The Unbound by Victoria Schwab

April 23, 2014 Reviews 2 ★★★½

The Unbound by Victoria SchwabThe Unbound (The Archived #2) by Victoria Schwab
Published: January 28th 2014 by Disney-Hyperion
Format: Hardcover, 368 pages
Genres: Fantasy
Source: Purchased
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3.5 Stars

Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books. Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.

Last summer, Mackenzie Bishop, a Keeper tasked with stopping violent Histories from escaping the Archive, almost lost her life to one. Now, as she starts her junior year at Hyde School, she's struggling to get her life back. But moving on isn't easy -- not when her dreams are haunted by what happened. She knows the past is past, knows it cannot hurt her, but it feels so real, and when her nightmares begin to creep into her waking hours, she starts to wonder if she's really safe.

Meanwhile, people are vanishing without a trace, and the only thing they seem to have in common is Mackenzie. She's sure the Archive knows more than they are letting on, but before she can prove it, she becomes the prime suspect. And unless Mac can track down the real culprit, she'll lose everything, not only her role as Keeper, but her memories, and even her life. Can Mackenzie untangle the mystery before she herself unravels

Oh this book.

I loved The Archived so much – its unique premise, its awesome protagonist Mackenzie, the relationships between Mac and her family, and of course, Wesley.

I was lucky enough to get a copy of a sampler of The Unbound, and when I read it, the only thing I could think about was that I needed a copy of the full novel because how could the sampler end like that (brilliant marketing, by the way). And when my copy of The Unbound arrived, I devoured it (nom nom nom).

I found myself questioning Mac’s place as a Keeper in this book more than I had in the last one. I think I was swept away by the idea of it in The Archived: she’s the youngest Keeper there is and she’s very good at her job. But as life got harder for Mackenzie, as more things piled up against her and it became clear that she wasn’t handling it all on her own, I started to think that the best thing for Mac is to live a normal life until she’s at least twenty or so. There’s just so much that she had to deal with and I don’t agree with the idea that her parents must be kept in the dark about everything.

For example, Mackenzie can’t sleep because she has bad nightmares about Owen, and then eventually she starts seeing him when she’s awake. Her sleep deprivation and eventual hospitalisation made me very sad, especially because of how her parents reacted. As much as I can’t forgive her mother for what she did, her parents were trying to deal with the situation as best they could, and I felt like Mac should be able to tell them what’s going on instead of making them worry so much.

I guess my outlook is partly because of how I am getting a little tired of teenagers who have to be self-sufficient all the time in books. Mac kept all her friends and family at arm’s length because she wanted to protect them, but it left her alone and without support. The introduction of therapist was interesting, I felt it could have been explored a bit more. Mackenzie doesn’t automatically hate going to the therapist, although she does have to keep all her secrets, but she finds solidarity in her friends who all confess having to see the therapist in the past. I think we need more characters like this, because it is ridiculous that people keep writing books where a sixteen year old person is meant to carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. But at the end of the book it’s implied that Mac was doing very well on her own and the therapist even proudly says that she didn’t help at all, which was a huge step backwards, in my opinion. It’s obvious that Mac did need all the help she could get.

Ok, rant over! Let’s talk about Wesley 😀

He was such a sweetheart in the earlier book, so supportive and a little mysterious but awesome all the same. He appears unexpectedly in this book, surprising both the reader and Mackenzie, and it turns out that he’s a different person altogether when he’s not on holidays. It was hard to reconcile the sweet boy I’d gotten to know in The Archived with the secretive, pushy, Mr. Popular version we see in this book. I disliked that he was always shown with girls hanging off him and fawning over him, and disliked even more that he seemed to take a step back from Mac romantically publicly, even as he pushed her to break the walls between them in private. My philosophy is that if a guy can’t admit he’s into you in public, he’s not worth being around in private. I also disliked that Wes pushed Mac to tell him all her secrets, which she did because she’d resolved in the last book not to lie to him, but he doesn’t even tell her his first name. It’s so unfair, and I don’t like where the author is taking his character.

But he still has some very sweet moments and I am still half in love with him 😀 My favourite part was when he texted with Mackenzie’s best friend. “GASP. Is this Guyliner?” “The very same.” … I turned to mush at that scene.

Whereas the plot of The Archived blew me away, I wanted more from The Unbound. It almost feels juvenile: Mac sees and experiences some things that could get her into trouble, and she goes to great lengths to hide them from others because she’s convinced she can handle it by herself, but she soon gets trapped in the web of lies she’s built around herself. Her parents lose trust in her, she distances herself from her friends and from Wes, and she’s got some powerful Archive members who want her gone. The almost instant hate that Sako and Safia harbour for Mac makes absolutely no sense (aside from the usual girls can’t be friends in YA thing. Mac gets to have proper conversations with all the boys in her group, but she uses Amber for information and finds a nemesis in Safia. Sigh). In the end, most of the ‘villains’ are almost cartoonish and have undeveloped motivations, and Mac’s continued resistance of offers of help and support don’t make sense.

I wanted to love The Unbound as much as I did The Archived. And I think, until I sat down to review it, I did. But I’ve sorted out all my feelings for it now and have realised that I don’t think it lives up to the brilliance of its predecessor. There’s a lot in this sequel that I disliked or didn’t understand, which surprised me because when I finished reading it I thought it was the best book ever. It just goes to show that once the high is gone, there was very little in this book to recommend itself to me. I still think the world and storytelling are very good, and fans of The Archived shouldn’t miss The Unbound. If you’re new to Schwab’s works, try The Archived as well, I really enjoyed it! But yes, this sequel could have been better.

2 Responses to “The Unbound by Victoria Schwab”

  1. Kirstie

    That is the most frustrating thing for me about YA set in modern worlds. The parents all seem to be absent somehow, but I certainly never didn’t have that experience growing up(until I got my car, anyway).

    It sounds like I should definitely give the first book of the series a go – now where to find the time ;p

  2. Mogsy

    Not new to Schwab’s work but to date I’ve have only read her adult novel Vicious. Loved it. She’s a great writer, talented story teller, so now I find myself very curious about her YA. So I may give the first book The Archived a shot.

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