It’s the end of January and I’m closing the month out with a BANG (not a whimper). It was a weird month after a weird year, and something tells me it’s going to be a wild ride from here on out. So, featuring a dystopian with a wild twist on zombies focused on survival felt very fitting. Plus, look at that cover. It’s screaming for you to look at it, but beware––eye contact is NOT recommended from this point forward…
Charlotte Holloway already survived the world ending. At least, she thought she did. Watching her crush fall in love with her older sister felt like the world was ending anyway. Until it really did. The Crimson struck all at once, ending things in a blink. Eye contact was all it took to take hold, and once infected, it was only a matter of time before people turned into flesh-eating monsters.
While the world fell apart, Charlotte stayed the same. Still stuck between her perfect older sister, Harlow, who now commanded a group of survivors. Still taking care of her talented younger sister, Vanessa, who is marked by the curse as the Chosen One. The only one who can end it.
But when others start looking for the Chosen Ones and invade their settlement, Charlotte does the only thing she can think of. She claims to be the one they’re looking for. As word of her capture spreads, forces from all sides close in and Charlotte’s lie begins to unravel. Armed only with fragments of prophecy, she has to figure out the key to ending the curse before the Crimson overtakes the world forever.
I know. INTENSE!!!
Before we get into the review, though. It’s important to figure out if you’re ready. I’ve come up with this handy survival checklist, so you can be sure you’re going in 1000% prepared. I mean, sure, it’s only a story. But that’s how the Crimson started. As a story…
To be fair, this kind of checklist is mostly viable outside of dystopian life. I mean, mostly. Listen, it’s never a bad idea to be apocalypse ready. I think January taught us all that…
You may be experiencing a few thoughts right now. Like, I did use the dreaded trope of all tropes: Chosen One. It’s there. No reason to lie about it or hide. But this is one of those use your assumptions against you kind of things. This Chosen One isn’t really about the Chosen One. Not the way you’d expect, anyway. And if my vague, non-spoilers arguments haven’t swayed you just take a peek at the title again. Unchosen. This book has nothing to do with being chosen at all, and I am here for how this trope played out.
And yes, there are flesh-eating humans that may feel a lot like zombies. They’re hard to kill, have heightened senses, are super strong, and can parkour the shit out of any obstacle. I loved that it isn’t a virus, it’s a curse and that infection is spread through eye contact. How engrained in our nature is it to simply look someone in the eye? I think it’s a brilliant twist on an established monster trope and makes it all the more terrifying. Don’t believe me? Try going without any eye contact for a single day and see how hard it is! If this was real we’d all be so dead, so fast.
Outside of curses and prophecies, I loved the characters. Charlotte is exactly who you’d expect her to be. She’s the middle child, always there but never seen. She sees strength in Harlow and important in Vanessa. But she doesn’t really know who she is.
And yet, she still shows up for herself time and time again. She’s resilient and strong in her own quiet way. She wrestles with her fears and struggles with the scars the world ending has left. I loved that she isn’t always sure of herself and that she makes a lot of mistakes. She doesn’t give off cheerful or optimistic vibes, in fact, she’s terrified and uncertain most of the time. But somehow, for not being hopeful, simply by refusing to stop, by never giving up, by always demanding they move forward, Charlotte ends up inspiring hope all around her. And I really love that.
There’s a bit of a found family theme in Unchosen. Most of humanity is dead or well, not human anymore. So survivors had to band together in whatever way they could. But this isn’t a black and white world where humans fight the infected. Nope. They have to fight other humans too. Turns out there’s a way to survive the curse, but it comes at a significant price.
This adds a way darker feel to the book, but it also gives it a realism that sometimes YA books shy away from. It’s definitely not about good or evil, right or wrong. This world tackles all the shades of grey that an impending apocalypse would highlight. I think the people looking to profit would do it, even in the face of destroying humanity. And I think this raises the opportunity for so many conversations about greed and how it influences our current world.
Unchosen is ultimately a book about choice. Which, again, is turning that Chosen One thing on its head. It’s a book about identity and the important of finding yourself. There are a lot of things Charlotte believes about herself, her sisters, and the world at large. But like all of us, these beliefs are tinted through the lens of her experience and expectations. She’s forced time and time again to reevaluate these beliefs and I think it’s a lovely way to show teens how to do the same in their own lives.
Blair presents a layered story about our complicated world. Sure, things aren’t exactly the same as they are today, but take away the curse and it’s chilling how similar they are. Who we are, who we expect others to be, what we would do to defend the people we love or fight injustice or escape persecution. There are facets of modern life in every detail of Unchosen and while the answers aren’t as clear as breaking the curse, once again, the book offers a path towards conversation and discovery.
People make the wrong choices in Unchosen and they make the right choices for the wrong reasons. For all the tropes present, nothing about the story reads as cliche or tired. It’s all so relevant, so vivid, and so intense, I couldn’t put this book down to save my life. I was fully immersed and I still find myself longing to go back into the world. The end of the world may not be the best place to dream for an Airbnb, but the people in it are the exact types of people I do want as friends.
In all, this book from start to finish is captivating. Four stabby stars.
Thank you Turn The Page Tours, MBC Books, and Katherine Tegan books for including me on this tour and sending me this gorgeous copy.
Be sure to check out the rest of the tour for some incredible posts and enter the giveaway for a chance to win one of two finished copies!
Katharyn Blair crafts a fiercely feminist fantasy with a horrifying curse, swoon-worthy sea captains, and the power of one girl to choose her own fate in this contemporary standalone adventure that’s perfect for fans of The Fifth Wave and Seafire, and for anyone who has ever felt unchosen.
For Charlotte Holloway, the world ended twice.
The first was when her childhood crush, Dean, fell in love—with her older sister.
The second was when the Crimson, a curse spread through eye contact, turned the majority of humanity into flesh-eating monsters.
Neither end of the world changed Charlotte. She’s still in the shadows of her siblings. Her popular older sister, Harlow, now commands forces of survivors. And her talented younger sister, Vanessa, is the Chosen One—who, legend has it, can end the curse.
When their settlement is raided by those seeking the Chosen One, Charlotte makes a reckless decision to save Vanessa: she takes her place as prisoner.
The word spreads across the seven seas—the Chosen One has been found.
But when Dean’s life is threatened and a resistance looms on the horizon, the lie keeping Charlotte alive begins to unravel. She’ll have to break free, forge new bonds, and choose her own destiny if she has any hope of saving her sisters, her love, and maybe even the world.
Because sometimes the end is just a new beginning.
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I live in LA, drink way too much coffee, and write all day long — because I’m crazy blessed to do what I’ve been doing for fun since I was a kid hiding in my garage loft writing terrible, terrible vampire stories. Glitter enthusiast. Bethyl shipper. Pluviophile. Ask me about my Dean Winchester obsession. John 1:5.
I’m wife to Ross and mom to Aryn, Liam, and River Grace. Also, mom to Cricket (a dog, not an insect), Maximus Dogimus Meridius (a ferocious cuddlebug) Maggie Rhee (cat, not the bad ass from The Walking Dead), and Kovacs (no parenthetical needed for him).
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Enter to win one of two (2) signed finished copies of Unchosen by Katharyn Blair! Open USA only. There will be 2 winners.
Giveaway starts: Monday, January 25, 2021
Giveaway ends: Monday, February 1, 2021 at 12:00 a.m. CST
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