Review: The Unadoptables

Published by Puffin Books
Illustrated by Ayesha Rubio
Published on 23rd July 2020

The Unadoptables is a truly charming read, brimming with adventure, mystery and friendship in a wonderfully atmospheric 19th century Amsterdam.  Amidst the danger, suspicion and fear, there is also humour, warmth and hope which makes this a not-to-be-missed delight which I couldn’t put down.

The strict Rules of Baby Abandonment at the Little Tulip Orphanage, Amsterdam are unceremoniously broken when five babies are abandoned over the course of five monthsLotta, Egbert, Fenna, Sem and Milou are each abandoned in an item which links to their particular talents of sewing, storytelling, engineering, cooking and art.

Twelve years later in 1892, these children are firm friends who are living a hard life in the Orphanage run by the cruel, severe and menacing Matron, Elinora Gassbeek who is not interested in the welfare of the children, but in lining her own pockets. 

The children have been dubbed ‘the unadoptables’ until the arrival of a potential adopter at the Orphanage.  Meneer Rotman is a sugar merchant looking for an heir, but it is obvious this sinister, dangerous man doesn’t like children, so why does he want to adopt all five friends?

Milou’s sixth sense warns her of danger, and she is proved correct!  The lives of her and her friends are in terrible peril, and they must escape or risk a fate even worse than that of living in the Orphanage. 

The friends make a daring escape from the Orphanage into a wonderfully evocative and richly described Amsterdam with its canals, bridges and surrounding countryside where they find themselves on an incredible adventure to find Milou’s parents who she is convinced never meant to abandon her … life-like puppets, clockwork artisans, labour ships and cruel villains make this an truly unforgettable read.

This story is an intricate and thrilling tale of danger, discoveries and twists as Milou and her friends fight to stay one step ahead of the authorities and Rotman.  They work brilliantly as a team, using their resourcefulness and ingenuity to strive to outwit both.  At the same time, they search to uncover the mystery surrounding Milou’s family. 

The five children are wonderfully sympathetic characters who I adored.   They are each other’s family and have a close bond steeped in love, friendship, trust and loyalty.  Milou is brave with a real sense of justice and is protective of her friends, feeling a responsibility towards them.   She is also quick-witted, determined and lives with an enduring sense of hope.   All of her friends have individual talents, linked to the items which were left with them as babies.  The children are incredibly resourceful, and supportive of each other, and make perfect use of their talents, as they make a new life away from the orphanage.  Will these talents help this found family work together to thwart some menacing villains and discover the truth of a lost family?

The Unadoptables is an absolutely spellbinding story of the strength to be gained in family, friendship and hope when faced with danger, despair and loss … a truly mesmerising story.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for an e-ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.

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