The Archived by Victoria Schwab (2013)
Suggested age range: 12 and up (Hyperion, 328 pages)
Rating: 5/5 stars
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Gothic
“Each time you finish a story, you make me tell it back to you, as if you’re afraid I will forget. I never do.” (2)
The Book: Mackenzie has an unconventional job for a 16 year old. She is a “Keeper” in the Archive, a place where the dead are stored as “Histories” on shelves. After her grandfather passes away, Mac carries on his duties: tracking down escaped Histories who find themselves in “The Narrows” where they must be returned. Under no circumstance can “Histories” escape into the real world. Mac begins to suspect something strange is happening when she discovers that some histories have been changed, some of their memories erased. Furthermore, the Coronado, the hotel turned apartment building, where Mac and her parents now live, has a mysterious history. Mac begins to suspect that this history is somehow connected to the hidden world of the Archive. Flashing back to scenes with Mac’s grandfather, The Archived introduces a unique and fascinating world where the unseen is just as important as what is seen.
Spirituality in The Archived: The question of what happens to people when they die is a spiritual one, just as much as a religious one. This story certainly brings up that question, and the way Schwab represents what happens to the “dead” in the book world could open up some thought-provoking discussion. The book highlights the significance of preserving the past and keeping memories alive, especially when someone loses a family or friend in an untimely way. Finally, Schwab’s book also celebrates the strength of relationships between brother and sister, and between grandparent and grandchild.
Who Should Read This Book: Don’t hesitate! If you like gothic fiction or mysteries featuring beautiful prose and a unique premise, snatch up a copy at your library or bookstore. I mean it—go, now!! This is a detailed and fascinating world and there’s a sequel. If you need a little romance in your YA, don’t worry—there’s some romance here as well. Also, you have to admit, the cover of this story is intriguing—a face, a dark corridor, and a key. Even the endpapers of the hardback are gorgeous.
The Final Word: It seems that I have been particularly lucky lately—I’ve been reading books that I just can’t put down. That doesn’t always happen, and I’m always pleased when it does. Another reason why I adore this book: I couldn’t tell what was coming around the corner in this book, and I love when that happens. The story didn’t end on a cliffhanger, but it did leave you wanting to read the next book. Thankfully, it’s already out, and I’ll be sitting down with a cup of tea during a thunderstorm for The Unbound in the near future.