Rating: 4/5 stars.
The sequel to Neal Shusterman’s thrilling Unwind, UnWholly follows Connor, Risa, and Lev as they take on new enemies and events. They live in a world in which teenagers are able to be literally taken apart once they reach the age of thirteen (the process is called “unwinding”), and their separated body parts are sold to others. After the trio escaped Happy Jack Harvest Camp, unwinding has garnered some negative media attention, but not enough to do anything except lower the safety age from 18 to 17. Connor and Risa struggle to stay together and afloat while Connor takes charge of the Graveyard, a safe haven for AWOL unwinds. Lev leaves the spotlight and after some unfortunate occurrences strikes out on his own. And there are some newcomers to the game – Starkey, Miracolina, and Cam – who change things up for our three original protagonists. All six will encounter danger and will be forced to fight for what they believe in, if they can even figure out what they believe in at all.
Shusterman still captivates with his writing in UnWholly. His foreshadowing, layering of suspense, and overall buildup to the climax sucked me into the story and had me wondering what would happen next. His inclusion of public service announcements and other sources of media solidified the world he created, and the numerous themes within the book – sacrifice, what makes a human human, etc. – all made it more scary and shocking than the average dystopia novel.
The characters spoke to me as well. Their internal struggles and external conflicts combined to communicate how tough they each had to be to survive, as well as how confused and in turmoil they were. Starkey, Miracolina, and Cam’s stories added an extra layer of awesomeness to the book, and I look forward to seeing how they’ll develop in the next novel.
Overall, I didn’t love UnWholly as much as I did Unwind. It didn’t feel as fresh and some of the science felt a little fake. It certainly was entertaining, but not extremely thought-provoking like the first book. I had to read it in snippets due to school, which may have contributed to my apathy, but in the end my emotions were not as revved up as I wished they had been. I’m still curious to see where Shusterman takes the characters and the big picture idea of unwinding in the last book of this trilogy, though.