I was in middle school when I discovered Harry Potter. I got into it because I heard it was popular in the U.S. (Living in Europe, I didn’t really know much about its actual popularity at the time.) It only took a few chapters before I was hooked.
Occasionally I stumble across a book that blows me away. Bumped and Thumped, The Screwtape Letters, and The Man Who Was Thursday come to mind. One of those mind-blowing books I reviewed was Unwind, by Neal Shusterman. Now I’ve read its sequel, UnWholly, and I can barely wait long enough to finish this sentence before I tell you all about it!
SPOILER ALERT: This review contains spoilers for Unwind. If you haven’t read it, please check out my review, and then check out the book (literally, from the library, if necessary).
UnWholly picks up shortly after Unwind concludes. Connor and Risa are still AWOL and back in the Graveyard after the chaos at Happy Jack Harvest Camp. In the absence of the Admiral, Connor finds himself in charge of the hundreds of teens remaining in hiding despite the new law that caps the legal unwinding age at 17. Their romantic spark remains, but the pressure of being role models is getting to them.
Lev is living with his brother, the rest of his family having disowned him when they sent him off to be tithed. As a known criminal at the ripe old age of 14, he finds himself the target of those who used him as a clapper and those who would worship him as the source of hope for all runaway tithes.
Outside the sphere of the three main teens, a group called Proactive Citizenry has taken unwinding to new heights by forming the very first person ever “born” entirely from unwound parts. The world will come to accept this as their future, but is autonomy absent when you owe your life to your assemblers and the hundreds of teens whose bodies once held every part of yours?
The truth behind the Unwind Accord comes to light, the sanctuary of the Graveyard is compromised, and the teens we know and love—plus a few newcomers—face even more incredible challenges. If you loved Unwind, you will be on the edge of your seat as the unholy conclusion of this “science” draws toward its inevitable end.
In my review of Unwind, I mentioned my disbelief that the Life Brigade would accept unwinding as terms of cease-fire. In UnWholly, Shusterman reveals that there was more to the state of the nation than any of the teens know, a broader history than their classrooms taught. Knowledge is power, and as Connor learns the other side of history, he realizes the extent of the task he faces as an accidental leader.
The new characters are just as unforgettable as those we met in Unwind. Starkey, a stork rescued by Connor and the AWOL leaders, is a more formidable villain than Roland ever was. His story is a reminder of the power of a subversive mind to form an uprising. Miracolina, the donor baby who saved her brother’s life, is laser-focused on being unwound as a tithe, no matter how much others try to save her. Cam is made entirely of unwound parts, so does he even really exist? Can one person be the sum of many people’s parts?
Aside from Cam’s storyline, I found this installment of the “dystology” to be less philosophical and pro-life/pro-choice than the first. Religion finally emerges in earnest; it turns out that only the most extreme sects of any religion practice tithing. Politics came into play much more heavily, making this book rather more like The Hunger Games than the first. (That’s a good thing; I like The Hunger Games.) I’m excited to see what Shusterman has in store for the end of these characters’ journeys. It’s been a wild ride. I don’t think I’ve ever thought quite this much about what it means to be human and what it means to be free.
Featured image by YoLaGringo at Flickr.