There’s something wonderful when a book lives up to all expectations. And Hana Tooke’s debut middle-grade novel, The Unadoptables certainly lived up to every one of my expectations. I knew from the moment that I saw the whimsical illustrated cover, the bright blues and pinks and row houses, that I was in for something special. I love middle-grade and what the genre always offers: a promise of adventure and wonder and change for the better and this book delivered on all of that.
The Unadoptables is set in Amsterdam and tells the tale of five twelve-year-old orphans, Milou, Lotta, Sem, Egg and Fenna, who are forced to flee their orphanage after a nefarious character tries to adopt all five of them. Unfortunately, their hopes for families are dashed when his villainous plans are uncovered. Left with no other choice, they escape into the frigid streets of Amsterdam, desperate to be free of the horrible orphanage and their even bleaker prospects with their adopter. They are a prodigious bunch; a scientist, baker, dressmaker, mapmaker and storyteller. Their brilliant apart but together, capable of more than they realized. Together, they prove that you can make a family with the ones who stick by you and have your back.
After fleeing their orphanage, they must outwit and outrun their would-be adopter and try to uncover more about their own origins, a task made harder by the clues they were left behind–the things they were delivered to the orphanage with and in (a coffin basket, a metal tin, a grain sack). I loved the mystery that persisted as they weaved their way through Amsterdam. I loved the camaraderie they shared and their hope and love for one another. Each character complemented each other. It was the little moments that shone for me—one character repairing another’s torn favorite toy, following each other into unknown danger so they wouldn’t have to face it alone—and solidified the great characterization.
I adored this enchanting middle-grade novel and cannot wait for more to fall in love with her talent. The tone of the book, serious but charming, dark but whimsical, was perfect for fans of Jessica Townsend, Anne Ursu and Katherine Rundell. I know this book is bound to be an instant classic among middle-grade novels and cannot wait for more from Hana Tooke. I know she has a promising, wondrous career ahead, and I cannot wait to read more from her.