Review: Unwholly by Neal Shusterman

Posted January 11, 2013 by Stormy in Books / 8 Comments

I named Unwind one of my favorite books of 2012, so I think it would make sense that I eventually followed up with the sequel, Unwholly. Normally, I don’t worry that sequels will live up to my expectations because I have a habit of trusting authors(sometimes overly so), but Unwind was just so good that it took me a week before I felt ready to move on to Unwholly.


by Neal Shusterman


Summary from Goodreads:

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.

My Review:

One of the things I loved about Unwind was that the ending was so satisfying. Not everything was wrapped up in a neat little bow, but the world would have been just fine without a sequel, which made me hesistant to pick this book up. However, I’m too curious not to read such a book. For the most part, Unwholly lived up to my expectations. Lev is still one of the most interesting literary characters I’ve ever read, so complex with motives and truly three dimensional.

Here is what I really loved about Unwholly:

  • More back story on the Heartland War and how the Unwind amendment could be approved so quickly.
  • The same emotional complexity that was found in Unwind.
  • The “bigger picture” this book takes with science and corporations. I think adding in this corporate element made the world of Unwholly more believable.
  • The story line about the oppressed storks(there were parts of this that I didn’t exactly like, but on the whole I think the idea of adding it is a good one–once again adds more depth to all the factors that come into play in real life)
  • The plot lines(yes, the multiple ones). As frustrating as it can be at times to juggle so many stories and characters, I appreciate how complex the situations presented in this book are. That’s how real life normally works too–not just a linear cause and effect but several factors normally go in to causing something.
  • High stakes. The stakes in Unwind were personally high for the characters I came to cherish, but in Unwholly, we get to see just how many lives are in danger.
  • Most of the new characters. As much as I loved Risa, Connor, and Lev, I’m once again reminded that there are other desperate people in the world of Unwind.
  • The addition of a character made completely out of Unwinds. Horrifying, creepy, and raises interesting questions.

The few things I wasn’t so fond of:

  • The character of Starkey. Shusterman is so good at making all his characters believable, but I just could not follow Starkey’s one-track motive. He never questions or doubts his decisions, and I find this hard to swallow from an author who at times made Roland more than just a stand-in villain and let you inside the minds of people who really thought they what they were doing was for the best.
  • While I loved the changing points of view in the first book, every once in a while a view seemed out of place in this book. Not enough to make me frustrated, but it did distract from the story some.

Final Impression: It would be hard for Unwholly to live up to my standard that was set by Unwind, but it does not disappoint. It’s not the near-perfect work I consider Unwind to be, but it’s very, very close, and more than a worthwhile read. 4/5 stars. 

You can find Unwholly on Amazon.


4 Stars

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8 responses to “Review: Unwholly by Neal Shusterman

  1. Tini Alfonso ♥ (@TiniAlfonso)

    I have just finished reading Unwholly, and I suffered it a lot. I know it is all fictional yet I found myself slamming the book across my room when for example the nurse told Risa the other kids that were supposed to have died, were actually send to harvest camps. I can´t stand the cruelty of humanity that Shusterman portrays, it disgust me utterly and completely and all the anger I felt was pointless because it´s all fiction. That´s why I find the book so great, it makes me go crazy in so many ways and the power of words really gets to me. I think your review was great, I didn´t notice the flaws in Starkey´s character because I was to blinded by anger towards him. And I am like one of those kids that worshiped Lev, I think you are completely right about his complexity, he is much more than a clapper, or an AWOL, or a tithe. I think he is too young (as well as the other characters) to do such cunning and great things, to speak with such wisdom. I never heard a more interesting conversation than the one he had with Miracolina the second time they had a “meeting”. Another character that owes my love is Hayden, from the moment he was put in that container with Connor and the two other kids where they discuss death and unwinding, he amazed me, not for being wise, but with his open-minded personality and his curiosity. His death in this book broke my heart as much as Cy-Fi did in Unwind.

  2. […] Unwholly was a great sequel to Unwind, but I gave it an entire star less because of this one character. And yes, he really was this frustrating. There was nothing redeemable about Starkey, and there easily could have been more to his character. Neal Shusterman was able to make one of the vilest characters in Unwind sympathetic at times, so I know he’s talented enough to do so, but he didn’t with Starkey. Starkey never questions his decisions and only seems to be around to cause problems. I kept waiting to get a better understanding of his character, and it never came. Frustrating indeed. […]

  3. I love both Unwind and Unwholly. It’s like I live them, and they terrify me. Have you heard about a movie version? I read on line that FOX is making the movies. If so, I really hope they use the same cast that they did in the video on youtube for Unwholly. They were really good. I almost couldn’t sleep after watching Nelson. And, Conner was good too…. so were Risa and Lev. Nelson was exactly how I always imagined him though.

    • I’ve heard about the movie version–I feel like it’s going to be one of those things that is REALLY good or REALLY bad. I think the story line itself will make a good movie, but it will really depend on the actors and script.

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