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Book club guide and discussion questions for
The Unknown
A Mystery Thriller with Twists and Turns by J.W. Lynne

Are you planning to read The Unknown with your book club? Below you will find everything you need to get started, including information about the book, discussion questions, information about the author, review excerpts, and an excerpt from the book.

I'd love to hear your questions or comments! You can connect with me on Goodreads, Facebook, and Twitter!

Eight kids, ages nine to seventeen, awaken to find that almost everything they have ever known has been stolen from them. They were ripped from their beds in the middle of the night and transported to an unfamiliar and unforgiving new world where there are strict rules, and they are punished if they refuse to obey.

As the kids grapple with their mysterious new reality, they struggle with disconcerting questions. Where in the world are they? Why were they taken away from their families? Will they ever get to go back home? And the most frightening question of all ... Will this be the place where they die?

The Unknown tells the tale of five girls and three boys who are taken from their homes in the middle of the night and wake up in a frightening and mysterious world full of secrets.

The book is narrated from the points of view of some of the kidnapped children, including nine-year-old Goat, twelve-year-old Tiger, and seventeen-year-old Unpleasant.


*** Some of the questions below contain spoilers for those who have not read The Unknown. ***

The eight children are thrust into a situation that has similarities to a dystopian society. What are the dystopian aspects of their "society"?

The author offers very little description of the children's physical appearances (which is a departure from her previous novels). Why do you think that is?

Why do you think The Room chose Pax to lead Tiger? Nym to lead Goat? Kev to lead Unpleasant?

Would you have gone into The Room? If so, after your first visit, would you have returned to The Room for a second visit?

What real-life relationships parallel the children's relationship with The Room?

If you were making the decision about when to reveal to the children the reason they were kidnapped, when do you think would have been the ideal time to tell the children the truth? Why do you think the decision was made not to tell the children the truth from the very beginning?

If these children had known the reason they were being kidnapped before they were taken away, do you think any of them would have gone willingly?

If these children were gathered together under different circumstances (for example, enjoying day at a park), do you think any of them would have become friends?

What are the major plot twists in this book? Does the author offer any clues to these plot twists earlier in the book?

When the book ends, what do you think is Unpleasant's biggest fear about what is to come? That is to say, what would be her worst-case-scenario for the future?

For those who haven't yet read the sequel (The Haven): What do you think happens next?


Book 1: The Unknown
Book 2: The Haven

(note: The author endeavored to bring The Unknown to a satisfying conclusion, without any major cliffhangers. In fact, The Unknown was originally intended to be the only book set in this world. For this reason, The Unknown may be read as a standalone book.)

Fun activities to do WITH your book club:

Create a book trailer:
Using drawings, photos, and/or video, make a book trailer that gets people excited about The Unknown (without including spoilers).

Make a fun video:
Create a TikTok video about The Unknown that you think your friends would enjoy watching.


Author J.W. Lynne has been an avid reader practically since birth. She became interested in writing novels after falling in love with the Harry Potter series.

The Unknown is Lynne's ninth novel and her fifth dystopian novel. She was inspired to write her first dystopian novel, Above the Sky, after being captivated by Veronica Roth's Divergent and Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games. Above the Sky tells the story of an eighteen-year-old who fights to survive in a dystopian future society founded on lies. Reader enthusiasm about Above the Sky encouraged Lynne to continue the story into a four-book series (Above the Sky, Return to the Sky, Part of the Sky, and Beyond the Sky).

After completing the Sky series, Lynne was eager to tell a new dystopian story. The result was The Unknown. Reader enthusiasm about The Unknown inspired a sequel, The Haven.

Her most recent book is a standalone suspense thriller, The Simulation Game, about families whose lives take an unexpected turn after they are locked in a bunker to compete for a life-changing prize

Lynne lives in Los Angeles, California. She can often be found reading books or hiking in one of California's beautiful public parks.

(Information last updated in February 2022.)

Praise for THE UNKNOWN

"I have read hundreds of books and it is extremely rare for me to be surprised or give 5 stars. I almost always anticipate the plot twists. I thought I had this one all figured out from the very beginning. [I] couldn't have been more wrong! An exhilarating, emotional, fast paced read that I couldn't put down. This story was utterly unique." - Justine, Book Catharsis ★★★★★

"Gripping. Unique. Lots of mystery and intrigue. [Dystopian is] one of my favourite genres, but I haven't seen it written so well in a very long time. I finished reading this book in awe." - Carly, Goodreads ★★★★★

"I love dystopian novels, but I have to admit, after a while, they tend to follow the same plotline and twists. This is TOTALLY not the case here. I was shocked." - Gail, Goodreads ★★★★★

"I read A LOT and this book had lots of surprises which I didn't see coming. I definitely could not put this one down! I truly loved this book!" - Michelle, Goodreads ★★★★★

"Lots of suspense, twists, and turns. I never saw the ending coming. It was a total surprise and explained everything!" - Karon, Goodreads ★★★★★

THE UNKNOWN is a unique must-read book for teens and adults who enjoy novels similar to best sellers like THE HUNGER GAMES trilogy (by Suzanne Collins), the DIVERGENT series (by Veronica Roth), ENDER'S GAME (by Orson Scott Card), THE GIVER (by Lois Lowry), THE MAZE RUNNER (by James Dashner), ONE OF US IS LYING (by Karen M. McManus), ELEANOR & PARK (by Rainbow Rowell), SHATTER ME (by Tahereh Mafi), LEGEND (by Marie Lu), UNWIND (by Neal Shusterman), UGLIES (by Scott Westerfeld), MATCHED (by Ally Condie), NOT IF I SAVE YOU FIRST (by Ally Carter), or EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING (by Nicola Yoon), or ABOVE THE SKY (by J.W. Lynne).

If you like fast-paced thrillers with mystery, suspense, twists and turns, a dash of romance, and a surprise ending, don't miss this gripping novel for teenage and adult fans of The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Maze Runner, or Stranger Things!

THE UNKNOWN is available in Kindle ebook and in paperback.

Kindle Unlimited members: Read the THE UNKNOWN ebook for FREE with Kindle Unlimited.

An excerpt from The Unknown

This room is about half the size of my bedroom back home. The only way in or out of here seems to be via hatches: four on the floor and two on the ceiling. On either side of this narrow space, there are four chairs and four small tables, all of them bolted down to the floor. Everything is pure white, except for a silver sink in one corner with eight silver cups set above it. Eight rectangular windows reveal that we are in some kind of aircraft, flying high above a body of water. An ocean, maybe. But which ocean?

There are three other kids in here. Two girls and one boy. All teenagers, but they're younger than me. The boy is probably the oldest of the three. He's maybe fifteen or sixteen. The girls look like they're twelve or thirteen. Everyone is wearing what appear to be their nightclothes, like I am, and they have ultra-short haircuts that match mine. The older-looking girl has reddened eyes, as if she's been crying. I haven't cried in a long time, and I don't plan to start now. Crying doesn't get you anywhere. I should know. I've cried more in my seventeen years than normal people do in an entire lifetime, and it has gotten me nowhere at all. Except maybe here.

Yesterday was a typical day. In the morning, my mom dragged me out of bed twenty minutes before school started and left me lying on the cold tile floor of the bathroom. I forced myself to take a shower, so I didn't smell bad enough or look greasy enough to attract unwanted attention from people. I hate attention from people. Especially the people at school. After my shower, I toweled off, got dressed, and ducked out of the house before my mom could give me yet another one of her disappointed stares. I was halfway to the bus stop before I realized that I forgot to brush my teeth. That didn't matter though. No one sees your teeth if you never smile.

School was normal, and by normal I mean it sucked. I missed pointless homeroom, but I arrived before the bell for first period. The school and I have an understanding that if I arrive in time for actual classes, I won't be disciplined for being tardy. Despite the fact that I've missed every homeroom since the start of twelfth grade, they're still planning to let me graduate in June.

At least they were. Who knows what's going to happen now?

I'm pretty sure I'm not going to make it to school today.

Who knows if I'll ever make it to school again?

One more kid arrives. A girl, around thirteen years old. She looks bewildered, like the others, awkward and uncertain. She takes a seat on one of the chairs, probably because the rest of us are sitting, and she doesn't talk, probably because the rest of us aren't talking.

A few seconds later, a boy and a girl emerge together from one of the hatches on the floor. They can't be more than eight or nine years old. They're so little. Helpless. But that isn't my problem. I need to focus on how to get out of here. Not that I really want to get back home. But I don't want to let anyone take control of my life ... end my life. Even though maybe they should.

The youngest boy and girl sit together on a chair. They're so small that they share it as though it's a diminutive couch. That brings the total number of kids here to seven, including me. Everyone except for me emerged either alone or in pairs from one of the hatches on the floor. I am the only one who entered from a hatch on the ceiling. The other ceiling hatch is still closed tight. It could lead to anywhere. To another bedroom maybe. Or maybe it leads to our kidnappers.

Another minute passes before the remaining hatch on the ceiling finally opens. My body tenses as bare feet appear on the ladder that's below the hatch. The feet are big ones. Fully grown. Attached to muscular legs with hair growing on them. But I think he might be one of us, because he's wearing only boxers and a t-shirt. And then I see his face. Yes, he's a kid. About my age. Maybe a little older. Like all of the rest of us, his head has been shaved, rendering him nearly bald.

"Where the hell are we?" he says loudly.

I feel a shock inside me at the noise of his voice, disturbing the silence.

"Be quiet," the littlest girl says. Her tone is firm and gentle at the same time. "The bad men might hear you."

She's a bold little girl. The kind of little girl I used to be.

"I hope they do hear me," he responds. "I want them to come in here and tell me what the hell is going on."

I roll my eyes at his bravado. "And then what are you going to do?" I ask the boy.

His gaze locks with mine. "What do you propose?" he asks me, bristling.

I look at the faces of the other kids. They're scared. I doubt arguing with this boy will help assuage their fears. The boy and I appear to be the oldest ones here. We need to take control. Or at least I do.

I inhale and address the group as a whole, "I take it that, last night, strangers wearing masks took each of you from your homes. And you were given an injection to make you sleep. And you woke up a little while ago in a coffin-bed. Is that right?"

Slowly, everyone nods.

"So we're all in the same boat." I'm really not sure where to go from here, so I buy myself some time, "Why don't we go around in a circle and introduce ourselves? Tell your age, a little about yourself, and what you're good at." That is something we did on the first day of a group therapy session I went to back in sixth grade. I got sent there because the useless school counselor said I had to attend at least one therapy session after I got beat up in the gym locker room. I went once, but I never went back because I was sure that it wouldn't help me. Even at that age, I already knew that nothing could help me.

And then I have a thought. "Maybe we shouldn't use our real names ... in case the kidnappers don't already know them," I say. "You can pick another name for us to call you. Whatever name you want."

The difficult boy slumps down into one of the two remaining empty seats. I guess he's done confronting me ... for the moment.

"You go first," the littlest girl says to me.

Maybe she should be the one in charge.

"Okay." I exhale. "I'm ... I'm seventeen years old," I say. "I'm good at swimming, which is pretty useless in our current situation. That's about it. Next."

"And what should we call you?" the little girl asks.

I hadn't really thought about that. I figured I'd go last, not first, so I'd have time to think. "You ... you can call me ..." I despise my real name. This is my chance to pick a name that fits me. An honest name. We need to be honest with each other. "You might as well call me what my mom calls me," I say. "'Unpleasant.' Because I'm generally unpleasant."

If I had said such a thing at school, everyone would have laughed at me. But no one here laughs. Not even the smallest of snickers. Not even from Difficult Boy. They all just turn to the kid to my left. The youngest boy. And focus their attention on him.

End of excerpt

Read more of The Unknown by J.W. Lynne at Amazon.com!

Other books by J.W.  Lynne:

Eighteen-year-old Seven and her best friend, Ten, live where all is peaceful ... except for the violent war raging above the sky. Lifelike humanoid robots and self-operated drones tend to everyone's needs, leaving people free to spend their time stimulating their minds and enjoying life's pleasures. But there are strict rules and few choices.

There are also secrets.

Seven is about to discover how dangerous secrets can be.

What readers are saying about ABOVE THE SKY:

"5 Stars!!!!!! Unputdownable!! My new favorite book. If YOU love a good dystopian + romance, then you need this book in your life." -- Megan, i fall in love book blog

Sixteen-year-old Lois is about to embark on a simulated lunar mission with her mom, dad, and thirteen-year-old sister, hoping to win a life-changing prize. They will be locked up with nine other families in a state-of-the-art bunker, where their every move will be judged by anonymous evaluators. Families that don’t have what it takes will be eliminated.

Lois thought that being eliminated from the competition was the worst thing that could happen to her.

She was dead wrong.

What readers are saying about THE SIMULATION GAME:

"One of the best books I have read. Great story, characters, terrific balance between narrative and dialogue and an ending that you will never see coming." - Christine, Goodreads

Just weeks after eighteen-year-old Erin tragically loses her best friend, she is brutally betrayed by her high school crush. Plagued by crippling panic attacks, Erin travels to Los Angeles, searching for a sign that life is still worth living. Shortly after she arrives, she meets Ben, a mysterious man who captures both her curiosity and her heart. As they explore Los Angeles together, Ben reveals shocking secrets of his tragic childhood and helps Erin believe that she can heal from the wounds of her traumatic past. But Ben is hiding one horrible secret. A secret that could destroy her.


"The best part was the twist at the end. It completely caught me off guard!" -- Ashley, Wholly Books!

Nineteen-year-old Erin is hoping that her visit to Japan with her best friend, Adam, will be life-changing. Fifteen years ago, Erin's mother mysteriously vanished. The only clue she left behind is a handwritten itinerary for a dream trip to Japan, a trip that Erin doesn't know if her mother ever had the chance to take. Erin has decided to carry out this itinerary, believing that it might help her find her mother. But her trip won't be going according to plan.

Praise for LOST IN TOKYO:

"The relationship between Erin and Adam was amazingly sensual and slow building. It kept the pages turning like crazy." -- Amanda, Goodreads

Connor became a doctor just two days ago--along with all of his friends. They are child prodigies who were hand-selected at just three years old to undergo intensive medical training as part of a controversial experiment called Kid Docs. KID DOCS tells the story of fourteen-year-old Connor Hansen's first days as an ER doctor. Connor learns to save lives and discovers that some lives cannot be saved.

Praise for KID DOCS:

"Plenty of plot points kept me reading: finding out how the kid docs will react to the pressure, the fate of the patients who come into the hospital, and even the fate of one of their own." -- Jennifer Donovan, 5 Minutes for Books

Sixteen-year-old Jessica Rainville's dream of working with exotic animals is about to come true. She's signed up to spend a summer learning to train and care for tigers, lions, leopards, bears, and elephants at an exotic animal ranch. She will pet tigers, train grizzly bears, ride bareback on elephants, and, despite her best efforts, she will fall in love. But Jessica's summer at the exotic animal ranch will test her in ways that she never imagined. And just one mistake can mean the difference between life and death.


"Loved this book! Had me hooked all the way to the end! Animal lovers delight!" -- Pepper, Goodreads