Review of Unwholly (Unwind #2) by Neal Shusterman (Gripping YA dystopia. Don’t miss it.)
In a society where unwanted and troublesome teens are salvaged for their body parts, Connor, Risa and Lev continue to fight against the system that would ‘unwind’ them. Connor, Risa and Lev each struggle to rescue as many AWOL teens as possible and offer them sanctuary. But life at the Graveyard is hard, rivalries bubble under the surface and the cracks are beginning to show. And then there is Cam, a teen who does not exist. Made entirely out of parts from one hundred other ‘unwinds’, Cam is a 21st century Frankenstein, a rewound, struggling to find a true identity and meaning, and a place in society. But when a sadistic bounty hunter who takes “trophies” from all the ‘unwinds’ he captures starts to pursue Connor, Lev and Risa, Cam finds his own fate inextricably bound with theirs…
It’s been over a year since I read Unwind, the first book (of four) in the Unwind sequence.
But I had no problem remembering the characters and plot. That’s the mark of a good book and a good writer.
There’s no doubt Shusterman is a great writer and that Unwholly is a great book. Sequels can be as good as the first book, worse than the first book, or improve on the first book. Unwholly is the latter—and then some. Unwind was an unrelenting book with a creepy premise, solid characters, great pace and gripping plot. Unwholly delivers all of that and more.
We learn more about Unwinding as characters discover the evolution of the process that tears apart teenagers for their body parts. There are a lot of characters, both new and old—Connor, Lev and Risa—in Unwholly, and Shusterman tells multiple stories through multiple perspectives. And he gets it right on the money. Each character is distinct and each of their stories are equally gripping. Everything (and all the characters) ties together at the end, but leaves plenty of questions and cliff-hangers for the next two books.
The plot develops solidly, even if it is similar to the first book. Shusterman keeps the action high and the pace is constantly moving. There are some great set-pieces and chase sequences and it all climaxes in a battle that changes the dynamic of the characters and story for the next book.
But it’s the writing that comes through the strongest—as it does in all of Shusterman’s books. He goes to places where a lot of other MG/YA authors might not. Doesn’t treat his readers like babies and sometimes the descriptions are grim and harsh. The premise of Unwinding alone is disturbing, and Shusterman takes full advantage of it. And the story, characters, plot benefit from it. I like unrelenting books, and Unwholly delivers.
Overall, this is a near perfect sequel to one of the best YA dystopia series around. Shusterman’s writing is as sharp and unrelenting as his plot and his characters are real. The plot is twisty and gripping and this series shows no sign of dying down. It won’t be long before I read the sequels.