“There was no returning to the way things had been before. Home was no longer the haven she’d thought it was; safety was an illusion.”

I picked up Unwritten by Tara Gilboy because it deals with one of my favorite themes, the Power of Story. It turned out to have an interesting twist on the GU archetype.

12-year-old Gracie has known the big secret of her life since she was little – her mother, herself, and her friend Walter were all once characters in a story, who escaped into the real world to avoid their terrible fates in the story, at the hands of the evil queen Cassandra. When Gracie sneaks off against her mother’s wishes to meet the writer of her story and find some answers, she inadvertently sets off a chain of events that results in her and Walter having to willingly return to the story world to rescue their parents.

Once there, it seems everyone is forgetting about the real world except for Gracie, and even she is slipping into the familiar ways of her character. While there is an evil stepmother-queen at work here, in many ways the true Adversary that Gracie must fight is herself, her story nature. In the end, that is the final showdown, and Gracie triumphs by – of all things – saving her captor’s life. She rescues her friends and family and returns home, but with the threat not entirely gone, due to her act of kindness – the very thing she needed to win at all. A nicely complicated lesson (things aren’t always black and white, good and evil), that also clearly sets up the possibility of a sequel.