't read the books, but I love Lisa's YA novels.

    1. I haven't read the YA ones! I'll have to check those out.

  3. I haven't read anything by Lisa yet- but I have heard such great things about her writing. This book sounds very good. I like that it is a fantasy with some similarities to Harry Potter. Thanks for sharing.

    1. I thought it was so much fun! Definitely glad I read it.

  4. Thanks for sharing. A very interesting concept, and even more intriguing as the twins are spilt up, on different sides maybe?

    Good advice from the author!

  5. I've seen this mentioned on other MMGM blogs. Certainly sounds cool. The only book I've read by her is Wake, which I found unusual and compelling. I like how Lisa's own children helped her come up with the magical spells and rules. That's great!

    1. Yes, it reminded me of how my children are a great resource when it comes to working out plot details.

  6. I hadn't heard of these yet. What an interesting premise about a place where creativity isn't allowed. Yikes!


    1. It's a cool premise. I loved all the unique spells related to art.


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