by Tara Gilboy
Publish: October 16, 2018
Twelve-year-old Gracie Freeman is living a normal life, but she is haunted by the fact that she is actually a character from a story, an unpublished fairy tale she’s never read. When she was a baby, her parents learned that she was supposed to die in the story, and with the help of a magic book, took her out of the story, and into the outside world, where she could be safe.
But Gracie longs to know what the story says about her. Despite her mother’s warnings, Gracie seeks out the story’s author, setting in motion a chain of events that draws herself, her mother, and other former storybook characters back into the forgotten tale. Inside the story, Gracie struggles to navigate the blurred boundary between who she really is and the surprising things the author wrote about her. As the story moves toward its deadly climax, Gracie realizes she’ll have to face a dark truth and figure out her own fairy tale ending.
Received an ARC from Netgalley on behalf of North Star Editions in exchange for an honest review.
Review written by Syd-Jack
Gracie may look like an ordinary 12-year-old. She even acts ordinary, but she doesn’t feel ordinary, because Gracie Freeman was born in a book, in the land of Bondoff. She was a prominent character in the story, but her parents, along with a boy named Walter and his parents, fled the story with her when she was a baby when they discovered that Gracie was destined to die in the story. Gracie has grown up in the real world, but she’s been forbidden by her mother to do what she’s always wanted to: seek out the author of the book to find out what happens to her in the book, and who she is within its pages. But an accident finds the author in the story with no way out. Queen Cassandra, the villain of the story (who has the ability to travel between the story’s world and the real one with her most prized possession, an old book known as the Vademecum), has been looking for Gracie, but hasn’t found her location … yet, and the author might give it away. Then both Gracie’s and Walter’s parents end up trapped in the book, and Gracie and Walter journey after them. Pretty soon, though, Gracie’s sense of identity is shattered through a single shocking reveal. Will Gracie escape the book with her family and Walter’s, and will she be able to become more than the character she is in the story?
I read this book in a single evening. I love how wonderfully Tara Gilboy (the author of this book) weaves the two main plots together: the external one of being stuck in the story, and the internal one, of Gracie struggling with her sense of self. There were some excellent twists in the story, and, although a few were a little too easy to anticipate (like Jacob’s identity), the main one that I mentioned earlier is thoroughly unexpected. Even though none of us (at least, probably) are really characters from stories, I’m sure many readers, perhaps especially the middle-grade audience this book targets, can identify with Gracie’s determination to find her true self.
I really liked this one line, near the end. Walter says it: “‘What if every story ever written is a world in another dimension, waiting for us to find it?’” Although this probably isn’t actually possible, the thought was wonderful to me, as a self-proclaimed Harry Potter geek and a writer myself. I’ve honestly had a pattern of taking an immediate liking to books that involve traveling into a book, like Inkheart, The Land of Stories series, and now there’s Unwritten. Shall I even mention that the cover is undeniably awesome (another thing it has in common with The Land of Stories)?
One of my only complaints is that the book ended so soon. I sincerely found it hard to put down, and it did one of the best things reading a book can do for an author: it inspired me to write more. I’d advise any fans of Inkheart – no, any avid readers of middle-grade in general – to keep a lookout for this book in stores and libraries, and hope that Tara Gilboy keeps writing. This is an excellent debut novel. Unwritten is a great read with interesting characters, especially the protagonist, a compelling and creative plot, and quality presentation (the cover and style) that does it all justice.
Parental Advisory: fantasy violence