REVIEW: UnWholly (Unwind #2) by Neal Shusterman


Rating: 5 out of 5 stars, Genre: Fiction/ Dystopian, Pages: 402, Reading Level: Easy/ Intermediate

Book Description from Barnes & Noble:

“Rife with action and suspense, this riveting companion to the perennially popular Unwind challenges assumptions about where life begins and ends- and what it means to live.

Thanks to Connor, Lev, and Risa- and their high-profile revolt at Happy Jack Harvest Camp- people can no longer turn a blind eye to unwinding. Ridding society of troublesome teens while simultaneously providing much-needed tissues for transplant might be convenient, but its morality has finally been brought into question. However, unwinding has become big business, and there are powerful political and corporate interests that want to see it not only continue, but also expand to the unwinding of prisoners and the impoverished.

Cam is a product of unwinding; made entirely out of the parts of other unwinds, he is a teen who does not technically exist. A futuristic Frankenstein, Cam struggles with a search for identity and meaning and wonders if a rewound being can have a soul. And when the actions of a sadistic bounty hunter cause Cam’s fate to become inextricably bound with the fates of Connor, Risa, and Lev, he’ll have to question humanity itself.”

I almost wish I had waited until the entire series came out before I began reading… Nah!

Connor is now in charge of the Graveyard and Risa is by his side. Lowering the range of unwinding by one year has had the consequence of less available parts, giving rise to increased activity in the black market. Now it’s not just Juvies that unwinds have to worry about. In addition, a division between unwinds who are storks and those who are not begins to foment unrest as a challenger to Connor’s leadership lies in wait. And a new creation is announced that shocks the world.

UnWholly is just as good, and creepy, as UnWind. Here’s a hint- take a very close look at the cover with the face on it and you may be able to figure out by which classic novel UnWholly seems to be inspired.

In my opinion, the writing was even better than UnWind. For example:

He climbs into his hospital bed and forces his face into his pillow as the sobs crescendo into wails. A full year’s worth of suppressed heartache pours forth from his soul like Niagara, and he doesn’t care if he drowns in the killing whiteness of its churning waters. p189

And as with its predecessor, I thought the characters were developed well. There are a bunch of new characters but Shusterman integrates them flawlessly.

Of course the story just gets more in depth. I thought the events in UnWind were intricate, but UnWholly adds a whole larger dimension. Some might worry that too much added detail will confuse readers, but not only was I not confused, but I was mesmerized by the new levels added to an already intriguing storyline.

Again, Shusterman takes on more than one societal issue. A few examples:

“…Words don’t hurt you.” Which is one of the hugest criminal lies perpetuated by adults against children in this world. Because words hurt more than any physical pain. p8

It never ceases to amaze him how everything- even unwinding- is geared toward the quick fix. p75

“Why would they do such a thing?” She asks.
“Because they can,” Connor says bitterly. p136

Death, as they say, doesn’t just make all the world kin, it makes all religions one. p385

Some do not seem to be big, huge, earth shattering issues, but once Shusterman speculates about possible, future unintended consequences, a horrible and frightening dystopian world emerges. UnWholly takes it further.

There was one part in UnWind that actually made me a bit nauseous. The book was written so well, I did not think Shusterman would be able to shock and nauseate me again. Oh how wrong I was! In fact, UnWholly did not make me queasy for just one scene, it made me queasy for an entire point of view. So you have that to look forward to.

In addition, one of the creepiest aspects of UnWind is that it addresses the advertising for unwinding. For example:

Do you have a troubled teen? Can’t seem to fit in? Listless and angry? Often prone to fits of impulsive and sometimes dangerous behavior? Does your teen seem unable to stand living in his or her own skin? It could be more than simple teenage rebellion. Your child may be suffering from Biosystemic Disunification Disorder, or BDD.

Well now there’s hope!

Haven Harvest Services has five-star youth camps throughout the nation that will take the angriest, most violent, and dysfunctional sufferers of BDD and carefully ease them into a soothing divided state.

Call now for a free consultation- counselors are standing by!

Haven Harvest Services. When you love them enough to let them go. p9

That’s just disturbing. Or how about the tagline, “Experience a world outside of yourself: Embrace the divided state” p86. I love it!

And then there is the real information at the beginning of sections. For example- “34 Children Abandoned Under Nebraska’s Safe-Haven Law,” by Nate Jenkins, The Associated Press, Friday, November 14, 2008, p69. The article reports how children, at least one as old as 17, were abandoned due to the omission of an age specification in Nebraska’s Safe-Haven law. This really happened people! Five of these children were from out of state. The parents drove from another state to legally abandon their child in Nebraska and one of them was five years old! So to those critics who say the storking initiative in this series is unrealistic… It’s already here! It’s called Safe-Haven laws. The only difference is that the UnWind series obviously takes it to more of an extreme. Read the book and you can check out the link for yourself.

These books are so good that I am either going to have to drop one off of my all time favorites list to make room for possibly the entire UnWind Quartet or I am going to have to up my favorites to the top 20. I hate to bump anything off that list.

I left you with a literary reference at the end of my review of UnWind and began by giving you a hint toward another literary reference at the beginning of this review. Now allow me to leave you with another to tempt you. While they are completely different in every way, there is one striking similarity between UnWholly and Battle Royale by Koushun Takami. Can you tell me what it is?

Reviewed by Christina


In a Goodreads thread, it was discussed how peach references seem to be prevalent in post-apocalyptic fiction. Now that I am looking for these references, I will begin pointing them out in case anyone is interested.

“I’m telling you, change is on the way,” she says. “It’s like a plump old peach, ripe and ready to drop.” p401

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