Quill prevails when the strong survive is the motto of the isolated island of Quill. Children are taught that anything artistic and creative is seen as unacceptable, and only those that conform to the rules of Quill are allowed to survive and succeed. When children reach the age of thirteen they participate in The Purge and are sorted into three groups – Wanteds (who will go on to study at Quill’s university and become members of government), Necessaries (who will do the menial labor), and Unwanteds. The Unwanteds are immediately loaded on a transport and sent to the Great Lake of Boiling Oil to be killed, so they will no longer a blight on Quill’s perfect society. Alex has always known that he will be deemed an Unwanted, but he is still shocked and terrified when he hears his name called during the Purge. Meanwhile, his twin brother, Aaron, has surpassed their Necessary parents and has become a Wanted. Alex steels himself for his fate and with the rest of the Unwanteds leaves Quill forever and faces imminent death.
Except Alex doesn’t die. When they reach the Great Lake of Boiling Oil, the horrifying landscape melts away to reveal a luscious paradise where emotions and artistic abilities are honored and magic is part of the way of life. Alex and his new friends discover that Unwanteds have not been killed as everyone in Quill believes, but have taken refuge in Artimé under the protection of Mr. Marcus Today. Mr. Today is a powerful mage that has been defying High Priest Justine, the leader of Quill, for years. As Alex grows in his skills as an artist in Artimé, becoming a powerful mage in his own right, he cannot shake the feeling of longing he has for his beloved twin brother Aaron, and he vows to find a way to save him and bring him to Artimé. But to do so puts all the Unwanteds and Artimé itself at terrible risk – because if Aaron refuses to come with his twin, Quill and its mighty Quillitary will come to destroy the safe haven that Mr. Today has built.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and the ones that follow it in the series. However, I did have a few issues with the world itself. As with any dystopian novel, I want the world to make sense and this world just didn’t at times. For one thing, Quill has fallen into disrepair and segregation within 50 years. The world is crumbling around them, yet the citizens of Quill have become emotionless automatons obeying every doctrine delivered by High Priest Justine. They are so indoctrinated that they see nothing wrong with sending their children off to die. Quill is a desolate wasteland falling into disrepair and Artimé is a land of plenty filled with magic and magical creatures. How do these two worlds exist side by side on a small island? Sure it’s magic, but I wanted a bit more explanation than that. That being said I really enjoyed the story. I love the characters and I enjoyed the magic of Artimé. I enjoyed the creativity of the magic and loved that that the magic spells are those created from the arts: deadly rhyming couplets, invisible paintbrushes, origami dragons, etc. I also really liked that the kids in Artimé were real kids with real emotions and problems. Alex truly loves his brother and wants to be with him despite the obstacles in his way. In order to accomplish that he makes mistakes and alienates his friends. The other kids are equally flawed and perfect as are some of the adults. The Unwanteds is a magical ride that will leave readers wanting to immediately start the next book and the next.
Lisa McMann will be speaking at Missouri River Regional Library on Wednesday, April 22nd at 7 pm.