Unwholly by Neal Shusterman
Unwind by Shusterman was a single book with an amazing premise: an American society where teens who were too unruly or too burdensome were unwound into parts for others to use. Fans of the first book will be delighted that Shusterman is turning that single book into a trilogy. Book two picks up soon after the first. All your favorite characters who survived the first book are here. Connor is running the Graveyard, a place of safety for over 700 teens who escaped being unwound. Risa is at his side, working to keep the teens all healthy. She’s in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the waist down. Lev is working with teens to try to keep them from being unwound by their parents, forced by the courts to do this. But wait, there are new characters too. There is Starkey, a boy who knows that he is destined for greatness and is sure he could lead better than Connor. There is Cam, a boy who was manmade from unwound teens, who is sure he is human though others doubt it. There is Miracolina, raised knowing she is a tithe and will be unwound. There is Nelson, the cop who was shamed when Connor escaped and who has not stopped chasing him. There is rewritten history that keeps teens victims. There is a large corporation working against them. And that’s just the beginning.
Shusterman does an amazing job here of juggling all sorts of different perspectives while keeping each personality distinct and fascinating. All of the characters, even the villains, have clear motivations and reasons that they see the world the way that they do. Some are blinded by faith, others by obsession, and still others by their own view of the world itself. His character building is well done, especially for such a large cast.
Shusterman continues to point out throughout the book how his concept is not far-fetched. By using actual newspaper articles that point to teens being vilified, he firmly ties his fantasy world to our own. The entire premise of the series is fraught with gray areas, ethics on both sides, and straight humanitarianism. It is in this gray area that Shusterman does his most powerful work.
There are moments where the momentum flags and the pace drags a bit. But that is a minor complaint and one that would never prevent me from finding out how the entire series ends. Here’s hoping for another complex and complicated book to complete the set! Appropriate for ages 15-17.
Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster.