Unwholly by Neal Shusterman

Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Pages: 402
Year: 2012
Buy: Hardback, Kindle, Paperback
Source: Bought copy

Unwholly by Neal ShustermanReview
If, like me, you have read and devoured every last page of Unwind, you will have been longing for Unwholly, the sequel and second in what will now be a trilogy of novels. Their mission: to examine the near future practice of dividing unwanted teens piece by piece, thereby satisfying the demand for donor parts while ridding society of its unwanted. Aided, of course, by the official line that this is not death, or murder, but the process of reaching a higher, meaningful and charitable existence. The divided never die, they are merely transformed and dispersed.

As always with reviews of sequels, there are spoilers ahead and so I would suggest that, if you haven’t read Unwind, you stop right here and go off and do so.

How good it is to return to the stories of Connor, Risa and Lev. All three are suffering the consequences of evading their unwinding and are now celebrated as rebel leaders, representatives of the unwanted or, in the eyes of polite society, the ungrateful, and even as religious figureheads. The path between the three has split. Lev, as the reborn tithe (the one in ten, the white-dressed child dedicated to God to be unwound as an offering) has a role all of his own, even almost a religion of his own. Connor bears the weight of the unwound on his shoulders, saving as many as he can, while Risa must make new sacrifices.

The novel follows the pattern of Unwind with chapters alternating between the perspectives of our three main characters, interspersed with official advertisements for unwinding as well as sections that focus on new additions to the story. Chief among them is Cam, a being completely manufactured from the parts of other teenagers, his soul (if that’s what it is) created by the fragmentary impressions, fractured memories and broken dreams of the hundred divided children that gave him his flesh, bones, muscles, organs and blood. A beautiful individual, he is also an experiment and through him and the people who want to control him we have glimpses into the machinations behind unwinding.

Among the other new characters are liberated tithes, pirate harvesters, police and the few brave souls who work to protect these marked teenagers.

The difficulty with following a novel as original and shocking as Unwind is that it is extremely difficult to replicate that originality and shock. As a result, new characters here remind one of characters in the previous novel. Starkey, the baddie of the piece, is reminiscent of Roland, while tithe Miracolina reminds one of tithe Lev. The impact of such poignant and tragic scenes and characters, such as CyFi, the party at the Admiral’s house and the unwinding of Roland are absent from Unwholly and not replaced by anything approaching the horror and sheer emotion that these moments brought.

Nevertheless, Unwholly is an extremely enjoyable novel in its own right and, as with the best Young Adult fiction, it is a book for all ages. Its only downfall is the supreme achievement of its predecessor.

Unwholly is much more of a mystery novel, following (and leaving) clues to the origins and reasons for unwinding, its perpetrators and opponents, leaving plenty of room for further revelations in the third book. Without doubt, Unwholly packs a punch and, as previously mentioned, if you enjoyed Unwind, there is no way you will be able to resist it. I bought in a US edition. I couldn’t even wait the extra month for the UK release.

Review of Unwind.

2 thoughts on “Unwholly by Neal Shusterman

  1. Maria

    Have you read Unstrung? The short story that takes place between Lev’s time with CyFi and his arrival at the graveyard? I was unsure at first because the portrayal of Native Americans seemed a bit stereotypical but I loved it in the end.


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