A Reading Group Guide to Unspoken

by Sarah Rees Brennan

About This Book

Kami Glass loves someone she’s never met… a boy she’s talked to in her head ever since she was born. She didn’t spend her childhood silent about her imaginary friend, and is thus a bit of an outsider in the sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale. Still, Kami hasn’t suffered too much because she doesn’t fit in. She has a best friend, runs the school newspaper, and is only occasionally caught talking to herself. Her life is in order, just the way she likes it, despite the voice in her head. 

But all that changes when the Lynburns return. 

The Lynburn family has owned the spectacular and sinister manor that overlooks Sorry-in-the-Vale for centuries. The mysterious twin sisters who abandoned their ancestral home a generation ago are back, along with their teenage sons, Jared and Ash, one of whom is eerily familiar to Kami. Kami is not one to shy away from the unknown—in fact, she’s determined to find answers for all the questions Sorry-in-the-Vale is suddenly posing. Who is responsible for the bloody deeds done in the depths of her woods? What is her own mother hiding? And now that her imaginary friend has become a real boy, does she still love him? Does she hate him? Can she trust him?

Discussion Questions

  • Did you have an imaginary friend when you were little? If you didn’t, what would you have wanted that imaginary friend to be like—like Kami and Jared’s relationship, or more like Holly’s with her pink unicorn?
  • Kami is very dedicated to being a journalist. It is the main way she identifies herself—as someone who tells stories, uses words to change the world. Later she discovers that’s literal: she has the power to remake the real world with the stories her grandmother remembers. Do words have power to you? What stories have changed your world?
  • Part 2 begins with an Elizabeth Barrett Browning quote ‘I feel that I shall stand/ Henceforth in thy shadow. Nevermore/ Alone upon the threshold of my door.’ The quote is from a love poem: does the description seem like love to you? Does the quote make you think of Kami and Jared’s mental link as a curse, as it robs them of their own identities—they are both living ‘in thy shadow’—or as a blessing, in that they have found each other? Could it be both?
  • Kami, Holly and Angela are all very different girls, looking and acting in very different ways. Did any of them seem to you to be doing things the right way—or is there no right way to be a girl? Were you surprised they all ended up getting along?
  • Unspoken is described as a Gothic romance: in a Gothic romance, the heroine is usually trapped in a deserted Gothic manor fearing for her life and unsure who to trust: in Unspoken, there is a town near the manor. How does that change the situation—does the little town of Sorry-in-the-Vale make the situation more scary or less?
  • In a way, Jared is the ‘Gothic heroine’: trapped in the manor, luckless in love, never-been-kissed. Kami references Jane Eyre in Unspoken when she suggests putting Jared in an attic (the hero of Jane Eyre keeps his crazy wife in an attic). In what ways might Unspoken remind you of classics like Jane Eyre or Rebecca, and in what ways is it different?
  • The two big emotional issues of Unspoken are love and trust—what does love mean, and who can you trust? Who did Kami choose to trust in the end? Do you think it was the right person? Who would you have trusted in her place?
  • Were you surprised by the identity of the two villains? How guilty do you think Ash is? When Kami asked him why he kissed her at the end, he said ‘Isn’t it obvious?’ Do you think it was obvious? Why do you think he did it?
  • The Lynburns are often referred to as the lords of the manor, and live in a giant mansion on a hill. Angela and Rusty’s family live in a house that had expensive additions put onto it, while Kami’s family live in a cottage at what turns out to be a very specific location intended by the Lynburns and Holly’s family are banished to a very small house by the Lynburns. What do you think the effects of money and status have on the people in the books? Would you like to suddenly find yourself wealthy and living in a manor or would you find it strange like Jared does?
  • Unspoken is set in a small town in the Cotswolds, a beautiful part of the English countryside. What do you know about the Cotswolds? Kami references English history—Richard III and Henry VII, and a battle between the two kings that put the town in danger and made Elinor Lynburn sink a golden bell into the Sorrier River. Did this inspire you to look up anything about English history? What part do you think history, both ancient and recent—Kami’s, Jared and Ash’s parents–will play in the next two books of the series?
  • What does Kami want from her relationship with Jared, do you think? What does he want from his relationship with her? Why does Jared act the way he does toward her in the last chapter—were you surprised, or did you feel it made sense given what you had learned about the two characters and the course of their relationship in the book?

Activities

  • The Japanese legends Kami’s grandmother taught her make her think about and shape the world in a way that is uniquely her own. What legends/family stories do you know that might make you see the world differently?
  • Sarah Rees Brennan quotes twice from Robert Frost, a poet famous for his poetry about nature. Are there any poems or books with descriptions of natural beauty that you like? Can you read through some poems by Robert Frost and pick a favourite?
  • Kami quotes a skipping song popular in Sorry-in-the-Vale. Can you think of popular skipping songs? Try making one up… all the better if it has hidden meanings!
  • Look at the map of Sorry-in-the-Vale. Does the map look like you imagined it? If you could visit one place in the world, where would it be and can you find a map of it?
  • Jared quotes from Romeo and Juliet and Kami references Pyramus and Thisbe, both pairs of lovers who died together. Do you prefer happy or unhappy love stories—what love story do you love best, and believe in most?
  • The characters of Unspoken are all obviously very affected by their families—Jared’s abusive background, the pressure Ash’s parents put on him, Holly’s poverty-stricken and contentious home life, Angela’s privileged but cold background and the lies Kami’s mother, and the stories her grandmother, tells her. Even Rob and Lillian Lynburn, and Kami’s father Jon Glass, still talk about their parents. Who in your family has affected you the most—who would you most want to be like?

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