Preteen Read: The Unwanteds Book II: Island of Silence

Lisa McMann, author of the popular teen series The Wake Trilogy, moved into the kidlit world with her Unwanteds series. The first book, which came out in August 2011, introduced us to a town called Quill where creativity is forbidden and anyone showing signs of it will be named an "unwanted" and sent to die at the Death Farm. Alex, one of the Unwanteds, thought he's going to die at the age of 13, unlike his twin brother Aaron, who is going to attend a prestigious university to be trained to be a government official. Instead, Alex discovered the secret world of Artime, right next door to Quill but cloaked by magic, where residents embrace their creative powers, train them up and transform them into combat skills. At the end of the first book, with the archvillain defeated and the Quill government overthrown, there's no need to hide Artime anymore.

The second book begins with Alex struggling with his new responsibilities and believing in himself, being singled out as a possible successor to his mentor Marcus, the creator of Artime. Meanwhile, his twin Aaron, who has lost all power because of the co-existence of Quill and Artime, is plotting his revenge against his brother and all of Artime by inciting all the disgruntled Quill residents.  And in the midst of the brewing conflict are a boy and a girl, who came to Artime unconscious on a sinking raft, each of them wearing "a thick band made of metal thorns that weave(s) in and out of the skin around their necks". Where did these mysterious visitors come from?

Even though the promo quote on the cover says this book is "Hunger Games meets Harry Potter", the magical part is more prevalent throughout the two books. Awesome covers and generous spacing between lines will appeal to readers who like fantasy but don't want to feel overwhelmed, and once the story is set into motion, it is non-stop action and chaos and you can't read fast enough to find out what is going to happen next and who can be trusted. It does take some time for things to get started, but I think the characters are likable enough that you wouldn't mind getting to know them a bit more. Eagerly waiting for the third book.
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