Island of Shipwrecks: The Unwanteds, Book 5

Book review by
Patricia Tauzer, Common Sense Media
Island of Shipwrecks: The Unwanteds, Book 5 Book Poster Image
Danger looms in action-packed island adventure.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The Island of Shipwrecks introduces a few scientific questions about hurricanes, weather, shipbuilding, greenhouses, and the health benefits of seaweed and iodine and could be a jumping-off point for a study of any of these subjects. 

Positive Messages

Everyone should be valued for what he or she has to offer even though talents and abilities are not always obvious at first. Thinking creatively, keeping an open mind, working as a team, and trusting your friends will help you succeed against overwhelming odds. Question your ideas but not your worth, and be willing to admit when you've made a mistake. Learn to deal with conflict in positive ways.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Alex and his friends are strong, thoughtful leaders of Artime and work as a team to overcome amazing odds and withstand evil threats. As with all members of their society, they're honest, open-minded, creative, and cooperative and act responsible for one another. They sacrifice for one another and forgive one another and themselves when they act too impulsively or make a mistake. The leaders of Quill are evil, secretive, manipulative men and women, and Quillens are tight, unimaginative, controlled people, easily manipulated by their selfish agendas. When called upon to make a choice or think independently, they are unable to utter a word or even feel rage. That weakens their society, though it has a strong military presence.

Violence

Violence is part of several struggles, though it's not graphic or gratuitous. Evil pirates beat an uncooperative prisoner, people are killed in battle, and the general has a large, angry scar on his face, a remnant of a past battle. War and killing is threatened, weaponry discussed, and magical weapons developed. A panther is trained to attack on command, ships are wrecked, and Aaron is kidnapped and abandoned at sea. 

Sex

Alex and Sky are attracted to each other, evident in what they say to each other and in their admiring gazes, innocent grins, a brush of the hand, lips parting, lowering eyes, lurching stomachs, trembling hearts, and so on.   

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Island of Shipwrecks is the fifth book in the Unwanted series by Lisa McMann and should be read in sequence. It's packed with adventure, action, magic, and unexpected twists and sprinkled with tender moments wherein characters struggle with friendships, team loyalty, and communal responsibility. Younger readers may find the fast pace, periodic plot changes, and detailed solutions confusing at times, but middle-grade kids will be enthralled with the complexity ... and the magic. Pirates, the vengeful General Blair, and the power-hungry Gondoleery threaten innocents with physical pain, cruelty, and even death to reach their ends. Struggles between good and evil happen on many levels, with good winning out in the end, generally because of creative, imaginative solutions, a little magical know-how, and teamwork. 

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What's the story?

After a mysterious hurricane shipwrecks them on an equally mysterious, desolate island, Alex and his Artimean crew seem desperately lost. Their ship is bashed nearly to bits, crew members injured, and supplies low. But they have one another, the willingness to pool their ingenuity, a wavering but not lost sense of hope, and their magic. What, and whom, they find on the island adds an inventive twist to the plot: three ancient scientists, a nonfunctional travel tube back to Artime, and magical medicine with definite side effects. Meanwhile, back on their home island, the Quillens threaten new dangers. High priest Aaron is discovering his own magical powers, though whether they'll help or hinder him is questionable. Other evil forces (a scarred general bent on revenge and a twisted magician lusting for power) are at work, and who's on whose side is no longer clear. By the time Alex and the crew get back home, the island's in an uproar; Artime is in the hands of a new, even more evil threat; and all appears lost. Gondoleery has grabbed Alex's power, thrusting him into the hands of pirates who sent him crashing into the Island of Shipwrecks. Alex's people are injured, his friends lost, and ice covers the land. But the Artimeans pull together, use magic and creative ingenuity to counteract evil and regain control. Unable to enjoy the victory, Alex feels a pain in his side: His twin Aaron is in danger, dying. Alex leaves his island and his people behind and heads back into danger "in search of the broken half of his soul." 

Is it any good?

This definitely another page-turner; as in Lisa McMann's other four books in the Unwanted series, adventure and fast-paced action is nonstop. And it's sprinkled with just enough friendship, self-doubt, humor, magic, and creative detail that kids will have a hard time putting it down. The story's imaginative, the problems complex, and the solutions fantastic though believable.

The characters, especially those on Artime, seem real, too. Many of them have been in all five books, and even though they grow and change with the passage of time and experience, they remain believably consistent. Readers immersed in the series know what to expect from each of them, and that makes the fantasy all the more enthralling. Also, McMann has a knack for creating just enough intrigue at the end of each chapter, and at the end of each book, to keep the reader wanting more. Two more books are promised in this series, though it's hard to imagine that seven will be enough to satisfy most fans. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about dystopian novels. Why are they so popular? What others have you read, and how is the Unwanteds series different or similar? 

  • How does the author make the Artimeans' imaginative, magical solutions to their problems believable: for example, the magic carpet spell or the transportation spell? 

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  • Alex and Aaron are very different people, one is good and one evil. However, they have a special connection because they are twins. How has that affected the story? Why do you think the author made one the leader of Artime, and the other the leader of Quill? Why do you think the pain in Alex's side convinced him that Aaron was dying? Do you think Alex should have gone off alone to save his brother? Would you have done that? Can you think of other stories where twins had such a connection? What does it add to the complexity, and possibilities, of the story? 

  • What do you think about the special powers that Florence, Simber, and Octavia have? How does their magic compare with the magic in the other books in the series? 

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