The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann, published in 2011, is a book about a thirteen-year-old boy named Alexander Stowe, who lives in the bland, colourless world of Quill, ruled by the High Priest Justine. The land where people who dare to do something creative are executed by the boiling lake. Every year, there is a day called “the Purge,” where all the thirteen-year-olds gather and are sorted into three categories: Wanted, Necessary, and Unwanted. Alex was deemed “unwanted” and is sent to his death, separating him from his “necessary” parents and his “wanted” twin brother Aaron. The Unwanteds takes you on a magical joyride of creativity, friendship, courage, and loyalty.
After being brought to his death on a bus with other unwanteds, they are saved by the powerful and amazing magician, Mr. Today. He takes them to the magical world he created, known as Artimé, a bright and colourful world full of vibrant colours, magical creatures, talking statues, and limitless creativity. This book is something that can be enjoyed by people who are artists themselves or people that love a good read about survival of the fittest.
Since the unwanted children were all saved by Mr. Today, their families and friends think they are dead, which means that they aren’t allowed to contact their families to let them know that they are still alive, or risk putting Artimé and all the other unwanteds in danger. This becomes a problem for Alex as he misses his brother dearly and wants to see him more than anything, but he’s forbidden from doing so. During the story, Alex makes himself believe that his brother Aaron misses him no matter what. Even though in Quill, you are instructed to forget about the unwanteds. On the other hand, the story shows Aaron being a strong, intelligent young man who has his eyes set on becoming a governor of Quill, and doesn’t miss his own twin brother.
Quill is a gray, bland, colourless place that only seeks to be full of powerful, intelligent people. Quill’s ruler, the High Priest Justine, is a woman who wants nothing but perfection and power. On the day of the purge, the unwanteds are sent to the Death Farm, a place where all the unwanteds are supposedly executed. The reason they’re deemed unwanted is because they have infractions, some minor, some major. They receive infractions if they do creative things such as drawing, singing, or dancing. Alex was reported to the governors for drawing with a stick in the mud, which immediately made him know that he would be unwanted.
In Artimé, Alex is an artist, meaning that he takes art classes and does magic using his art skills. Everyone in Artimé does magic using their creative abilities such as instrument playing, singing, dancing, drawing, painting, poem reciting, and acting. Alex, his friends, and everyone else in Artimé goes through magical warrior training where they learn to defend themselves and fight using their abilities. This allows them to do all sorts of spells using their resources to survive.
Alex and his friends Lani, Meghan, and Samheed all excel at their arts and learn to become the best fighters they can be by working together. This book displays all the different things that can happen between friends, things such as conflict, watching each other’s backs, loyalty, and trust. Alex at sometimes gets into some conflict with the others regarding his magic abilities which leads to him ignoring them for weeks, during this time he creates another possible problem. After this event had passed he finally goes back and apologizes and then they all start working together again, the loyalty shines through because they accepted his apologies and they let things go back to the way they were before, and it was because they trusted him to let the past die.
Now the book may be based on a fictional world, but it has many values that apply to real life, values that are essential to some people, such as friendship. In this book, friendship is a very powerful thing. The four main characters all grow more when they are with each other than when they’re working alone. This shows us that working with your friends is more beneficial at times because you can learn more from each other.
If you’re looking for a good read then this is something you should definitely check out. Lisa McMann does an incredible job of hooking you in and making you want to read more, as well making you want to learn more about the characters and the story. She has made this book into a series–there are 5 other books after this one. Make sure to check this book out. You won’t regret it.