Review: The Unwritten

At some point this past summer I began spending much of my free time reading book review blogs. Part of the motivation was to discover new books, although I apparently wasn’t having any trouble with this, at least according to my ballooning Goodreads books-to-read list. But the other part was to explore the world of book review blogging and to see how I might fit into this world. I’m not sure which blog tipped me off to the existence of NetGalley, but I was excited to discover that the site proved advance digital copies of books, based on publisher’s discretion about which books to share with which readers. I immediately signed up and hunted for books to get a sneak peek at. The very first book I discovered was The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor and the Ship that Sank Twice, a graphic novel that acts as a prequel and origin story to the popular Unwritten series. And now that Unwritten has officially published, I can finally share my thoughts.

Unwritten: Tommy Taylor and the Ship That Sank Twice by Mike Carey (story) and Peter Gross (art).

Unwritten: Tommy Taylor and the Ship That Sank Twice by Mike Carey (story) and Peter Gross (art).

This is not the first graphic novel I have read, and I hoping it won’t be the last. Unwritten was a beautifully rendered world with a heart-wrenching story and classic tropes: orphaned boy with a heroic future, brave and loyal sidekicks, wise teacher and undead villain. But that’s okay. Carey manages to both highlight and dismiss any arguments you might have against his reliance on these stereotypical details. Instead, he frames the novel with the story of an author and the novel he was creating, adding just enough tongue-in-cheek references to amuse readers – especially those who are also writers.

The Unwritten series is a popular comic series about a fictional boy wizard named Tommy Taylor and Tom Taylor, the real-life boy on whom the author (Tom’s father) based his character. Conflicts abound as Tom copes with his stardom and the fact that he might be more than what he seems. In this particular novel, the origins of Tom and Tommy are explained. And they are illustrated in a delightfully dream style. The illustrations alone make the novel worth reading, but the story is actually gripping, despite it’s reliance on predictable characters.

Bottom line: This is another great example of young adult fiction being a worthwhile genre for adults to explore. And if you’ve never read a graphic novel, maybe it’s time you set aside your preconceived notions of them. If you find yourself enjoying the genre, I also recommend Stitches, a memoir/graphic novel by David Smalls.

Thanks to NetGalley and DC Emtertainment for the preview read.
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One thought on “Review: The Unwritten

  1. I agree with your bottom line completely. I think a lot of people write off (ha) graphic novels as books for children or geeks. When in reality its simply another way to tell a story, and it can impart just as much, if not more, emotion and depth to the reader. Not to mention adding an entire new dimension to the story telling. I also agree on the YA novels. Being a huge fan of the Redwall series and having read it from 1rst grade all the way into adulthood, I can safely say that you should not discard YA novels just because you aren’t the intended audience. A good book is a good book.

    I often find it interesting (aggravating) that people will not read a book, particularly YA novels, just because they aren’t young adults. After all, adults watch cartoons (at least the cool ones) all the time. How is it really any different? I have also always found it irritating that people will assume a YA novel is not as well written or not as complex as an “Adult” novel simply because its geared towards teenagers. Teenagers can read just fine, and are pretty smart (sometimes). There is no reason to assume the writing has been down or that the story has been stripped of complexity or flattened out. It just means its target audience is younger.

    Now I want to read this series…

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