Saturday, February 22, 2014


by Neal Shusterman
New York : Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, 2013 (hardcover pub. 2012).

Unwholly is the second book in a series: this is a ****spoiler warning**** for the first book, Unwind.

Connor, presumed dead by the authorities, is running the Graveyard, a home to the kids still under 17 who are in danger of being “unwound.” Risa works with him as a medic, in a wheelchair because she refused to accept the spine of an unwind – a teen who has been unwound into a “divided” state, with basically all parts used medically for transfusion and transplant. Lev, the former “clapper” who did not clap and detonate the explosives in his blood, has gone through medical treatment to make himself stable and is now feeling stifled, talking to kids in danger of being unwound but unable to speak out against unwinding either.

The book is hard to describe if you haven't read the first book, and would be hard to follow as a standalone as well. The future civilization Shusterman describes has an element of possibility in it: what if really screwed up teenagers were “unwound” to provide organ and other transplants? What if abortion didn't exist, but you could leave an unwanted baby at a doorstep as long as you weren't caught (a practice known as “storking”), with the expectation that the owners of the house would take the child? This series explores the implications of this dystopia, with no easy answers. Unwholly takes up soon after Unwind left off, continuing the multi-perspective switches between Connor, Risa and Lev, and adding some new characters in Starkey, Miracolina, and the “parts pirate” Nelson, who's after runaway unwinds (also known as AWOLs, the kids whose parents have signed the unwind order but who get away before they are picked up to go to “harvest camp”) for the black market. Another new character, Cam, adds another element to the mix as a sort of Frankenstein creation from the parts of unwound kids. Is he merely a conglomeration of all these parts, or is he more? Does he have his own soul? A creepy, fast-paced, and thought-provoking series I'd recommend to a variety readers.

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