Today, we're thrilled to share our review for Victoria Schwab's The Unbound. We loved The Archived last year, and were thrilled when Disney Hyperion granted use access to an digital ARC!
Published January 28th 2014 by Hyperion
Format read: E-ARC via publisher
Part mystery and part coming-of-age story, readers will find Mackenzie's journey to be a painful but thoughtful one, and the story will definitely stay with readers long after they've finished reading.
Meanwhile, people are vanishing without a trace, and the only thing they seem to have in common is Mackenzie. She's sure the Archive knows more than they are letting on, but before she can prove it, she becomes the prime suspect. And unless Mac can track down the real culprit, she'll lose everything, not only her role as Keeper, but her memories, and even her life. Can Mackenzie untangle the mystery before she herself unravels?
With stunning prose and a captivating mixture of action, romance, and horror, The Unbound delves into a richly imagined world where no choice is easy and love and loss feel like two sides of the same coin.
Well, to put it simply, I was blown away. So when it came time to read The Unbound, I was totally dying for the book. Luckily, Disney Hyperion was amazing (as usual!) and sent me an e-ARC.
Things that worked:
If there's one thing Schwab is absolutely a master at, it's her ability to create startling beautiful characterizations for all of her characters.
It's been three weeks since Mackenzie's deadly confrontation with Owen on the roof of the Coronado, and she is broken. She can't sleep, and when she does manage to get some shut-eye, she's plagued with the type of terrible nightmares that would make anyone sleep with lights on for the rest of their lives.
Schwab is brutally honest when sketching out Mackenzie's post-confrontation neurosis, especially with her struggles to stay awake at her new, elite (but strangely likable) new school, and to figure out just why she's now blacking out at scary, random times. I was genuinely sad and anxious for Mac as she navigated her post-confrontation world, and struggled to acclimate to her new normal.
As for secondary characters, Schwab introduces us to a whole host of them, as Mac starts a new school. I loved the fact that her teenaged classmates for Mac felt anything but stereotypical - all of her characters were smart, funny, added to the story and they felt real.
Schwab's absolutely brilliant at plotting, and this clearly shines through in the way she's chosen to structure The Unbound.
Without giving any spoilers away, the story's partially told in flashback, and partiality set in current time. Schwab does a great job of propelling forward the ongoing mystery in current time - including some jaw dropping moments that made me go "WHAT?", as Mac tries to figure out why people who cross her path keep disappearing - but she also intermixes that with a lot of quieter flashbacks.
I think both do a lot to help emphasize Mac's current state of mind, while also jointly showing what she was like before andhow she got there in the first place.
Confused? Let me put it like this: Schwab does a great job of really chartering out each and every step of Mac's coming-of-age story, so you feel like you've gotten to know all of her inside and out, even without Agatha's brain-reading abilities.
The romance factor
Yes, Wesley a.k.a. Guyliner is back. Schwab basically perfects the art of the slow burn between Mackenzie and Wesley in this book, giving readers just enough moments between the two of them to make readers swoon, but also holds back just enough, for those moments of togetherness to really make an impact.
Not only does this really add to the depth of Wesley and Mac's relationship, I would argue that it also makes Mac's journey all the more meaningful. Because she's not being frequently overwhelmed by thoughts of romance, you know her relationship with Wesley is being built on a genuine foundation for whatever may come.
However, he's not the only guy to keep an eye out for in this book. Schwab introduces Cash, another guy at Mackenzie's new school, who can look past all of her quirks and appreciate her for who she is. He's charming, hot and funny, and I'll be honest: I found myself being swayed to join his team more than a few times.
Bottom line: Even though I'm generally not a fan of love triangles, I loved the one in this case, largely because Schwab didn't overplay her hand at the triangle. It's subtle but sweet, and also does a lot to emphasize Mac's growth and her personal understanding of herself.
The hard lessons
Mac learns a lot about herself throughout the course of the book, including the fact that her initial perceptions of people and places - including a much idealized character - may be drastically different than what others may think.
I absolutely loved this about the book. Mac's forced to face a lotof hard truths throughout the book and the series, but she doesn't let them break her. (Though, it does come close at a few points.) She processes these realizations and her growing awareness like someone who is genuinely coming to realize that yes, things may suck, but this is what it means to be an adult sometimes.
Schwab really nails the idea of the coming-of-age novel with Mackenzie, and I think that her journey will hit home with a lot of different readers.
Things that didn't work/Things to consider:
I highly recommend this book for fans of mystery and science fiction books, but I also recommend this book for readers who are looking for something that falls outside of traditional YA genres. This is a book that will make you remember why you like YA in the first place.
As for me, I can only hope that Victoria Schwab has more stories left to tell for Mackenzie and the crew. (Pun intended).
Disclaimer: I received an e-ARC of The Unbound from Disney Hyperion, in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!
About Victoria Schwab:
She also tells stories.
She loves fairy tales, and folklore, and stories that make her wonder if the world is really as it seems.