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Review: UnWholly (Neil Shusterman)

Product Details:
Reading level: YA
Pages: 416
Publisher: August 28th 2012 by Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
ISBN: 9781442423688
Source: My own much-coveted copy

UnWholly (Unwind, #2)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.

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.

One word: UNCATEGORIZABLE! This series is intense and amazing.

Many authors find themselves facing “sophomore slump” when they write the second book in a series, but not Neil Shusterman! In fact, Unwholly is probably better than Unwind—and I didn’t think that would be possible. Aside from the fact that these books are so unique, the author does an amazing job creating his characters.

In Unwind, I found myself fully invested in Lev, Risa, and Connor. As Unwholly began to unfold, I was equally engrossed in their stories. But there were new characters introduced in Unwholly that really made this book! The one that stood out the most was Starkey. OMG. He is the ultimate antagonist. In fact, I found myself so disgusted with his character and his selfish motives, that I had a hard time reading Unwholly. I would get angry as I read and had to put the book down to cool off. That is powerful writing! For an author to create a villain that is so vile he makes me angry and bitter… wow. Starkey felt real. And I’m not saying that in some super bookish nerdy way either. All of the characters in this book were phenomenal.

Oh, did I mention there is also a modern Frankenstein element going on too? Yep. If you couldn’t tell, the guy on the cover is Cam—a boy created completely from the parts of unwinds. Every piece of his patchwork self was sculpted from living flesh of unwanted children. Creeptastic!

Enough about the amazing characters… the plot(s) need some attention as well. First off, when you look at this book it appears to be one large dystopian plot. But it is SO much more. Each character has his/her own story that is told individually through alternating points of view. Every single character! You would think that would make this a choppy read, but it flows seamlessly (no pun intended, Cam). Ultimately, all the individual plots merge into an action-packed climax that leaves you cursing some characters and aching for others. Stunning! It was flawless.

Above all of these incredible in their own right elements, the most amazing aspect of this book is the deep philosophical level that it brings. Ever since I read Unwind, I said this series needs to be discussed aloud. I still hold to that claim. In fact, I told my teacher friend that she needs to read this series to her 8th grade class (so I bought her a copy). Of course, I said to set the stage she had to build the background knowledge that the entire series centers around: who has the right to play God.

If you don’t know the basis of Unwind, it’s rather complicated. In a nutshell, however, it goes something like this: America could not come to an agreement over the Pro-choice and Pro-life debate, which led to the second Civil War. In an effort to reach an agreement, the government made a suggestion they thought would be so ridiculous that both sides would stop arguing. That didn’t happen though. Instead, both sides agreed to the terms and “unwinding” was born. Pro-life wins out from conception to age 13. From the 13th birthday until the 18th birthday, parents can choose to “unwind” their children (hello, Pro-choice) as long as Science uses every single part of the body. Can we say disturbing?

Keep all that in mind, and add in a character that is entirely created from the parts of unwinds in Unwholly. Now you have the philosophical elements because Cam questions the idea of having a soul. That was some seriously deep stuff in a YA novel! I loved it. Then there is Miracelina. She’s Catholic and wants to be unwound. Based on her religious beliefs and her decision to basically volunteer for suicide, another brilliant conversation about one’s soul emerged. I’m telling you, this book is brilliant and so is Neil Shusterman!

This is not a light-hearted YA dystopian. It is also not a story laden with teenage romance. If you want a feel-good story that leaves you smiling, you should also probably look elsewhere. But if you want a story that will have you questioning society’s values and human nature, then you should definitely read Unwholly!



  1. I read unwind and loved it but was afraid to pick up unwholly because I felt pretty sure it wouldnt live up to the first book. Now, finding out it was better, I know I absolutely HAVE to read it. Thanks for the review.

  2. yes! read it! You will not be disappointed, I promise.

  3. I love love this book. It totally lived up to the first book..and now I don't know what to think about the third book!!!!!!!

  4. Oh I'm so glad to read your review! I listed to unwind on audio and I had no idea the impact it would have on me. It is such an interesting concept and I loved the characters. I'm looking forward to meeting some of the new characters you mentioned, especially Cam. His story has got to be something crazy.


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