Justine Flynn and Chris Kunz, The Unlisted (#1), Hachette Australia, August 2019, 240 pp., RRP $14.99 (pbk), ISBN 9780734419552
Oh, dear! What to say about this book? This is a “TV tie-in series” book and it reads like one. The writing is flat and banal; telling the reader what is happening, rather than showing them. I found it a very dull read. Paragraphs like: “Dru was horrified, staring at the blank screen, unable to think about what to do next as he felt his heartbeat thump fast and loud. He had no idea what was happening. He had never felt this level of fear before,” left me totally uninspired. The authors are the creators of the series and are probably more familiar with the uncomplicated writing of a TV series plot outline, rather than the more complex business of writing an engaging novel.
Dru and Kal Sharma are identical twins from an Indian background. I felt the portrayal of the twins’ family life racially stereotyped them. Their grandmother, Dadi, flits around the house, perpetually cheerful, doing all the work, doting on her son, their father, and calling them all cute pet names, “never happier than when her family was around her, eating her cooking.” There are endless references to the food they eat, and the traditional clothes worn on special occasions. I’m sure this is intended to be inclusive, but I found it grating and tokenistic.
However, the story has a sound plot. The brothers turn up to school one day and are informed that their year group is having a compulsory dental check. Dru is terrified of dentists and convinces Kal to go in his place. When Dru sees his classmates’ behaviour change, he and Kal quickly determine that the ‘dental check’ was in fact a way to implant electronic devices that can control the students. Without the implant, Dru is “unlisted” and outside the control of the mysterious organisation responsible; Infinity Group. When Dru and Kal meet up with four teenagers on the run from Infinity Group, they combine forces to try and discover what the organisation is up to.
For fans of the TV series who want an undemanding re-telling of the show, I’d say this would fulfil their requirements. It could also be an easy-to-read book for a less confident reader to approach with ease. For more discerning readers, this book will be a disappointment.
Reviewed by Gaby Meares