Summary: When Rosemary stops reading yet another fiction book, the characters in the stories she has discarded fight back by kidnapping her brother, Theo, and holding him hostage in the book world. With Puck as her guide, Rosemary and her new friend Peter go after him, making their way through challenge after challenge before they reach the villain and figure out what they need to do to rescue Theo. Along the way they learn about the characteristics of good story-telling, and enjoy revisiting previously read books. Confronting Marjorie, the mastermind behind the kidnapping, reveals if Rosemary finishes what she starts, a happy ending might not be out of reach.
Number of Pages: 205
Age Range: 12-13
Review: With shades of Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series and Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, An Unwritten Girl by James Bow explores the power of fictional books while deconstructing their elements. Rosemary is a reader with heart, so affected by the struggles and hardships of the characters she reads about that she stops reading as soon as a book reaches painful moments.
Unfortunately, this leaves the characters in the discarded books stuck on the worst moments of their lives, and when one character thinks Rosemary has gone too far, they band together and kidnap her brother Theo to get her attention.
I like how Bow draws focus to the realness of fictional characters, and the power they have to affect readers as though they actually existed. Reading Bow’s book brings to mind the saying, ‘If a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound?’ Characters in abandoned books say yes, as Rosemary doesn’t have to be a witness to them being stuck in horrible parts of their narrative for it to happen.
It’s a younger read, and perhaps not teen at all, but I think avid readers will enjoy Bow’s imaginative story.
“‘We know we can solve mysteries,’ said Eleanor sourly. ‘We’ve solved twenty-three cases, but we want excitement too! We want a thriller! We want bodies!’
‘Why would you want such a thing?’ asked Puck.
‘We get all the boring stuff because we’re children,’ said Nicholas.
‘Everybody else has bodies,’ said Eleanor. ‘Look.’ She motioned them to the next compartment.
Rosemary looked in through the glass partition. She covered her mouth.
Inside, a body lay in the centre of the compartment, laced with stab wounds, some glancing, some deep. His dead eyes stared and his mouth lolled open. Around him, four people shifted in their seats as a bald, round headed detective fiddled with his handkerchief before launching into his theory of how the murder happened.
‘We can solve mysteries as well as the grown-ups,’ said Eleanor. She cast a glance inside. ‘If you want my opinion on this one, all of them did it. But do we get asked? No. And why? Because we don’t have foreign accents or smoke pipes, and why should we? We’re from Kennebunkport and our parents won’t let us take up smoking!'” – Eleanor from The Unwritten Girl by James Bow, pages 137-138
“‘Stop it!’ Rosemary burst into tears. ‘Don’t you care about these people? Don’t you have any idea how they suffered?’
Peter frowned. ‘Rosemary, they’re just characters!’
‘There is nothing ‘just’ about being a character!’ Rosemary yelled. ‘Characters are born, they grow old, they fall in love, and they die! We are born, we grow old, we fall in love, and we die! What’s the difference?’
‘B-but Rosemary,’ said Peter, ‘they’re not people!’
‘To me they are! I can feel them!’
Puck took Rosemary’s hand gently and pulled her away from the compartment. ‘I have always wondered why Rosemary could not finish most of her books,’ he said.” – Conversation between Rosemary, Peter and Puck from The Unwritten Girl by James Bow, pages 140-141
“Rosemary stopped. ‘I don’t need you!’
‘Certainly you do. Where would you be without me?’
‘A lot happier!’ said Peter.
‘Are you sure about that? Are you really sure? Imagine, for a moment, a world without villains. Would you remember Robin Hood without the Sheriff? Superman in a perfect world? Behind every great hero is a great villain. Holmes had Moriarty. King Arthur had Morgaine. These legends would be nothing without their enemies.'” – Conversation between Rosemary, Peter and Professor Em from The Unwritten Girl by James Bow, pages 153-154
“‘You ran away!’ There was a world of contempt in Marjorie’s voice. ‘Do you know what happens when the story stops? Imagine what it’s like when everything’s against you, and it keeps getting worse! Imagine what it’s like when life and death come down to a single choice in a single moment. Then imagine that when that moment comes … everything stops.’
Marjorie struggled to get her breathing under control. She couldn’t. Her voice rose in pitch. ‘And you’re trapped. Trapped in the worst moment of your life, with release so close but coming no closer. Can you imagine that? Can you, dear reader? Can you?'” – Marjorie from The Unwritten Girl by James Bow, page 186