Review: Hana Tooke – The Unadoptables

The Unadoptables
Hana Tooke

The five oldest children of the Little Tulip Orphanage were left there in unacceptable circumstances. In their various ways they aren’t popular enough to be adopted – some of them going so far as to destroy the chances of their adoption so that they can stay together. After an escape and a little bit of magic, the five are free to make puppets. But will their past catch up with them?

There’s plenty of orphan and adoption stories out there. Batman is perhaps one of the most famous, but Batman at least has his beloved butler to care for him. Or, there’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, where the children did have parents, and now they are being ?watched? by Lemony Snicket. The original orphan story is Oliver Twist, or maybe Mowgli, and then there’s Anne of Green Gable. All of these stories have white protagonists.

How about Despicable Me? You don’t see people up in arms about the fact that all three girls are white. While I don’t think that it should be acceptable that there ONLY stories about white people being ‘adoptable’, I don’t think that too much should be called out about a period novel that is accurately depicting the adoption environment of the times. It’s a fiction, and it shouldn’t be interpreted too deeply. I liked it because it let these orphans not be defined by who adopted them, but that they were able to define themselves regardless of where they came from.

As a geneticist polydactyly is an interesting inherited trait. In fact, it is inherited in a dominant pattern – so someone who has one parent with extra fingers/toes will have a 50/50 chance of also having multiple digits. It’s also really uncommon in Caucasians. Oh! And a bonus fact that I found out was that there is a “Rotterdam registration form for congenital anomalies”. I can see the Dutch connection there as well.

I understood how Egg behaved in regards to finding his own family, but I was frustrated by the fact that the end of the novel was, well, just an end. Yes, the twists and turns to the end were horrifying, but gratifying as well. I also liked the ways the different sections of ‘evidence’ came together. It was almost left open for another novel, but not quite.

I read this in what was hopefully the way it was intended to be written – as a lighthearted romp of five unusual children in the best (and worst) act of their lives. Who doesn’t like a good orphan story? Upon clicking the novel into GoodReads however, I discovered a range of opinions that hadn’t even occurred to me. For a 19th century Gothic novel, it’s probably appropriate that the ‘unadoptables’ are disfigured (12 fingers), mute (selectively) and the wrong appearance (Asian). HOWEVER. There are many people who are adopted or who have been part of the foster system that have objected to this novel, and so in good conscience I can’t recommend this book.

Sometimes the curtain is just blue.

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