Book Review: Unwholly

UnWholly (Unwind, #2)
By: Neal Shusterman
Published by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release Date: August 28, 2012
Genre: YA dystopian
416 pages 
Buy it on Amazon, IndieBound
 or Barnes and Noble
Source: I own it

My thoughts: 
I confess that the bar was set pretty high for this book as far as I was concerned, because Unwind is one of my all-time favorite reads. As the above rating suggests, I was quite pleased with what I found in its sequel.

Unwholly gives us more time with many of the friends we made in book 1, as well as adding some interesting new members to the cast. Lev, Risa and Connor all return with further adventures, as well as love and loss. Several of the minor characters return as well, including several of the Graveyard AWOLs. Among the new arrivals are Cam, a completely new life form comprised exclusively of tissues harvested from unwinds, and Starkey, a kid who was a storked baby and who now has something to prove.

I remember loving Unwind because it so effectively encapsulated serious, timely ethical questions within the structure of an unassumingly entertaining YA story about troubled kids. I got some good connection with layered, complex characters and a good plot arc, with a bonus of some wonderfully thought-provoking passages that question what it is to be human, and the ethics of medical science that messes with your humanity. Unwholly does all that plus more, as it adds more viewpoints, and puts characters in positions that demand that they consider compromising their beliefs. This is exactly why my review is a 4 1/2 instead of a 5; our 5 is labeled "couldn't put it down", but with a book that is this rich in texture, the reader can't gulp. It took me a good week to digest it somewhat properly. I know I would not have gotten the full effect of the piece of writing if I'd continued to plow through without stopping to contemplate, allowing thoughts to ferment and become all they were meant to be.

I think every high school debater in the country should be required to read these books. Debate requires the competitor to understand the viewpoint of the opponent in order to be ready to attack it. Shusterman masterfully demonstrates this skill through the many viewpoints of his characters. He also sheds light on why the controversy over abortion and contraception is so heated: the issue is extremely complex, and continues to grow exponentially complex as science advances. 

This is a read that you will find yourself pondering for a long time after having finished it. Volume 2 gives us plenty to consider as we wait for book 3, Unsouled.

Summary from GoodReads:

It’s finally here. The long-awaited sequel to the bestselling Unwind, which Publishers Weekly called a “gripping, brilliantly imagined futuristic thriller.”

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 simltaneously 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.

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.


  1. I'm reading this book right now and loving it. Great review giving the story but not revealing the plot.

  2. Unwind was good, but UnWholly was just so much better! I loved the fact that Shusterman introduced new characters instead of confining the story to the point of view of the old ones.
    Here's the full review on my blog! :)


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