ARC Review: Unwritten by Tara Gilboy

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36431261“Let me ask you something: if stories, or the characters in them, live in the minds of readers, then doesn’t that meant they exist in some dimension?”

Publisher: Jolly Fish Press

Published: October 16. 2018

Pages: 198

Series: N/A – Standalone

3 Stars

“Put your hand on the book. Come with me, dear, and I’ll tell you your entire story.”

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Freeman is living a normal life, but she is haunted by the fact that she is actually a character from a story, an unpublished fairy tale she’s never read.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.

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Huge thanks to NetGalley, the publisher, and the author for an advanced copy of this sweet little read! I haven’t dipped into Middle Grade Fiction in a while, but it’s always nice to step into a book that isn’t as heavy as YA or even adult fiction can be.

Right from the start you’re thrust into this world where stories are real and the characters are on the run. They don’t take the time, initially, to explain what’s going on, it’s more like you’re just expected to know. I’m not sure if I like this or not, because we didn’t waste time in the beginning of the story with the character not knowing her origin, but we’re also just thrown into the story with little to go off of.

We also start off right in the middle of a fight between Gracie and her mother, and thus starts the plot wheels turning. Gracie wants to meet the woman who wrote their story because her mother refuses to tell her what happens in their book. She’s tired of being left in the dark and wants to know how she was written. When she defies her mother and goes to the book signing to meet the author, she confronts the writer and accidentally transports the author into their fictional world. We follow Gracie as she travels through this world and the fictional one as she struggles to understand herself and the forces surrounding her family.

The writing here is so beautiful! It’s so descriptive and lyrical and I think its really high quality, which is something people try to say isn’t present in middle grade and other children’s fiction. The only thing that kind of annoyed me here was the fact that the word “Gracie” was basically the start of every sentence. It was highly repetitive at times and could have been reworded to help the paragraphs flow a little more.

For me its a toss up as to whether or not I enjoyed the characters. The story centers on Gracie and so we don’t get to see any of the other character’s feelings or thoughts, but everyone was just a little flat to me. Those who weren’t flat were more on the ‘blah’ scale. For instance, I thought Gracie’s mom was rude and so were Walter’s parents. Walter was overly naive, even for a child. Then there was Jacob, who was simultaneously helping and hurting everyone.  For a story that was based so heavily on characters changing, the characters were all flat and impersonal.

Overall, I had fun while reading this. I thought the writing was great and the plot was fast paced and very character driven. I just wasn’t crazy about the characters and probably would have liked it more if they were a little more dynamic. The premise of this book was so fresh and interesting, but I really got a lot of Once Upon A Time and Coraline vibes while reading this. Which I’m not mad about!

This was all about overcoming what others think of you and discovering your own destiny, you get to make your own decisions and steer your life, even if you’re the ‘bad’ character. It was a super fun, sweet, and interesting read and I think kids are going to really enjoy getting to know Gracie and both her worlds!

Happy reading

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2 thoughts on “ARC Review: Unwritten by Tara Gilboy

  1. oh, this sounds wonderful! I love meta stories where a storybook character exists outside the book – is that person trapped in their story, or do they have free will? (i think that’s why I love mythology – do those characters have free will, or have we taken it from them?).

    if you liked Unwritten, you might like Jim Hines’s Libriomancer series. There is a character who is a sort of grown up version of Gracie – she is a woman who was pulled from a story book. And she is exactly as the author wrote her to be and she was written with certain and specific limitations. but does she let any of that stop her? No. Way.!

    Liked by 1 person

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