October 24, 2017

unthinkable

Unthinkable

Shirley Duke

Pub. 2010

106 pgs.

Genre: Fantasy, Horror, Hi-Lo

Summary / Review / TLDR / Recommended For / Issues / Themes / Grade


Summary

When he grows up, Omar knows he’ll be a writer. That’s why he practices by writing stories and posting them on Facebook. He’s pretty famous among the kids at his high school for it, actually. All the positive comments are definitely encouraging.

But Omar has as secret: he keeps having these visions of horrible things happening. To his horror, when he writes down descriptions of the visions, they start coming true. On the run and under investigation for murder and arson, will Omar ever manage to escape the visions that keep plaguing him? And when his next vision shows the brutal death of his best friend, will he be able to do anything to change the end?

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Review

If it weren’t for its length and the font size, I definitely wouldn’t see Unthinkable as a hi-lo. For the most part, this book is really well-written! I’m impressed.

Duke starts out the novel with one of Omar’s stories, and the tension only builds from there. The characters’ reactions to the first death (based on his first story) are realistically heartbreaking. Everything with the police coming after Omar for questioning sets the reader on the edge of their seat. The first time, I was worried for him because he didn’t have a very good alibi for the crime. I’m not actually sure what crime they could have pegged on Omar for the second story, the one about the ferry being destroyed in a freak waterspout, though. At that point, the cop in charge (who was also the dead girl’s father) seemed just unhinged enough that he didn’t care what he charged Omar with as long as he arrested him.

Granted, I’m not sure what police department would assign the father of the dead girl to the head of the investigation. That seemed fairly unrealistic, even for a small department. I mean, wouldn’t that be a major conflict of interest? If her dad was acting on his own in unofficial capacity, I could totally believe that. However, when he shows up at Omar’s door, makes threats, and doesn’t chase the boy down when he runs to the woods, I have a hard time believing Duke spoke to any actual police officers about protocol in these kinds of situations.

But this is more of a fantasy story than anything else! So I guess it doesn’t matter if all the details are correct. A little more consideration regarding the “magic” would have been nice, though. How it all works never really made sense, despite Duke’s attempted explanation. I get that the magic manifests through Omar’s writing, and if he doesn’t write something down, it can’t happen. It isn’t a case of having a magic object, either; he can carve the words into the dirt and it wouldn’t matter. It’d still count as being written. According to the book, he’s being controlled to write the stories by an evil being, and according to that evil being, the only way to make the stories stop is to “sacrifice” (read: intentionally murder) someone. I’ve got all that.

But then…that’s not actually how to make it stop? You have to stop the evil being by burying it? And apparently if you dig a hole the being can’t hop out of it?

I don’t know. The end seemed sloppy and hastily-written. The majority of the book, though, was excellent, and I suspect a good number of struggling readers would ask for more in the series.

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TLDR

Nothing like a spooky horror story to get the blood pumping and the pages turning!

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Recommended for…

  • October read-alouds
  • Struggling readers in upper-middle school
  • People who don’t mind foggy explanations for why things happen

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Issues

  • Bullying: some minor bullying after the girl from the first story dies
  • Death: lots of people die during the book
  • Horror Elements: several scenes designed to scare the reader
  • Man-made Disaster: engine explosion, one of the causes of the shipwreck
  • Murder: one character is murdered; characters are told to murder others
  • Natural Disaster: the waterspout, which was a partial cause of the shipwreck
  • Violence: characters act violently towards others

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Themes

  • Death
  • Determination
  • Family
  • Friendship
  • Good vs. Evil
  • Heroism
  • Identity
  • Justice
  • Responsibility
  • Romantic Love
  • Survival

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Grade

Main Character 2
Subcast 1
Setting Development 2
Exploration of Conflict 2
Satisfying Resolution 1
Consideration of Themes 2
Didactic Tone 2
Suspension of Disbelief 1
Imagery and Description 2
Compelling Storytelling 2
Author’s Style 2
Rhythm and Pace of Book 1
Mechanics (spelling, grammar, punctuation) 2
Predictability 2
Reader Enjoyment 2
Total 26/30
87%

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