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The Young Unicorns by Madeleine L'Engle
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The Young Unicorns by Madeleine L'Engle is the third book in the Austin Family series. After moving to New York city, Dr. Wallace Austin begins research on a new device that will pave the way for major advancements in the field of medicine. Though he is unaware of this, there are those that would want to misuse this technology and his children are put at risk by people who want to get their hands on it. One friend to his children finds himself caught up right in the middle of this conspiracy with both sides vying for his assistance. He's not sure who to trust and by the time he figures it out, it may be too late.

This book is mainly a mystery thriller with some light science fiction mixed in and I thought it was an ok read. I think I did enjoy it more than the first two Austin books, though those two were more realistic fiction. It's not necessary to read the first two Austin books before reading this one unless you want some background on the characters. This book does connect with The Arm of the Starfish though and has a bit of character crossover so I'd recommend reading that book first, but again it's not entirely necessary. This book is in fact very similar to The Arm of the Starfish. Both books feature the head of the family making some sort of scientific breakthrough that ends up putting their family at risk as well as the world at large and someone connected to the family ends up caught in the middle of it and playing a major role. I should note that there aren't any actual unicorns in this book or anything in the book that would give me a clue as to why it was titled the way it was. ( )
  Kythe42 | Oct 19, 2014 |

It's remiss of me, I know, but I've never until now read any of L'Engle's work: I keep trying to get all four of her Wrinkle in Time novels lined up in a row on my shelf and never quite achieving it. (Right now I think I have three of them, all in far corners of the house.) The Young Unicorns isn't a part of that series but instead one in a string of standalone novels about the Austin family, primarily the Austin children -- here living in NYC and with young friends Dave (reformed ex-member of street gang) and Emily (blind musical prodigy). Their adventure involves a new laser that's being developed for surgical purposes but can equally be put to nefarious uses, and a crazed and murderous plot to take over NYC and make it a God-lovin' city by in essence brainwashing everyone. Needless to say, the kids prevail, even as they wade through quite a lot of ethical considerations, most particularly trust, whose nature is several times debated (both Dave and Emily have, for very different reasons, great difficulty in trusting, but others have their issues with it too).

I must confess, I had some difficulties with this book, and not just because the Austins and their circle are all a bit too bloody wholesome for my tastes. My real problem was with the narrative. I found I never really got close to any of the characters -- I never properly got into anyone's head -- so I had the constant sense that I was watching the proceedings from the outside rather than being in the midst of them, as if the story had been told not as a novel but as a stage play and I was in the audience. Just to strengthen this illusion of theatricality, the text has a scene-by-scene structure very reminiscent of a play's. To be sure, the stage is (as it were) very brightly lit, so that some of the characters and events stand out memorably . . . but at the same time they're standing out distantly.

My copy (Laurel-Leaf Dell 1980) is packed with typos and typographical glitches -- places where whole lines appear to have been missed out, etc. There's also a bizarre instance, presumably the product of hasty editorial rejigging at some stage, where L'Engle appears to have forgotten that she's already told you something (page 159) so tells you it all over again a few pages later (page 161).
( )
  JohnGrant1 | Aug 11, 2013 |
My L'Engle reviews seem to have a theme: complaining noises followed by assertions why said complaints are meaningless in view of the whole, and a reference to love as the universal solvent. This book is no different.

I'm unable to keep from rolling my eyes when Rob, age 7, pipes up with a malapropism followed with an erudite comment on the second movement of some obscure 12th century piece of music which he knows by heart.

The plot here is so unrealistic it would be laughable in anyone else's hands. The scary laser? The tough, gun-toting 'hoods' with the third-grade name? The hysteria about what L'Engle insisted on calling "pot" and "acid" to further distance herself from them? The villains are one-dimensional. Wait for it...

Yeah, not a bit of this matters. Honest. Just doesn't matter. The preachifying, the transparent manipulation? Just doesn't matter. Somehow, L'Engle transcends all of that, sucks you in, makes you believe, and holds your hand throughout. Her unvarying theme- love, love, love- makes the Austins real, makes Canon Tallis true, makes the Rabbi lovable, makes your heart pound at all the right places. It's a wonderful book. Put that in the pocket of your scorflam jacket and take it to the bank. ( )
  satyridae | Apr 5, 2013 |
Except for House like a Lotus, there is not a L’Engle I have read I don’t like. Young Unicorns is no exception. [June 2008] ( )
  maureene87 | Apr 4, 2013 |
Ms. L'Engle tells this story from multiple view points, rather than just Vicky's view, which is where most of the other novels are told from. There is also a bit of intrigue and mystery in this novel which gives the reader a chance to see all the Austin family members in new ways. In many ways this novel reminds me of the feel in the "Wrinkle in Time" series. ( )
  tjsjohanna | Oct 8, 2012 |
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For all my friends at the Cathedral Church of St John the Divine who are as the stars of heaven for multitude and brightness….
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Winter came early to the city that year.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0440999197, Mass Market Paperback)

They had been standing around the lamp, looking  at Emily holding it in her strong fingers, rubbing  it. Certainly none of them, not even Rob, expected  to hear a sepulchral voice behind  them.



"You called  me?"



They swung around...

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:19:27 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

A seventeen-year-old boy, former member of a tough New York gang, a blind and talented twelve-year-old musician, the Austin family, and Canon Tallis are among the key characters who become involved in a frightening and evil scheme relying on the ability of a refined laser to give complete power over people's minds.… (more)

» see all 3 descriptions

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