Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan is a twist on a classic Gothic romance, like Jane Eyre. Complete with a mysterious mansion on a hill, a desperate love triangle, mysterious goings-on and troubled characters, Unspoken throws a twist into the formula by reversing the genders of the main characters, setting it in a modern setting, and adding a sense of humor.
Kami lives in Sorry-in-the-Vale, a small English town that lives in the shadow of the Lynburn mansion. The Lynburns have been gone since before Kami was born, and most of the people in the town are glad they have been gone. However, one day the lights in the mansion are back on, and word whips quickly through town that the Lynburns are back. Kami, an aspiring journalist, thinks this would be a great story for the newly resurrected high school newspaper. However, she is surprised to discover that the Lynburns have returned with not one, but two gorgeous boys her age, one looking like an angel, and the other like a fallen one. Whispers of the Lynburns’ dastardly deeds start resurfacing, and Kami is caught between the attentions of both of the Lynburn boys and the voice in her head that she’s heard since she was an infant. And then animals start being ritually killed in the woods, and Kami is determined to figure out what is going on, and that’s before someone tries to kill her.
Kami is a fun heroine. She’s spunky, mouthy, and headstrong. She has an entertaining group of friends and is a born leader. As the adventure unfolds, she seems to plunge in headfirst without much awareness of the danger, beyond the level you would assume normal for teenage belief in their own immortality. Where I do appreciate Kami’s personality the most is in her refusal to be a stupid swoony girl over the two boys that are interested in her. Rather than stringing them both along, she shows reasonable doubts about both of them and is clearheaded enough to understand why they are interested in her, rather than considering it true love. Without giving away any important plot details, the central triangle drives the plot not just romantically – there is surprisingly little actual romance – but strategically in both revealing the plot and driving the conflict forward.
The book shifts from a fairly Disneyfied spunky girl detective story to a more mature PG-13 with both an increase in violence and language. Additionally, the last 75 pages or so reveals a lot of information and then ends without any resolution. The atmospheric darkness that hangs over the story is not cleared away and has actually darkened as the story ends. I was actually frustrated with the lack of resolution. There are ways to leave the story open enough to continue while providing a sense of closure to the installment of the larger tale.
This is a fun addition to the realm of YA fantasy. As Unspoken ends with a fairly significant cliff hanger, it will be interesting to see where the story goes with a lot of the mystery dispelled and the alignment of the characters more crystalized. The book ends with the central love triangle being completely reconfigured, so I assume that the continued volumes in THE LYNBURN LEGACY will play with the inter-character conflict. I’ll definitely be reading the next book in this series, but I don’t think this book will have the crossover to broader audiences that some YA fiction will, but will appeal to fans of YA fantasy and gothic fiction.