BOOK REVIEW: UNSEEN by Stephanie Erickson

To be honest, I don’t remember how I came upon this book. I’m guessing something popped up on either Facebook or Twitter from the author, offering the first two books in a trilogy for free, and I decided “well hey, why not, free books are good.” Because I can’t find anything in my email prior to this book showing up in my inbox. So! I came into this utterly sight unseen, having zero idea of what to expect except maybe the very basics of the plot.

What I got was something very interesting.

Mackenzie Day is a mind-reader. Cool, right? Now imagine standing in the middle of a college campus and being unable to keep everyone’s thoughts out of your head. Not so cool anymore. This is Mac’s life, day after day. She’s found a small amount of solace in her iLs—short for Integrated Listening System—which plays music at a volume where it will silence the world around her, and still allow for her to hear if she’s talking to you. She’s chosen to pursue a Masters degree in music therapy, using her own life experience to help others with the same music which has kept her sane. She’s just finishing school, she has an amazing best friend, and maybe her love life sucks but at least she can get a good handle on who the creeps are before it’s too late.

One night, she isn’t fast enough. One jerk manages to get an upper hand on her, and it looks pretty dire…until a silent savior appears, disperses the situation, and gets Mac to her car—and then leaves without a word. All that on its own would have been odd enough—but Mac can’t hear anything from her savior. She’s never come across someone whose thoughts she couldn’t read before. And he’s gone before she can ask a single question, leaving her mind reeling.

And this is just the beginning. One thing after another, and Mac begins to realize that she may not be as alone in the world as she thought at first…and that might not be as good a thing as she’d hoped. This group of fellow readers—the Unseen—are exactly what Mac had always hoped existed, but the more she find out about them the more uncertain she is. Now she has to choose whether to follow the dreams she’s always had…or take a chance on the dream she never thought was possible.

Mackenzie is everything I’d ever wanted in a YA/NA heroine and never realized. Maybe it’s because she reminds me a great deal of myself (having just finished up a Masters myself, in an arts field) but she seems the most real out of any character in this type of book I’ve read in quite a while. More often than not, the average heroine would see the Unseen and immediately jump at them; Mac hesitates. Secrets and confusion galore, and yes, answers about her mind-reading ability…but it takes her away from her music therapy. She’s wanted to do that for years. Why would she just leave it? It’s the most believable reaction I’ve seen in ages. She has breakdowns where I would, she sulks when I would, she reacts the way I would. I finally see myself in a character, and I can believe what she’s doing. It’s refreshing.

It has the obligatory “omg forever love” romance that seems to seep into all of these books, but it’s handled a bit better than I’ve usually seen. I still think it’s unnecessary (despite absolutely loving the guy she falls for, and enjoying their relationship) and detracts the usual amount from the action of the book, but because this book has done everything else as well as it has, I’m hoping that by book three, we get an answer to this desperate-love-at-first-sight happening.

The book itself raises some very interesting and very heavy moral dilemmas, and they don’t shy away from the reality of them. This is a battle, and there is an element of weighing which evil is the most evil that happens. It would be very easy to make the decisions quickly and move on, but Erickson is true to her characters and makes them real problems with difficult solutions. And she ends the book on such a cliffhanger, I was immediately grateful that the second book was on its way to be very shortly.

A very interesting world, and one I’m excited to see my way through.

Rating: **** (Recommended)


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