The Unwritten Girl Excerpt

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(See also the synopsis)

This excerpt is from chapter three, and comes after the faerie shapeshifter Puck (from A Midsummer Night’s Dream) has materialized and told Rosemary she needs to rescue her brother Theo from the Land of Fiction. Of course, Peter and Rosemary want proof, and Puck tells them to look at the book Theo has been lost in all the time he’s been here.


The house was still asleep. Shamus slunk up the stairs behind them, his toenails clicking. Rosemary led the way to Theo’s room.

She pushed open the door. Theo was sitting up in bed, staring into his book.

“Hello, Rosie,” he said. He looked up and smiled at her.

He did not look at Peter. His eyes trailed down to his book, and then up again sharply. “Who’s your friend?”

“You’ve met Peter,” said Rosemary, shutting the door behind her.

“Really?” said Theo.

“Yes, at the library. And he was over for dinner the day before.”

“You brought a boy home for dinner? Good for you.” He turned back to his book.

Shamus whimpered. Rosemary patted him. She and Peter crept forward and leaned across the bed to peer at the cover of Theo’s book. Rosemary blinked. There was no title on the spine.

“It’s not a book,” she said. “It’s a journal; a blank journal!”

Peter peered over Theo’s shoulder. “Something’s been typed in it.” Theo turned the page. The new page started blank, but text appeared in the top left corner and streamed down the paper. “Something’s being typed into it right now!”

“What?” Rosemary reached for Theo’s book.

Theo snapped out of his trance. He pulled the book to his chest. “Rosemary, no!”

She gripped the book by its spine. “Theo, let me see.”

Theo shook his head. He wrenched the book back. With a tremendous yank, Rosemary pulled the book out of Theo’s grasp.

“No!” Theo’s voice choked off.

Rosemary looked at the pages and saw a line saying “Rosemary looked at the pages and saw a line saying ‘Rosemary looked at the pages and saw a line saying ‘Rosemary looked at the pages and saw a line saying ‘Rosemary looked at the pages and saw—”

Peter tore the book from her hands.

Rosemary staggered back and covered her eyes.

There was a tapping at the window. Puck’s face was centred upside down in the frame, hanging by his feet from the roof. He waved.

Peter opened the window, but Puck did not come in. Instead, he said, “Do you believe me, Rosemary?”

“What the — What happened?” Rosemary gasped, wincing and rubbing her temples.

“I don’t know,” said Peter. He picked up the book by one corner as though it were something toxic. “You just stared into the pages, and you… froze. You just stood there. I couldn’t reach you.”

“How long?” asked Rosemary.

“Long enough!” Peter thought a moment. “A minute. You didn’t even blink.”

Rosemary screwed her eyes tighter. No wonder they hurt.

Peter opened the book.

“Peter, be careful!”

“No, it’s okay, I was just reading it. Maybe it doesn’t affect me.” He flipped to the first blank page. The text was still scrolling down. He frowned.

“It’s listing what I’ve said — what I’m saying right now,” he said. He flipped back a few pages. “And here we are talking to Puck in the snow.” He grimaced. “Here I am screaming. It’s all written from your point of view.” He snapped the book closed just as Rosemary was creeping up to peer over his shoulder. “When you looked at the pages as they were written, you started a loop.”

“Theo has been reading the world from your eyes, Rosemary,” said Puck through the window. “Look at your brother now.”

Rosemary looked up, and then darted forward. “Theo?” She shook her brother by the shoulder. He stared blankly ahead. “Theo!”

“Give him the book,” said Puck. “It is his only link to us.”

Rosemary pressed the book into Theo’s hands. She felt his fingers tighten against the covers. His eyes lowered, and he began to read.

Rosemary held his hands a moment before letting go. “I’m responsible for this?”

“No,” said Peter, frowning at Theo. “How could you be?”

Puck shook his head. “You are not the fault, but you are the cause. Because they could not get at you, they stole away your kin.”

“What are you talking about?” Peter rounded on the window. “What do you mean, steal Theo? He’s right here!”

“No, wait, I see.” Rosemary swallowed. “Theo reads more than me. Dad always says he can get lost in a book.”

“And now he has,” said Puck.

Rosemary turned to the window. “What do I have to do to get Theo back?”

“It won’t be easy, Rosemary,” said Puck. “You will face dangers only your imagination could dream of.”

“I don’t have an imagination,” said Rosemary.

“Of course you do. What else would be attacking you?”

Rosemary stared at Puck, her mouth agape. Then she looked at Theo and drew herself up. “What do I have to do to get Theo back?”