Lisa McMann, Alladin, expected publication August 30, 2011, 390 pages, Middle School fiction.
Source: Simon & Schuster galley grab.
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
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 secret—behind 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 occurrence 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.
What a fun book!! It was full of great characters, interesting animals, imagination and creativity. The first page had me hooked and I could hardly put it down until I was done.
The world that Lisa McMann creates is incredible and she does a fantastic job. Quill is a distinctly dreary and horrible place, gray and even covered with mesh fencing. The people come off lifeless and resigned. Artime, on the other hand, is its polar opposite, full of vitality, energy and life. Even the statues are living and there are wonderful, magical creatures such as a winged tortoise and squirrelicorns. Then there is the fighting techniques that the kids learn, such as putting someone to sleep with a soliloquy, painting yourself invisible, and a blinding someone using a highlighter pen.
The characters in this book really drew me in - I so felt for Alex and his dilemma, being deemed Unwanted while his twin brother is Wanted; then when he goes to Artime instead of being killed, his desire to help his brother and save him from his dismal life in Quill. Also, even in Artime, Alex feels out of place and separate from his friends when they all qualify for the special military training and he does not. Alex gets moody and sullen, and I could sympathize with his confusion. I also felt that the friendships and rivalries were authentic and well thought out.
I loved the questions that McMann poses in this book - she deals with some interesting, larger issues, primarily the way society tends to value academics over artistic talent and creativity, and the importance of free will. She explores how much we have to lose if we cut ourselves off from our creativity and shows us how important it is to our humanity. I found it interesting how much she linked creativity to cleverness, and how people can be incredibly intelligent, but without creativity, their ideas will be lacking and things will eventually fall apart.
This is a great book that I think middle school aged kids and even early teens will love. McMann's amazing imagination and creativity is sure to get kids interested in this well written and fun book. I know that my own 12 year old son was looking over my shoulder as I was reading this and has made me promise to buy it when it comes out - I can see my 8 year old loving this as well. I also imagine that it would be a good one to teach in the classroom because the story would keep the kids captivated and there are lots of rich discussion topics.