Genre: YA Dystopian, YA Fantasy Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
After reading an ARC of The Beckoning Shadow by Katharyn Blair a couple years ago I was stoked when I heard her second novel was coming out in January of this year! After binge reading Unchosen in just a day, it quickly became one of my all-time favorite books. As always, please check out the trigger warnings on The StoryGraph before reading.
Basically, the novel revolves around Charlotte, who is surviving a plague that is transmitted by sight, alongside her older sister, Harlow, and her younger sister, Vanessa. Those left in the world that have not been infected carry all their hope with “The Chosen One,” that was named in the legend of Anne de Graaf, while those who are infected hunt down the curseclean with a harrowing singlemindedness. So, what’s the catch? Not only is Charlotte in love with her best friend, who happens to also be her older sister’s boyfriend, her younger sister is The Chosen One, and must be protected at all costs.
I adored so many aspects of this novel. Charlotte, the protagonist is definitely rough around the edges, but at the same time extremely likeable. Her development throughout the novel was fantastic and fun to read. Additionally, there was a charming romance between Charlotte and another character (I won’t spoil who it is!).
The tumultuous relationships Charlotte has with her sisters are both uncomfortable to read, but deeply endearing. Harlow doesn’t take a moment to see Charlotte as she is since she is too involved in running the militia of her community. While Charlotte pines away for Dean, Harlow’s boyfriend, Harlow is oblivious to Charlotte’s feelings and simply wants her to toughen up. On the other hand, Charlotte has an intense urge to protect her younger sister, Vanessa. She knows Vanessa is the key to ending the curse of the plague, but she believes keeping her safe in their small community is the best way to protect her.
My absolute favorite part of the novel is the feminist twist Blair added to it. The legend in the book really drove the story. Anne de Graaf’s ship was overtaken at sea and the captain of the ship that overtook Anne’s decided he was going to take her back with him. Knowing that a life with the captain would only be a life in a figurative cage, Anne climbed up on the bow of the ship and the captain yelled at her to look at him when he was speaking. Hence the plague caused by the curse is passed on through sight. Perhaps the most powerful parts of the novel are Anne’s last words before she jumps into the ocean: “You will not choose my end, for this heart is mine. Come find me in the depths! Write redemption on my bones. What bid my heart now turn to stone.” Truly powerful words that are relevant throughout the novel!
Overall, this book was definitely fantastic! There are so many YA novels about plagues, dystopian societies, The Chosen One, etc., but Blair crafted Unchosen in an especially unique way by focusing, not on The Chosen One, but on her sister and putting an emphasis on feminism. Honestly more YA books need themes of feminism in my opinion. I hope you get a chance to read Unchosen! Trust me, you won’t regret it!