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Friday, November 30, 2012

MICHELLE'S REVIEW: UnWholly by Neal Shusterman

Title: UnWholly
Author: Neal Shusterman
Format Acquired: Hardcover 
Publication Date: August 28, 2012
Publishing House: Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 9781442423688
Source of Copy: Purchased from Fully Booked


Thanks to Connor, Lev, and Risa, and their high-profile revolt at Happy Jack Harvest Camp, people can no longer turna blind eye to unwinding. Ridding society of troublesome teens and, in the same stroke, providing much-needed tissues for transplant might be convenient, but its morality has finally been brought into question.

Connor has his hands full running the Graveyard, a safe haven for AWOLs, kids like him who escaped unwinding. Risa, paralyzed from the waist down after the attack on Happy Jack Harvest Camp, is afraid that she may be more of a burden than a help. And Lev finds himself involved in an underground movement to rescue tithes, where he is practically worshiped as a god.

One of them will be betrayed. One of them will go on the run. And one of them will cross paths with Cam, a teen who doesn't exist, and make a startling discovery about the truth behind unwinding.

Neal Shusterman returns to the world of Unwind, which Publishers Weekly acclaimed as a "gripping, brilliantly imagined futuristic thriller."

               (Image and information courtesy of Goodreads; Summary lifted from actual book) 


I remember reading Unwind for the first time. It was during my freshman year in college, and I can still recall my hesitation upon seeing for myself the rather odd cover image of the book. Now I recall telling you guys that covers of books are not to be taken lightly (or something like that), and that I can easily pass over an earth-shattering, award-winning book with the odd cover, for a two-star book with pretty pictures and rendered effects (I've got it more under control now.) Unwind was such a book. I was hesitant about giving it a chance, but man, I'm glad I took the plunge. You know those kinds of books where you literally cannot stop devouring word after word, page after page, but you have to every once in a while, stop, breathe, let out a slow expletive (or two) and wonder how people can go on with their daily lives when your brain has just been blown to smithereens? Yes, it was that kind of book - in fact, it still remains as the only book I have no qualms about giving a five star. The ending left me totally content, and I was glad that I had read a book that good at least once in my life.

You can only imagine my shock when I found out that there was a second book, and that it was now a trilogy. And after my shock? I was scared. I was scared that it may not live up to the sheer awesomeness of the first book. When I picked up the book from our local friendly bookstore, I was so conflicted whether I should dive into it and get the suspense over with, or just read it when I've finished my whole To Be Read pile (Which is never going to happen, such is the life of the book blogger, I found out.). For weeks, UnWholly was squished under other books, but I knew that I had to read it, if only to get it over already.

UnWholly reunited me with characters I loved, and introduced new compelling characters as well. Connor Lassiter, now leader of the Graveyard, is having problems handling his  cohorts. Risa Ward feels insecure about Connor's feelings for her, as she is paralyzed from the waist down. Lev Calder, now Garrity, is helping other tithes escape and make them see that they have a right to life as well.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

What is Unwinding? During the Heartland War, people from both the Pro-life and Pro-choice camps have come to an agreement to let parents of teenagers decide whether they would let their teenager go through Unwinding. Unwinding is the process of harvesting the body organs of these teenagers to benefit people who need them more. Good examples would include: the eyes of an Unwound teenager given to a teacher who has gone blind, or the heart of an Unwound teenager given to a military official. A teenager is only saved from this fate until he/she reaches the age of 17, where their parts cannot be legally harvested anymore. Teenagers who are often eligible for Unwinding are the teens who often cause their parents and society problems, or if the parents are in dire need of money. Tithes, on the other hand, are 'offerings' who have been designated as such early on in their life. The reasons vary from either religious practice, or to help aid other weak-bodied family members. All of these teenagers are sent to Harvest Camps, or what they call Chop Shops, so that they can live in a 'divided state'.

The concept is terrible and horrifying, I know, but isn't it beautifully intriguing?

In UnWholly, we also meet Starkey, Miracolina, and Cam. Starkey is a Storked boy (Storked means that he was left on someone's doorstep by presumably his parents, or relatives. If the parent/s or relative/s has not been caught, the person who found the baby is now responsible for the care of the child. If caught, however, the parent/s or relative/s have to take the baby back under their care.) Starkey is bent on taking over Connor's position at the Graveyard by slowly rallying other Storked children to his cause. Miracolina is a tithe who is all too eager to fulfill her supposed destiny - something all too reminiscent of Lev in Unwind. When Lev comes crashing in her life, Miracolina slowly questions her role in life as well. Then there is Cam. Cam who is a patchwork creation grafted from 99 Unwound kids. Cam who has the skill of a musician, a brain comprised of brains of gifted kids - the wunderkind of wunderkinds everywhere. Cam who makes us raise the question of whether a creation like him has a soul at all.

Shusterman has done a wonderful job creating these new characters, and making the readers get a feel for these newcomers. I was especially feeling for Cam and his dilemma with regards to his identity. (Were the other teens who comprised him made him him, or was Cam someone who had his own identity? Did Cam have a possession of a soul, and how was it possible that a creation of science and technology had one? To what extent was he human or otherwise? Was he in any way human at all, even?) 

In this sequel to Unwind, Shusterman has provided us again not with answers with what is right with regards to the fate of humanity, but he leaves us with these questions for us to ponder and peruse. While the second book may not quite have the addictive, and captivating flavor in comparison to the first of its series, Shusterman's follow-up, UnWholly, is still, nevertheless interesting, despite some slow pacing. If you're contented with how UnWind ended, you can skip on picking this one up. But if you're too much of a fan like me, then we both know that you already have it stashed somewhere in your room.



  1. I felt the same way! I read the first book and was in love with it, but I wasn't sure if I could bear to read a sequel that wasn't as good. I'll definitely be checking it out now, though. Thanks for the great review!

    1. And I thought I would never get to meet someone who's had the same feelings I did. Thanks for the compliment! It sure made my morning.