Victoria Schwab, The Archived and The Unbound

Perhaps we need to invent a category of YA fiction for books that feature an unusual afterlife. In the world Victoria Schwab, the afterlife is like a library. Most people stay shelved, but a few are withdrawn from the stacks and get to be a librarian. This whole system is protected by a special group drawn from among the living – Keepers, whose job it is to return Histories to the library if they wake up and wander.

In The Archived, Mackenzie is a teenage Keeper who has inherited the job from her recently deceased grandfather. The number of Histories escaping is increasing horribly, and she has to find out why before she gets overwhelmed. To do so, she has to solve the mystery of people who used to live in her apartment building, and appear to have been murdered, but but whose names do not appear in the library’s Index. She does so with the help of another teenaged Keeper, Owen, but only barely manages to survive the schemes of a rogue Librarian and the suspicious attentions of the Library staff. In The Unbound. Mackenzie has to negotiate the conflict between her ordinary life as a schoolgirl (and a new, prep school, at that) and her life as a Keeper, even as the rogue librarian (who should be dead and gone) haunts her thoughts until she begins to wonder if she is going mad. Which would definitely disqualify her from being a Keeper, in which case the library staff would wipe any inconvenient memories, so she HAS to succeed.

After these two books, there will be at least one more sequel, which will enable us to see deeper into the nature of the Library, and determine whether Mackenzie is going to be an afterlife revolutionary.

These novels have staple elements you expect to see in YA fantasy – the fitting-in-at-school theme, the uncertainties-of-first-love theme, and the need for the character to grow up quickly and make very consequential moral choices, but they definitely deliver them with a unique twist.
Two thumbs up. I’m definitely going to get book #3 when it comes out.

Note: I checked the first book out from my local public library, then bought the second. I have no connection with the author or publisher.

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