Every year in Quill, thirteen-year-olds are sorted into categories: the strong, intelligent Wanteds go to university, and the artistic Unwanteds are sent to their deaths.
Thirteen-year-old Alex tries his hardest to be stoic when his fate is announced as Unwanted, even while leaving behind his twin, Aaron, a Wanted. Upon arrival at the destination where he expected to be eliminated, however, Alex discovers a stunning secretbehind the mirage of the "death farm" there is instead a place called Artime.
In Artime, each child is taught to cultivate their creative abilities and learn how to use them magically, weaving spells through paintbrushes and musical instruments. Everything Alex has ever known changes before his eyes, and it's a wondrous transformation.
But it's a rare, unique occurence for twins to be separated between Wanted and Unwanted, and as Alex and Aaron's bond stretches across their separation, a threat arises for the survival of Artime that will pit brother against brother in an ultimate, magical battle.
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There was a hint of wind coming over the top of the stone walls and through the barbed-wire sky on the day Alexander Stowe was to be Purged. Alex waited in the dusty Commons of Quill and felt the light breeze cooling the sweat on his upper lip. His twin brother, Aaron, stood beside him; their parents, behind. And all around, the entire community of Quill watched and waited, the bland looks of sleeping fish on their faces.
Mr. Stowe pressed his finger hard into Alex’s back. A final poke in the kidneys, a last good-bye, Alex thought. Or a warning not to run. Alex glanced at Aaron, whose face showed the tiniest emotion. Scared, was it? Or sad? Alex didn’t know.
The High Priest Justine, her long white hair undisturbed despite the breeze, rose to her full height and observed the silent crowd. She began without introduction or ado, for a Purge was neither exciting nor boring; it just was, as many things just were in Quill.
There were nearly fifty thirteen-year-olds this year. The people of Quill waited to hear which of these teenagers had been marked as Wanted or Necessary, and, by process of elimination, which of them remained to be Purged.
Alex scanned the group and their families around the giant half circle of the amphitheater. He knew some of them, not all. Alex’s mind wandered as the High Priest Justine announced first the names of the Wanteds, and he startled only slightly as the high priest spoke Aaron’s name. Aaron, who’d had nothing to worry about, sighed anyway in relief when he was among the fifteen names called.
The Necessaries were next. Thirteen names were read. Alexander Stowe was not one of those, either. Even though Alex knew that he was Unwanted, and had known ever since his parents had told him over breakfast when he was ten, the knowledge and three years of preparation weren’t enough to stop the sweat that pricked his armpits now.
It was down to a mere formality unless there was a surprise, which there sometimes was, but it didn’t matter. Everyone stood motionless until the final twenty names were called. Among the Unwanted, Alexander Stowe.
Alex didn’t move, though his heart fell like a cement block into his gut. He stared straight ahead as he’d seen the other Unwanteds do in past years. His lip quivered for a moment, but he fought to still it. When the governors came over to him, he put his arms out for them to shackle with rusty iron bands. He made his eyes icy cool before he glanced over his shoulder at his parents, who remained unemotional. His father nodded slightly, and finally took his finger out of Alex’s back after the shackles were secure. That was a minor relief, but what did it matter now?
Aaron sniffed once quietly, catching Alex’s attention in the silent amphitheater. The identical boys held a glance for a moment. Something, like a jolt of energy, passed between them. And then it was gone.
“Good-bye,” Aaron whispered.
Alex swallowed hard, held the stare a second more as the governors tugged at him to follow, and then broke the connection and went with the governors to the waiting bus that would take him to his death.
© 2011 Lisa Mcmann
What People are Saying About This
The Hunger Games meets Harry Potter in this middle-grade departure from McMann’s string of paranormal mysteries with romance for young adults.
On the day of Purge in totalitarian Quill, which is run by the High Priest Justine, 13-year-olds learn if they are deemed Wanted to attend the university, Necessary to tend the land or Unwanted and purged by execution. Without a good-bye from his Wanted identical brother Aaron, Alex Stowe and the other Unwanteds travel to the Death Farm. Instead of death, they meet the lush and magical world of Artimè, kept secret from Justine by mage Marcus Today. In a third-person narration characterized by even pacing and whimsical inventions, Alex and his peers learn that their creativity threatened Justine’s power. Surrounded by talking blackboards, transporting tubes and such fantastical creatures as an octagator (with the head of an alligator and body of an octopus) for instructors, the teens hone their drawing, music and acting skills while also wielding paintbrushes for invisibility spells and iambic pentameter to stun attackers during Magical Warrior Training, in preparation for battle against the Quillitary. As the youths explore fear, responsibility and free thinking, their spells may be used sooner than they think when Alex’s twin bond is tested and rivals vie for Aaron’s new position in Justine’s government.
Blending elements from two popular genres, this is sure to be a double hit. - KIRKUS, April 15, 2011
"Imagination runs wild in this creative adventure."
#1 New York Times bestselling author Brandon Mull
"Reading Lisa McMann's THE UNWANTEDS was like discovering a brilliant,
lost children's classic—except it's never going to be lost, because
readers will never, ever forget the magic they'll experience in
James A. Owen, author and Illustrator of HERE, THERE BE DRAGONS