The Unwanted by Z.T. Soyoye is a story about a fifteen year-old Alex Charon, who is trying to come to grips with a new school. Oh, and new powers, too. He is trying to learn these powers when he witnesses the kidnapping of his friend. Now he must perfect these powers to fix what was wrong, without falling into despair.
1. Thoughts on the plot
As far as plot goes, this is a fairly standard anime-style urban fantasy middle-grade novel. Our main character develops powers. As he does, something terrible happens to his friends and he must do his best to try and fix things. This takes place at a school and the cast of characters is precisely what one would expect from this sort of story. Which is all grand, excepting one thing: the plot twists don’t feel much like twists. They feel more like precise representations of what you would expect from the genre.
This is not a problem, necessarily. Genre fiction always contains the expectations and tropes of that genre. Many books contain similar plots and ideas. The trick is trying to make them unique enough that you’re not reading the same thing over and over. This book does a decent job at that.
2. Thoughts on the main character
Alex fits the role of main character for this sort of novel exactly. He has principles. He has doubts. He is trying to fit into a new world and perhaps pushing himself too hard to succeed. So when things go wrong, he takes that drive to the extreme. This fits well with the story and Alex is a likeable character. I will say that some of his internal monologue is a bit existential and asks questions that are more telling us what is going on than showing us how Alex is dealing with a situation. (Yes, I know it’s a cliche to use those terms, but that’s what it felt like.) Most of this is fine, but near the end when things go all sorts of wonky, the internal monologues felt like they broke up the story too much; we were focusing on Alex’s internal struggle rather than the fact that external struggles were doing their best to pulverise him.
3. Favourite part
I liked the mash-up of urban fantasy with an anime-style story. It’s done frequently enough that you see this sort of thing in the genre a lot, but I still liked the execution.
A lot of my critique for this book is to do with the fact that things were pointed out to the reader very plainly. There was no mystery. No intrigue. The questions were answered fairly quickly and the things that weren’t answered quickly did not necessarily follow any sort of logic. I felt a little like the author was trying to explain the world instead of show me the world. Don’t underestimate your readers, no matter how old you expect them to be. (I was reading my way through the entire catalogue of 19th century literature, and Shakespeare, by the time I was eleven. This is not uncommon in people who read.) They’re smarter than you think.
On the whole, as far as a middle grade anime/urban fantasy mash-up goes, this fit the bill precisely. The characters were what you would expect, and the plot was, too. I think that there could have been more done to create a bit of intrigue or struggle for the readers, but overall, it’s what you would expect. I would say, therefore, that this book is FAIR.