Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan

Unspoken (The Lynburn Legacy Book 1)

For me, if a novel doesn’t live up to the expectation that I have for it, it can be a disappointment.  Sometimes, though, the surprise is more pleasant and I find that I really enjoy having my initial ideas turned on their ears.  Such a book is Unspoken, the first in a series about a reclusive English town and the mysterious family who rules it.

(Description nicked from B&N.com.)

“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 Lynburnfamily, 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.”

After reading the description of the plot, I thought I was in for an atmospheric Gothic romp featuring teenagers as the main characters.  Well, I got the Gothic, all right, but the book was hardly the darkly brooding tale that I expected.  Brennan’s characters are funny and witty, never far from a sharp retort or clever quip.  This is the kind of approach that can quickly descend into the feeling of useless banter, but I didn’t ever feel that this book slipped in that direction.  Many were the lines that I made note of to read to my husband later.

What I really liked about this book was the way the relationship between Kami and her “imaginary friend” Jared is portrayed.  The two have been sharing thoughts for years, and then they meet in person.  Rather than have them immediately respond to the connection that they have, the author shows the utter disorientation of having the faceless receptacle of your private thoughts suddenly turned into a real person.  The circumstances don’t make for love at first sight.  It’s refreshing to have an unusual relationship that doesn’t go directly into romance; in fact, the two spend as much time freaking out as getting along.

I do think that the author spends a little too much time setting everything up—the town, the mysterious family, the enigmatic references to them around town, the murders—and it makes the story drag in places.  I think the problem may be that the characters and the plot aren’t balanced quite well enough.  Each is interesting, but at times the character shenanigans overshadow the murders and the other weird happenings.  The plot leans strongly towards “What is going on in this town and how do the Lynburns figure into it?” and I wish that the story had worked with it more.

Quibbles aside, I did enjoy the book.  There’s lots of snappy dialogue to amuse and entertain, and when the author turns her talents to setting the scene, she’s capable of producing some truly creepy stuff.  I’m looking forward to the next book in the hopes that the town and the Lynburn family will figure more prominently.  Unspoken is an unexpectedly entertaining tale, and I have high hopes for the series with a start as strong as this one.

This review appeared on Owlcat Mountain on March 6, 2013.

Series: The Lynburn Legacy
ISBN: 9780375870415
Publisher: Random House
Page Count: 384
Publication Date: September 11, 2012
Acquired: Personal purchase
Author Website
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