Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Book Review: Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan

This is the book where Sarah Rees Brennan makes you laugh a lot; you’re having the best time then she rips your heart out and grinds it into a bloody pulp in the lush woods of Sorry-in-the-Vale under the heal of her boot and you say thank you because it is a glorious reading experience!

Background: I recently attended the Autsin Teen Book Festival and, as I am often inclined to do, I kept walking up to complete strangers and asking them who they were here to see and why.  Everyone does that, right?  I was surprised when several teenage boys and men said they were there to see Sara Rees Brennan, her book covers seems so girly.  But yep, that’s who they were there to see.  So I bought a signed copy of Unspoken and began reading it.

The first thing you should know is that despite the fact that this is a ya paranormal, I laughed out loud a lot.  I had to stop and read several passages out loud to The Mr. when he gave me sideways glances about how loudly I was laughing.  In fact, I give unto Ms. Brennan and honorary award for Most Hilarious Romeo and Juliet reference. Read pages 69 and 70. Also, bonus points because Kami goes to the library to do research and this is also a fun scene: “Can you tell me where I could find books on Satanism?” Twenty minutes later, she had Dorothy convinced that it was for a school project, and she really did not have to telephone Kami’s parents (p. 43)  So that’s two random completely made up awards, Best Romeo and Juliet Reference and Best Library Scene.  Don’t worry Sarah, your awards are “in the mail.”

“Hark,” he said, his tone very dry. “What stone through yonder window breaks?” 

Here’s the gist of the story: Kami is this awesome girl (I love her and her confidence and want my daughter to read books with female characters like her) who wants to be an investigative reporter.  Think Veronica Mars.  She is feisty, fun and generally self-confident (though plagued to be the daughter and BFF of apparently truly beautiful women).  She also has spent her entire life speaking to an imaginary friend in her head, which can make for some awkward situations. Diversity note: Kami is a multicultural main character. Bonus points.

Kami lives in Sorry-in-the-Vale, a place full of secrets that generally surround the Lynburn family who have – surprise! – suddenly returned.  Naturally, Kami wants to get all the scoop. As she investigates she is drawn into a paranormal mystery that puts her and the people she loves in danger.  The Lynburn family really don’t want their secrets told.
“If I wasn’t going to be a world-famous journalist and if I didn’t have such respect for truth and justice, I could be an amazing master criminal.” 

There are two components in Unspoken that will knock your socks off: the setting and the friendships.
Sorry-in-the-Vale is an atmospheric place full of haunting woods, crying pools and gothic castles, which is of course the Lynburn manner.  Here Brennan continues an awesome trend I am currently seeing in these gothic tales that look at more traditional forms of magic as opposed to more fantastical forms of magic seen in things like Harry Potter. In Sorry-in-the-Vale, the very earth may move to trap you and shadows hold strong connections between souls.

As for the friendships, Kami surrounds herself with an “intrepid” group of reports that include her best friend Angela, a girl named Holly and two of the very people that she may be investigating, Ash and Jared Lynburn.  The group comes together hesitantly, swayed in part by Kami’s charm and enthusiasm.  However, each character comes to play an important role and are really a lot of fun in their own ways.  Angela is a fun, if not somewhat lethargic, best friend.  She is a champion napper.
Kami’s family is also fun (and a whole family to boot!).  This is the only stumbling blog that I came across.  When Kami goes home and interacts with her family, they are fun and quippy, but at times their voices become interchangeable, particularly Kami and her father.  You can chock it up to being a part of the same family, but when others characters have such strong voices it is hard to see these voices blend so easily.  They are without a doubt fun scenes to read, I am just not sure they are the strongest scenes here which is unfortunate because it is great seeing a fun, healthy, dynamic family in ya lit.
There is some swoon factor here, of course, and it is done fairly well.  There is, in fact, lots of magnetism and romantic possibilities for various characters.  And then there is the end; the jaw dropping what the heck did you just do to me Sarah Rees Brennan end.  SPOILER ALERT: This is a FANTASTIC ending! It is a brave and bold and holy crap she just did not do that ending.  Here our characters are walking down path A, they have a touching, heartfelt moment and then – boom! – one of our characters steps onto path B, and it looks to be an awesome new direction.  It is gut wrenching.  Joss Whedon has said that he doesn’t give his viewers what they want, but what they need, which is such a bold form of storytelling.  Brennan engages in some bold storytelling here and it will sweep the feet out from under you. Also, I can’t say it enough – funny and great voice, teens will love it.
There is so much more I want to tell you about this book, but I don’t want to spoil you.  Don’t be spoiled! You’ll hate yourself in the morning.

4 out of 5 stars for this funny, fantastic read. Highly recommended. And although The Sunnydale Project is over, this would definitely go on my list of recommended reads for Buffy fans.  Leave a comment with an e-mail address and you’ll be entered to win my signed copy of Unspoken, which I will give up with tears – but it is for the cause of books!  U.S. people only please and leave your comment by Friday, November 2nd.


  1. I would love to be entered into the drawing for this book. You make me want to go out and find it 'right now'. I am going to have to get this for my library.


  2. Sounds like a great read!


  3. I've heard so many great things about this book, I'm excited to read it. Also, so jealous you attended the ATBF. I was unable to make it this year, but it looked like so much fun.

    Thanks for the giveaway, by the way!


  4. This book sounds amazing! I can't wait to get my hands on a copy to dive into.


  5. I agree with the above comments. This book sounds like a must-read! I would love to be entered into the giveaway for this book.



  6. I just added this book to a reading list the other day and thought, “I'll have to pick this one up!” Sounds really cool.


  7. I've had this book on my wishlist for months. It sounds fantastic!!

    deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

  8. This sounds like something that would be awesome to add to my classroom library. Please enter me into the drawing.

    april dot blevins at gmail dot com

  9. Such a good book, I loved it!

  10. Christopher Pyne says

    This sounds right up my ally! Please enter me in your drawing! slappypyne@gmail.com

Speak Your Mind