Penguin Teen AUS
Copy courtesy of the publisher
Bea Azaeli lives in a walled city, believed to be the world’s last surviving. Inside the city there’s a strict order and everyone has a role to play within it. Some, like Bea, train to be a part of the city’s army, patrolling the walls and playing a role of sniper to keep anything that might want to invade, out. Others like Bea’s sister are Storks, charged with producing the next generation for the city. Bea’s father used to be a sniper but then rumour was, he couldn’t take it anymore and jumped. Because someone has to pay for his crime, Bea’s mother was taken away to work in the Farms. It’s up to Bea, by far the most capable to keep their family together, her and her two sisters. Her youngest sister is mute and requires extra stability and reassurance.
But the Bea’s sister makes a terrible choice and Bea is forced to go after her. And the things that she discovers on her quest has her wondering just what lies outside the walls….and if maybe, the real danger is on the inside.
Unwanted is a new dystopian YA novel set in a could-be-anywhere-city in a ruined world. Some time ago, an invasion came by Erebii who are….aliens? Other life forms?.. that can mimic form. The first Erebii to inhabit Earth was friendly but then the warriors came and possessed humans, taking their bodies. Bea’s city is fortified by a wall and on the wall are snipers who will shoot anything that comes into sight. They cannot take the risk and have their security breached.
Bea is training to be a warrior, a sniper like her father before her. He died in disgrace although Bea has trouble believing that it happened the way that was claimed. Perhaps she feels that she can rectify her father’s disgrace by becoming a valued and formidable sniper although much of her training happens before the book begins. Instead we get her final challenge as our opening scene and the book quickly establishes a friendship between Bea and her neighbour Gus, who is also in training and has passed his final test. Gus seems to also regard Bea as more than a friend (this will be important later) but she doesn’t seem to have ever thought of him that way (this will also be important later).
To be honest, I found parts of this book confusing, especially after Bea meets Red and the rest of the underground crew. Red seems like one of those magic characters who can go anywhere and do anything and convince people that either he has a right to be there or not to see him at all and he came off so bland and two-dimensional. Bea has been indoctrined to believe one thing her entire life and it seems remarkably easy for Red to convince her of something else. If Red is that clever, surely he could just convince everyone else too? The whole underground community with the mad skills thing seems so overdone in dystopian literature, everything they need at their fingertips. I know it’s not that easy and they seem to have been working for a while towards their goal but suddenly there’s this idea that Bea is the one they’ve been searching for, the one that will make all their plans come to fruition.
I couldn’t really warm to Bea as a character, for most of the book she seemed almost robotic, perhaps a product of her upbringing and training but there was little to really show her personality except perhaps the way she went into bat for her sister Jo, who was a Stork. But even that seemed like something she was doing automatically. She was at her most human when interacting with her youngest sister but that didn’t stop her leaving her alone either. I think the main problem is that several elements of this book reminded me of other books – the eye embedding in her palm reminded me of the Juliana Baggott books and the Stork part reminded me of well, many other dystopian books to be honest.
The first part of the book is rather slow but the last third of the book is significantly faster paced and I think that’s the part I enjoyed the most. There were lots of developments, a few surprises and things I wanted to know more about which didn’t really eventuate. It looks set up for a possible sequel as well, so perhaps if that eventuates we’d learn much more about the world in which this story takes place.
Book #30 of 2015
Unwanted is book #10 for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2015