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The Unknown
A gripping dystopian novel for middle school and high school students
J.W. Lynne's modern dystopian science fiction novel THE UNKNOWN has become popular in middle school and high school classrooms and book clubs across the United States. It is an extraordinarily compelling and engaging novel that captivates even self-proclaimed "non-readers" with its unexpected twists and turns. THE UNKNOWN transforms struggling or reluctant readers into enthusiastic readers, and demonstrates how immensely exciting the dystopian genre can be!

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

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?
What teachers and students love about THE UNKNOWN:

A fascinating dystopian world
Cool futuristic elements
Short suspenseful chapters that are fun to read
Fast paced
Unexpected twists, turns, and surprises
Narration alternates between multiple characters, offering different perspectives
Teen and preteen main characters (9-17 years old)
Both male and female protagonists
Highly-relatable teenage characters who face real-world issues
Both male and female characters are heroic
Hints to the surprise ending can be discovered when rereading the book
What educators are saying about THE UNKNOWN:

"Great book for any student that says 'I get bored quickly!' Trust me! You won't with ‪J.W. Lynne‬'s The Unknown!" - Mr. Stefanelli

"I am an ELA educator, and my class is reading and analyzing The Unknown. We have approximately 200 IB students. They are engaging with this book. It is so relevant to them. Some students are discovering literary device/analysis for the 1st time. It has been a real blessing." - Mr. Nelson

"Keeps you guessing until the end. If you like adventurous dystopian mysteries with great characters, then I highly recommend this book. 10 out of 10 stars." - Ms. Murray

What young adults are saying about THE UNKNOWN:

"This book was one of my favorites to read! It had twists and turns that were very unexpected. You really see how the characters grow with each other each day." - T. Cossio

"I adored the book. The foreshadowing was really nice. I re-read some of the book for assignments and I realized how great the hinting was to the ending. The way The Unknown was written is amazing and I can't wait to get into some of the author's other books." - M. Bell

"I have pretty severe ADD, and a deep hatred at reading brought on by school. This book was amazing, so many plot twists, and they were amazingly well written. Mind Blowing!" - Tokero

Are students reading THE UNKNOWN in your classroom? I'd love to hear about your experience.
Available formats for THE UNKNOWN:

Widely available through numerous booksellers, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, BooksAMillion, Ingram, and most independent bookstores
(To find THE UNKNOWN at your preferred bookseller, search for ISBN number 1082472972)

Exclusive to Amazon
(Kindle Unlimited members: Read all of J.W. Lynne's books for FREE.)

Widely available through numerous booksellers, including Amazon, Audible, Kobo, Google Play, iTunes (Search the iTunes store for: unknown j.w. lynne), Audiobooks.com, and Hoopla.
A guide to fun activities related to The Unknown:

Write a movie scene:
Imagine that The Unknown is going to be made into a movie and you are hired as the screenwriter. Write the script for the scene where the kids go around in a circle and introduce themselves for the first time (on the morning of May 1st). Since Harley, Rain, and Lizard introduce themselves "off-camera" in the novel, you will create what they say to the group based on clues in the book.
Additional fun:
1. Choose a different scene from The Unknown and rewrite it as a script. You can add or remove dialogue, and you can even add additional events that you feel would be appropriate in the story.
2. Cast your scripts (assign the roles to your friends or classmates) and perform the scene.

Cast actors:
Imagine that The Unknown is going to be made into a movie and you are hired as the casting director. You will be holding an open casting call and auditioning kids and young adults from all over the world who want a chance to play these exciting roles in the film. The director of the movie has asked you how you envision the actors who would be the best fit to portray Unpleasant, Liam, Harley, Rain, Tiger, Paris, Goat, and Lizard. Sketch pictures of imaginary actors who you would like to cast in these roles.
Additional fun:
Write out in words how you would describe the ideal actor's personality for each of the roles in The Unknown.

Write poetry:
Using images, words, and phrases from the text of The Unknown, write a poem from the point of view of Unpleasant, Liam, Harley, Rain, Tiger, Paris, Goat, or Lizard.
Additional fun:
Write three poems. Write each poem as if it was written by your character at a different point during the story: one poem written in the beginning of the story (maybe on the evening of May 1st), one somewhere in the middle (maybe on the evening of May 8th or 9th), and one at the end (maybe on the evening of May 10th).

Examine a different perspective:
Pick a scene where Paris is present throughout the entire chapter. Rewrite that scene from Paris' point of view.
Additional fun:
Choose a different scene and rewrite it from the point of view of Liam, Harley, Rain, or Lizard.

Write a journal entry:
Imagine that Harley, Rain, Paris, Liam, or Lizard is keeping a nightly journal. Write a journal entry from the point of view of one of these characters for one of the nights in the story.
Additional fun:
Choose a different character and write a journal entry from their point of view on the same night.

Make a movie trailer:
Imagine that filming for the movie version of The Unknown is about to get underway and you have been hired to create a movie trailer. The director would like to see your ideas for the trailer. She has given you only two requests: 1. Get people really excited about seeing this movie. 2. Don't include any spoilers in the movie trailer. Create a 30-second or so sample movie trailer by writing a voiceover script and using drawings, photos, or video clips to demonstrate your vision for the movie trailer.
Additional fun:
Make a fan-made book trailer for The Unknown novel.

Make a fun video:
Create a 30-second or so video about The Unknown that you think your friends would enjoy watching.
Additional fun:
Make a TikTok video about The Unknown.

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.)
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), or ONE OF US IS LYING (by Karen M. McManus).


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.)

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!

Recommended grade level: Middle and high schoolers
This book will be a popular addition to your English Language Arts (ELA) class reading list for 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th graders.
About this novel:

Genre or genres of literature:  sci-fi (science fiction), dystopian, romance, mystery, suspense, thriller, coming of age, action and adventure, ya (young adult)
Point of view: first person with alternating narrators
Gender of protagonists: male and female
Page count: under 400 pages
  J.W. Lynne is the author of eleven novels popular among teen, YA (young adult), and adult readers. Lynne's works of fiction feature preteen and teenage main characters.

Books best for kids in middle school through adults: The Unknown, The Simulation Game, Kid Docs, and Wild Animal School

Books best for teenagers in high school through adults: Above the Sky, Lost in Los Angeles, and Lost in Tokyo.

(Last updated February 2022)