Does this woman ever disappoint?
Tut-tut! Curb your tongue, Negative Nancy. It’s a rhetorical question.
Wendy Higgins rocks socks and knocks boots once again with this baby. My heart has been stolen in what certainly is another ‘my book boyfriend is hotter than your book boyfriend’ series.
Taking a step away from the supernatural Sweet Series, Unknown is a sci-fi story with a kiss of apocalyptic WTH on the side. Suddenly the potato farm region of Nevada is a place where something other than meth labs and tubers flourish. Sing praise with me because it makes hot soldiers and sows the seeds of unrequited love too. Can I get a hallelujah?
Unknown is told in two parts: ‘before the end’ and ‘after the beginning of the end’. The storycrafting of this novel sets the stage for the evolving global events combined with the coming age story of Amber Tate; who has grown up in one world and is being forced to come to terms with the loss of it.
WH spends the first third of the book building the backstory of the Tates and Fites, two neighbors living far different lives. The childhood years that mold Amber, her brother Tater, and Rylen Fite–her childhood idol/crush/heartache are told in snapshot chapters and memories. Many authors struggle to balance storytelling of this nature. The ‘before’ is written skillfully in Unknown, combining the perfect amount of exposition and rolling flashbacks. When the ‘after’ comes to the forefront you can feel the tone change from a sense of innocence to a palpable terror. The fracturing of the Tates, Fites, and the known world, internally and externally is exposed with heart wrenching rawness.
I have hearts in my eyes for the forbidden love angle that blossoms between Rylen and Amber. The boy next door begins to differentiate little-sister-Amber with Amber-with-budding-ta-tas that draw his every other look much to his despair. Suddenly innocent cuddles become more awkward for him. Boys are dirty minded things, ages 15 through 23 year old Rylen is a compass pointing steadily and faithfully to his home: Amber.
Yea, Rylen-dude take the compass part as any analogy you want. Your something is pointing at her and it’s there for a reason. You can’t cross your stars to avoid the girl you love, numbskull.
The story comes to the ‘present’ when Earth is attacked, now humans must engage with an ‘unknown’ enemy. The unknown future is what sears the safety of the Tates and Fites, flinging them into a fight to protect one another. Although the book is narrated by Amber, Rylen’s loneliness and feelings of isolation are poignantly conveyed through his letters and brief visits home while he is serving with Tater in the military. He’s broken by his experiences in battle, his light in the dark is Amber.
Life can be a real bitch throwing all sorts of crap at people when they are already being tested. There is no starting over fresh when you share the history that has created you. WH makes her characters grow up the hard way through consequences of the choices they must make.
It’s often difficult for an author to traverse a notable span of time combined with large cast of characters in a cohesive and well paced story. WH melds the white trash origins of the Fites with the happy familyhood of the Tates with precision pulling the characters into a compatible unit. She does an exceptional job of transitioning the childhood of Amber, her brother, and Rylen into adulthood. Families have a special dynamic that affects everyone under their umbrella, The Tate and Fite families are no exception and the story becomes a living document of the three generations as they grow.
Adulting is hard. Perhaps that should be the short blurb on the back of this book. And since I read Unrest too, I warn you that it’s byline is Adulting gets harder.
Recommendations Based on This Read: