“...Quill was a bland world whose brightest color was the green of the leafy trees in the nursery.” The Unwanteds, the first installment in a seven-book series written by Lisa McMann, begins in the desolate land of Quill, devoid of creativity and color. Activities such as singing, dancing, or even simply drawing a picture are forbidden and considered “infractions.” Having a single infraction can lead to being called “Unwanted” and being dropped in a pit in a ceremony called the Purge.
The book centers around twins Alex and Aaron Stowe. Alex is Unwanted, while Aaron is Wanted. Although The Unwanteds seems like any other dystopian book, its genre is fantasy. This is because when Alex is sent to be thrown in the pit, he and the other Unwanteds instead arrive in Artime, a secret land of magic and creativity made to save the Unwanteds, created by a mage named Mr. Today. Mr. Today says that the rulers of Quill cannot find out about Artime, or they will try to destroy it. As the story continues, Alex and his Unwanted friends Samheed, Meghan, and Lani learn to cast spells and finally express themselves in peace. That is, until Artime is discovered by Quill.
After reading The Unwanteds, I was immediately left with a sense of awe, and wanted to read the next part of the story. The wide variety of different spells that could be cast, as well as the imaginative setting and creatures, stood out to me while reading this book. The Unwanteds learned to cast “scatterclips,” which would pin people against a wall, and use a highlighter to summon a spell that generates light or temporarily blinds others. The spells were made out of everyday objects and components, and Mr. Today encouraged his students to create their own spells, which I thought was a very imaginative concept.
Another detail that made the story The Unwanteds a unique read were the many twists and turns in the plot. Throughout all seven books in the Unwanteds series, the story has been kept alive with unexpected plot twists and new discoveries. However, each surprise is well-thought out and doesn't seem like just a rushed character death or a sentence that changes the entire plot. Lisa McMann makes sure that the book stays equally interesting throughout and does not get confusing or tedious.
Readers looking for a fantasy adventure who struggle with much larger books such as Harry Potter or The Hunger Games will enjoy reading The Unwanteds. The book is written in an easy-to understand tone while still delivering a magical tale full of fantastical creatures. The story spreads a message to others about showing self-expression and not letting others change the way you act. The way Quill forces its residents to conform to their society and not stray from their rules represents how other people’s actions may change what you do and say.
The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann tells a story of adventure, magic, and the struggle between creativity and conformity. Its spells and creatures of all kinds are illustrated perfectly and add to the book’s colorful vibe. The story is a truly amazing introduction to a seven-part series, and I recommend it for all readers of the fantasy genre.