Saturday, July 08, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: The Unwritten Girl by James Bow

Rosemary Watson tries to slip through life unnoticed, although the other students at her junior high tend to make her the butt of all their jokes. She tries to be normal, to keep life as quiet and nondescript as possible so people won't think she's like her older brother Theo, who suffered from a nervous breakdown years earlier. She manages to have a fairly normal life, that is, until the day in the school library when she sees a girl fold herself up until she disappears. Which just happens to be the day she meets Peter McAllister.

The Unwritten Girl is the story of Rosemary’s quest to rescue her brother Theo who has been trapped in The Land of Fiction by a book he is unable to stop reading. Assisted by her new friend Peter and the mischievous Puck, most recently read in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Rosemary must overcome her fear and desire to be invisible if she has any hope of success.

First and foremost, The Unwritten Girl is a story about books. James Bow says in his blog that "The Land of Fiction is a compilation of a number of stories I read when I was younger (or had read to me) that had a lasting effect on me." He goes on to state that he loves children's literature for "the clarity of the storytelling, the innocence, the wonder and the sense of transformation."

Bow has taken the standard quest formula and turned it on its head or as he describes it: "The Unwritten Girl is a sorta fairytale. We take very unfairytale characters through a fairytale setting, taking the mickey out of a number of cliches, while at the same time celebrating the genre." His love of this literature is evident in the style and content of his writing as he riffs a bit on the standard characters of fairy tale fare: the damsel in distress complete with attitude; the Fearmonger - specific to no book but present in all; and the Mystery Man whose Magical Mystery Train holds many familiar tales, including a nod to Murder on the Orient Express.

For adult readers, Bow takes us on a delightful, nostalgic trip with The Unwritten Girl; however, what is more important is how young adults will respond to this book. Despite its fantasy/fairy tale setting, The Unwritten Girl addresses some fairly serious issues; mental illness, being an outsider, the death of parents and bullying. In many ways, this is a fairly dark book and Bow deftly handles these significant topics without resorting to clichés or becoming preachy.

Given that Bow has short excerpts of what appear to be "future" adventures of Rosemary and Peter on his blog, I am hopefully that we'll soon see more books featuring these engaging characters. I read this through in one sitting and my autographed copy is going into my permanent collection.

ISBN10: 1550026046
ISBN13: 9781550026947
Publisher: Boardwalk Young Adult Fiction, A Member of the Dundurn Group
Publication Date: April 1, 2006
Binding: Paperback
Book Website:

Related Books of Interest (...or, if you loved The Unwritten Girl, you'll probably like these):
* The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue
* Green Angel by Alice Hoffman
* Varjak Paw by SF Said
* Airborn by Kenneth Oppel



Lotus Reads said...

Janelle, I'm going to miss your reviews! Hope I can access your blog every now and again while I'm on vacation. Putting this on my list - both my daughters should enjoy this one.

Janelle Martin said...

Have a great trip! And yes, your daughters should enjoy this one. The author is from Waterloo so we might be able to arrange for autographed copies for your girls.

Lotus Reads said...

That would be super, Janelle, thank you!

Sheila said...

I just love your reviews. This book though is a must for my wishlist. I can understand being not seen and trying to fight to have my own voice. To save you numerous comments. I also love to get to read Queen of the Underworld, The Brooklyn Follies, House of many God too :)