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The Unseen Hardcover – April 13, 2004

3.7 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 5-8-Xandra Hobson likes to escape from her family, where she feels like a complete failure in the company of geniuses, and to embark on imaginary adventures involving magic. One day, while in the woods, she encounters real magic when she rescues a bird from some hunters; the next day, it is gone, leaving a feather in its place. A classmate, Belinda, sees it and realizes that it is a key to the unseen world and that with it, Xandra can enter a reality no one else can see. The girls become friends as Belinda and her grandfather attempt to explain the mystical world of the unseen to her. Xandra is terrified by the horrible creatures that surround her and the physical wounds that they inflict on her, unaware that they are of her own making and fed by her anger and hostility. When she breaks her ankle and is stranded in the woods, her family comes to her rescue and she realizes that her siblings aren't perfect and that she is loved. This book is a wonderful ride into fantasy, with a lot of realistic touches to think about and relationships to ponder. Readers will see, even though Xandra does not, that her perceptions about her family are all wrong. They'll also see that being so wrapped up in yourself can cause you to miss what's right in front of you. This perceptive story is not to be missed.-Saleena L. Davidson, South Brunswick Public Library, Monmouth Junction, NJ
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Gr. 5-8. Twelve-year-old Xandra Hobson feels like a changeling, growing up alienated in a large family of self-absorbed overachievers. Her parents are rarely home, her siblings seem intolerable, and her position in the seventh-grade pecking order makes her reluctant to be seen with the one girl who interests her, Belinda. In the opening chapter, Xandra saves the life of an injured egret, which leaves her a feather that she believes to be magical. When Xandra learns that the magic is real and that Belinda and her father understand its power, she befriends them but later unthinkingly betrays them. Snyder masterfully portrays Belinda's sensations and emotions in the alternate world she enters with the feather's aid, and she shows how the experience subtly changes the girl's later actions. The novel is too realistically written to let the betrayal of Belinda go without consequences, but neither does the author leave readers without hope. Though less convincing than the magical episodes, the family scenes at the end bring this well-grounded fantasy to a satisfying conclusion. Carolyn Phelan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 990L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers; First Edition edition (April 13, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385730845
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385730846
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.8 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,734,318 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Twelve-year-old Xandra is frustrated, lonely and slightly bitter. She is the ugly duckling in the middle of her large family, and she doesn't have many friends at school either. Her only sources of comfort are her vivid imagination, her massive collection of stuffed animals, and her basement "hospital" where she nurses stray baby animals back to health.
One day, a young egret that she has helped leaves behind a very special white feather. With the help of Belinda, the mysterious oddball at school, Xandra discovers that the feather is actually a Key. The feather allows Xandra to unlock her senses so that she can see the Unseen, creatures that surround us at all times but can't be seen or heard with normal human senses. At first Xandra is eager to explore this new realm, but when the Unseen attack her, she's not so sure. Is it possible that Xandra's own hostility causes the Unseen to be so unfriendly?
The title of THE UNSEEN refers not only to this hidden, sometimes creepy parallel realm that Xandra explores. It also represents how Xandra feels in her family --- everyone else is incredibly attractive, popular and successful, but Xandra feels overlooked and a little bit lost. The truth is, though, that Xandra is the one who doesn't see things all around her --- Xandra's resentment of her siblings and her hostility toward her parents and her nanny make her blind to the love that her family has for her.
Despite the fact that Xandra, who not only shuts out her family but also betrays a new friend, is a sometimes unlikable character, Zilpha Keatley Snyder's imaginative storytelling results in a compelling and rewarding novel.
--- Reviewed by Norah Piehl
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Format: Hardcover
I am a middle school Language Arts teacher from Florida where THE UNSEEN was among the 15 books selected as Sunshine State Young Readers recommended books for the 2005-2006 school year. Having read all 15 books that summer, a few stood out as being worth a 5 star rating; THE UNSEEN is one of those books.

Since first finishing it in the summer of 2005, I have required my students to read this book for each of the last two school years. I use it to help teach metaphor using a well-crafted young adult (YA) novel. The amazing quality about this book is that it reveals its metaphor so deliciously slowly, it sneaks up on you until you are totally enraptured with the story, and, at the point where you discover the metaphor that is the Unseen, the book gives you the sense that you are reading a story written with intelligence, well-learned craftsmanship and unassuming integrity. At that point, I thought, "Wow! That's good writing!"

The way that Snyder reveals her story and metaphor is subtle and affecting. I have even come to the realization that the key metaphor in this book could also be a metaphor for metaphors -- in the sense that many readers cannot see metaphors until they have the key (Perceptive Knowledge), and when they do learn/find/acquire such a key, new worlds open up to them that simply don't exist for those with limited Vision. That, in itself, to me is a brilliant tool for any Language Arts teacher looking to give his/her students true insight and wisdom. For that alone, this is a book I shall keep forever, and make my students read until I stop teaching Language Arts!

I truly enjoy and appreciate this book and cannot recommend it more. [For those that simply don't "get" this book, please reflect deeply about this book and find the layers.
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Format: Hardcover
I came into this book expecting a slowly unfolding adventure novel-as most of Snyder's books are-and found it instead to be a sparratically paced flop. Xandra, the main character in this story, finds a key to a world existing in our world, just "unseen". As she explores this new world, she also begins to learn a little about herself, and solve some of the disagreements at home. The pretense is great, and I understand the metaphor of seeing the Unseen- in other words finding yourself, but the novel seemed to fall flat. The climax of the novel, in which Xandra becomes lost in the Unseen, was incredibly fast-paced, and I almost felt I couldn't keep up. after running from scary images, (which only cornered her once) Xandra is saved by two of her siblings. Once she is home, everything seems to immediately get better, and the story begins to drag. I guess what the author is trying to say is that once you find yourself, everything falls into place,but this seemed a bit corny to me. It seems Ms. Snyder was slowly building up to something big-and then ran out of time, so she finished it to quickly to continue thought into it. This novel was paved with good intentions-and then the author took a wrong turn somewhere, and the scenary just stopped seeming interesting.
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By JCR on October 21, 2007
Format: Paperback
The Unseen is a perfect mixture of fantasy and real life. Many aspects of this book show how it isn't just about something make believe. Like when there are family situations of some sort. Even the fantasy part of this book has a real feel to it in my opinion. This is because the book is a message in a way saying that you are what you project, and open your eyes there is more to the world then what you can see.

While reading this book I had a hard time putting it down, because every little part of this book is so intriguing. Even the very first page of The Unseen is interesting and drew my attention. Throughout the book it gets more and more in depth about each of the characters. Especially the main character who I really understood in a way by the end of the book.

I think that everyone can relate to this book in a way. I recommend that everyone reads this book.
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