Google+ Reading Teen: UnWholly by Neal Shusterman {Review}

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

UnWholly by Neal Shusterman {Review}

Reviewed by Elisa

Age Range: 12 and up
Grade Level: 7 and up
Series: Unwind Dystology (Book 2)
Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (August 28, 2012)
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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.

I was pretty stoked when Andye gave me UnWholly to read; I wasn’t expecting a sequel to Unwind. I loved Unwind, finding it both gripping and morally challenging, and subsequently got Andye’s copy really, really sandy at the beach last summer (sorry).

I was surprised to realize how old it was. Neal Shusterman has made his fans cry in longing during the wait in between these books- five whole years. Five years? Who does that? Maybe someone who wasn’t expecting to write a sequel? We just think Shusterman is mean! But apparently good authors have that right. Goes to validate my theory that you should never start reading a series until all the books come out so you can be eternally happy and engrossed fully in another world, book upon book. For example, now is the perfect time to read the Harry Potter Series (but wait on Divergent and Hunger Games until they are all out in movies too, although you will also make yourself totally behind the curve).

Maybe you shouldn’t apply my theory though, as if you do, you might not get to read UnWholly. Because you will still have to wait for the fourth companion book to come out (Oct. 14, 2014), and it would just be sad if you missed this one, as I am pleased to announce that UnWholly is really worth reading if you like dystopian even a little.

Unlike other dystopians, this futuristic world is actually pretty much just like our world today. The difference is that come age 13, the parents (or the State) can choose to unwind the child, keeping their parts fully alive to help other people. There is no abortion; this is its alternative. Overall, the good people of the United States believe that unwinding isn’t killing. They embrace the “divided state” as the best option for various families, whether it is in an act of thanks to God, to help finances, or make use of troubled teens.

Morally ambiguous? You bet! But, that is the genius of Neal Shusterman’s Unwind and UnWholly. It creates a deep tension within the reader throughout the book, making the plot even more entrancing. We can’t help but side with the teens associated with the resistance because unwinding is just so wrong. Or at least I think it is. These books are pretty much a satire.

Like last time, UnWholly was written from the perspective of the main characters- Conner, Risa and Lev. But this time we have the voice of a few more individuals guiding us through the pages. There is the fine specimen, Cam, a boy completely made from unwound parts who just isn’t so sure if he has a soul but surely he has been wound to love Risa. Then there is Miracolina, another tithe who really really wants to be unwound but is instead stuck with former tithe and the now revered, god-like Lev.

We also get to know Starkey and Nelson, neither of which I can even vaguely like. Starky has some major personal issues. He becomes a calculated leader who doesn’t actually care a smidgen for those he is leading in his fight for a self-serving view of justice. Then Nelson is a seriously creepy parts-pirate, tracking down kids to sale for their body parts. (I can’t help but note, sadly, this is actually a legit form type of human trafficking today- organ trafficking.)

Overall, my favorite characters were Lev and Conner. I totally respect Lev as continues to be transformed into a better person through all his crazy life experiences. Not only has he grown-up as a tithe, and was a failed clapper, but he goes on to be a public helper for criminal kids, then experiences extreme loss, is then sainted, and finally experiences at least some redemption and relationship. Conner himself is also trying to adapt to his responsibilities trying to be a great leader for the Graveyard. He is far from perfect, but experiences so much tension trying to do the right thing, protecting a world of runaway teens from being unwound while essentially being abandoned by the resistance.

I guess it is pretty obvious I just really like getting to know the people in a story, and I loved the character development in UnWholly. But even though I am trying to introduce you to these guys like we’re all sitting down for coffee together, don’t worry, there is actually a lot of plot and excitement in this book. In fact, relationships aside, Shusterman has us running around following ALL these people at the same time around the country, as they fight to keep from getting unwound, or struggle to unveil the truth, are challenged to lead, and are maneuvering through being kidnapped, blackmailed, and betrayed.

So, yeah, I’d say it was a good book.

It wasn’t really gory, though there were some dramatic fight scenes. And it surprised me that I still liked it as much as I did with only minimal romance. It think guys would like this book. The plot and style reminded me of Never Fade in the Darkest Minds Series (but without the superpowers). Something I also really appreciated that I didn’t have to read Unwind right before this one- there was enough information to make it so a first-time reader in the series wouldn’t be lost.

One of the things I found fascinating is that Shusterman must have made up so much of the overarching story plot AFTER he wrote Unwind; you would have never guessed it was originally supposed to be a stand-alone. In UnWholly, suddenly everything becomes more complex. Understanding the backstory becomes our goal as Shusterman weaves information about the Accords and whatever else has become hidden by history-rewritten. By the end of this book, we definitely know where we want book #3 to go.

Maybe I am just overly excited, but I gave this book a whopping five!

By Elisa (@AverageAdvocate) at

“Inspiring the average American to change the world to end poverty and injustice.”


  • Sexual: Minor
  • Language: Moderate
  • Violence: Moderate 


  1. This series is new to me, but it sounds very cool.

  2. I've read Unwind, but not this one. Excited to check it out!


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