Undivided (Unwind Quartet 4) review

Book: Undivided (Unwind Quartet 4)

Author: Neal Shusterman

Before I start this review, my first of 2015, I would like to thank everyone who read my blog in 2014, it really means a lot to me that so many people have read this blog especially considering that 2014 was my first year blogging, so thank you and I hope you all continue to read and enjoy my reviews.

The Unwind Dystology has been one of my favourite series that I have read in 2014, I can’t believe that I only found it when I was bored one day and searching for books to read on Amazon, as it’s one of the most amazing dystopian fiction series I have ever read, I would say even better than The Hunger Games.  I don’t know why it doesn’t seem to be as popular because it is truly amazing so if you are into dystopian fiction I would highly recommend these books.

The final book of the series follows  Lev, Cam, Risa and a whole string of other characters as they fight to bring an end to unwinding once and for all. Usually the ending of a dystopian series is the weakest book, but not so here. This book is beautiful, haunting, horrifying, exciting and emotional all at the same time, and I have to say I’ve never read a series where all the books are of such a high standard as the books in The Unwind Dystology are.  I know a book is good when I can’t stop myself from flicking forward in the book and trust me, I did that a lot whilst reading this one.

As with all of the other books in the series, Undivided is written in multiple characters POV’s, mainly from the POV of Connor, Risa, Lev and Cam but with the POV’s of other characters mixed in as well. The multiple person narration has always worked well in these books as it allows us to see what all of the characters are up to as they are not all in the same place at the same time. I love this setup because it allows for a much deeper story and a much wider scope than if the story was told from the same POV of two or three characters all the way through, and getting all the different perspectives of the main characters (and even some of the minor characters) helps you understand the characters so much more than if you just saw all the characters through their interactions with one or two main narrators.

The character development over the course of the four books has been stunning, most notably in Connor, who has really grown up over the course of the books, in Unwind he was just the classic juvenile delinquent and he still has all of the characteristics that I originally fell in love with but he’s so much more now than he was in Unwind, the journey he has been on is truly incredible, also Lev, who has grown from a tithe willing to accept unwinding, to young man convincing others to fight against and the same can be said for all of the other characters in these books, Shusterman is extremely good at developing complex, interesting, realistic characters, even the minor characters are well developed. I love how all the characters have flaws, no one is perfect and because they are all so complex, even if you hate the character you can still empathise to some degree with them.

I loved the development of Connor and Risa’s love story, that they didn’t just see each other and instantly fall in love, but that their relationship has grown and developed over the four books, but in a subtle way, so that their romance doesn’t overshadow the main plot, it just develops alongside it in a lovely way and I’m very happy with the way their story ended. I also liked that their romance was sweet rather than including a lot of sex scenes that wouldn’t fit with the plot (there is a moment where it is alluded to that they have sex for the first time, but it’s not outright described). They fit so well together as a couple and I’m glad that they got their happy ending (eventually!).

It’s one of those books that really makes you think, and you can’t stop thinking about it long after you’ve read it because the scariest thing about the world Shusterman presents is that it is not impossible, it’s quite a realistic thing that could happen if our government had a war like the one in Unwind because organ shortages do exist, and as he shows in the newspaper articles that are intercut with the different sections of the book, organ harvesting does happen in our society and there is a black market for organs. It’s not an entirely unfeasible premise. I also love (and I know I’ve said this before) that Shusterman is not biased toward either side of the unwinding debate, he lets you make up your own mind as to which side you are on.

I loved the way Hayden’s radio broadcasts and the advertisements were used in this book, it just all added to the world building and gave you a real sense of what was going on outside of Connor, Risa and Lev. Hayden in general is one of my favourite characters, I loved his radio broadcasts and the hijacking of the radio stations and that it was his plan to overthrow Starkey and. I liked that in the end he had quite a big part to play, as his broadcasts were one of things that helped gain support for the anti-unwinding movement. Could I have done with a little more of him? Maybe but I think the part he played was pretty much perfect.

I liked that this didn’t end in a violent war like so many of the other books in this genre do. They fought for a change in the system yes, but they didn’t have to overthrow the government to do it, all they had to do was open people’s eyes that what they had been doing was wrong and build enough support to right this wrong. I loved that Grace was the one who made the deal with the organ printer and that Grace was the one who saved the organ printer, and that she posted the letters to all of the parents of the Unwinds who had been through Sonia’s shop. It showed how valuable an asset she was in this book as without her the ending never would have been possible and she ended up being one of my favourite characters of the series. I thought the printer was going to be the main focus of this book, but I’m glad it wasn’t, because the book was so good the way it was done.

(Spoiler alert!) I said in my review of Unsouled that I wanted Starkey to die in this book and it did happen but what surprised me was the way it happened. I was not expecting it to be Connor who killed him, but this was one of the most haunting moments of the book-Starkey asks Connor to kill him so he doesn’t have to be unwound by a parts pirate’s (I will talk about him a little later on) unwinding machine and he does in a mercy killing, but when he tries to kill him with Roland’s arm he can’t but when he does it with his own arm he succeeds and I found that quite haunting. I think it also highlighted the fundamental evil of unwinding, that Starkey would rather die than have to be unwound.

I loved that Miracolina came back in this book, I’ve been waiting for it since she last appeared and I’m so glad she did and that she and Lev got together in the end. Their relationship, like Connor and Risa’s feels natural and unforced and was still a backstory to the main action. I also got what I wanted in that we had a scene of Lev, Risa and Connor together, however brief it was which was one of my favourite scenes in the book, since they haven’t really been together since the first book. I would have liked it if Risa had a bigger role in this, yes she was important in freeing the black market unwinds and saving Connor, but she didn’t really have a central role in anything that happened, which is sad since she remains my favourite female character but it’s difficult to argue that she hasn’t already played her role in the past three books, and I wouldn’t say anything was taken from the book with her not having a central role. Also speaking of returning characters, the admiral returns in this book which I thought was great since we haven’t seen him since Unwholly.

This book is action packed and full of twists and turns which I loved, it kept me on my toes most of the way through and I never knew what was going to happen next and even when I thought I knew, I was usually wrong and there were so many things that I just didn’t see coming. Shusterman’s writing is very good (bar occasional spelling and grammar mistakes, which is really an editing problem), he’s able to create whatever feeling he wants you to feel in his writing and you become very emotionally attached to all of the characters, whether that is in a good or a bad way.

I was expecting Lev to die, and he very nearly did but I was so glad he didn’t because whilst I started out hating him (he really irritated me at first), he has grown on me so much over the course of the books and developed so much as a character that it would have been a shame if he had died. I liked the idea of him having the names of all those unwinds tattooed on him, a physical reminder of what they were fighting for and a memory of all those who had been unwound, although I have to say, if I actually saw someone with names all over their body, it would most likely freak me out! I was glad that he was adopted by Elena and Chal, because it felt like he’d finally got the family he deserved, after his own disowned him and Pastor Dan died.

I don’t want to spoil this particular part, so let’s just say something happens to Connor that has been inevitable from the first book, and I have to admit I was almost crying when it did, but I think it was something that needed to happen and the way it was resolved was just…….amazing. I liked that this in a way gave him a link with Cam and that they ended up understanding each other considering that the context of their rivalry over Risa was gone due to the fact that Proactive Citizenry made Cam forget her. This particular scene will probably haunt me for a very, very long time, it’s almost as haunting as Roland’s unwinding in book one. You know that he’s going to make it out alive somehow, but that still doesn’t make the scene itself or his goodbye with Risa pack any less of an emotional punch.

This book also introduces a new villian Divan, a parts pirate (well kind of the boss of a lot of parts pirates really) and he was truly incredible. Yes he was evil, but he believed that what he was doing (unwinding teenagers with an automated unwinding machine rather than surgeons) was good, and at points you find yourself questioning whether his way is better (I concluded that it was just as bad). He had an element of humanity to him, even though he ran a business that was so horrific. I found his bonsai vases (like bonsai cats but with humans) and his organ made with human faces completely terrifying. He’s a truly worthy villian, incredibly pyschotic and yet somehow merciful (ie he didn’t unwind Argent fully and he let the Unwinds from his “harvest camp” escape). I liked that we found out a little more about how the parts pirates business works in this book, that was good.

I found that I liked Cam a lot more once he wasn’t obsessing over Risa, although that was because he was made to forget her, which some people seem to think is a cop-out but I thought it worked in the context of the last book. I liked the scene with him and Connor at the wedding and the scene where he finally let Risa go. I still don’t think the love triangle was really needed since it was always obvious to me that Risa would end up with Connor, but I did like the resolution to it. The scene with him in the roomful of Rewinds, where he found that he couldn’t kill them, was yet another touching one in this book. I loved that he took down Proactive Citzenry and gave Roberta what she deserved, and that at least in Hawaii, he became recognised as a person, because I think after all he’s done he deserves that and I think he is a person. He might be made up of unwound parts, but I think he has his own personality and that he really does deserve his personhood. I don’t really know what to think of his newfound relationship with Una, it’s kind of creepy that she likes him because he has her dead fiancé’s hands, but at the same time, they were quite sweet together.

I was a little annoyed that Connor never got the chance to give his letter to his parents, I was so anticipating that scene and yet it never happened, but as he did point out in the book, the point of the letter was in the writing not in the sending and he does reunite with his family at the end of the book, so that is something, although I was hoping for a longer scene with him and his family. Speaking of the letters, the chapter where the parents of Unwinds were shown receiving their letters, was so moving. The different reactions of different parents was very well done, and when I read the part where Roland’s mother received his letter and said that she should have taken his side and hoped he was still whole, I was so close to tears it’s unreal, because you know he was unwound. I also liked the chapter entitled Strangers as it showed the outside world’s changing reaction to unwinding.

I liked that Argent redeemed himself in this book (although I can’t exactly say how without spoilers) and that he actually became a somewhat likeable and sympathetic character by the end of the book which I never would have expected. He shows his clever side and really proves his worth in this book which I liked. His future is kind of left hanging, there are very few loose ends left by the end of the book, but he is one of them and I’d like to have known more definitively what happened. He kind of represents the ordinary person in this book, he’s not a hero like Connor or a villain like Nelson, he’s just normal. I loved that Nelson got what he deserved-having said that you can empathise with all the characters to some degree, Nelson may just be the exception to that because he never really shows any remorse for what he’s done, although I have to say I did feel a tiny bit sorry for him that his end was so grisly, but it was no more than what he deserved.

The wedding, where Una married Wil, I thought was kind of creepy, since all of the recipients of his unwound parts were grooms. I guess it was sweet it’s own way and of course very sad that this was the only way she could marry him, but it was still quite creepy and kind of unsettling.

I liked that everyone had their place in this final book, they all had their parts to play and everyone’s roles were equally important and I also liked the way he tied Proactive Citizenry, The Juvenile Authority and the Clappers together as it really made sense that they were controlling everything all along (and by they I of course mean Proactive Citizenry). We also got some more scenes with Connor, Sonia and Risa in this book, which I said I wanted so that was great. The way Sonia’s story ended was sad, but also in a way very fitting.

I liked the ending, I thought everything was tied up relatively well and that you could tell it was the end to the series and that there wasn’t another book to come (I’m glad he wrote this book instead of trying to fit it all into Unsouled because it would have been far too rushed). Yes I was still left with questions at the end, but I’m always left with questions at the end so that’s no surprise. I liked that it came full circle, since the story started with Connor and it ended with Connor and that he finally reunited with his parents. I don’t think I could really have asked for much more in the final book of the series, it was a true rollercoaster ride of emotions, and I thoroughly enjoyed every single minute of reading it.

This is a truly unique, incredibly thought provoking, exciting series of books, with wonderful characters and the final book was a fitting finale. It’s one of my favourite series of dystopian novels and if you like dystopian books, then you really should read these because you will be missing out if you don’t. I’m sad that it’s over, but grateful that I found these books on Amazon, because I’m not sure I would have found them otherwise. If these are anything to go by, I will definitely be reading more Neal Shusterman books.

I can think of only two words that would be absolutely perfect to end this review on, and they are these:

Nice socks

My rating: 5/5 for a truly wonderful series finale.

The next book I will be reviewing is Blue Lily, Lily Blue, the third book in Maggie Steifvater’s Raven Boys series, and you should get that pretty soon as I read it over the holidays, I just didn’t have any internet to be able to post the review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unsouled (Unwind Quartet 3) Review

Book: Unsouled

Author: Neal Shusterman

Unsouled begins directly where Unwhollly left off (slight spoiler alert for the end of Unwholly here because I can’t do this any other way) after the airplane graveyard was raided, 400 unwinds were captured and sent off for unwinding and Connor was rescued by Lev, with the two of them on their way to Ohio to see Sonia and learn more about her husband Janson Rheinschild and how unwinding came to be, so they can see if there is a way to stop it. Here is a synopsis of the book:

In the next part of Neal Shusterman’s gripping and thought-provoking futuristic thriller, Connor, Lev and Risa continue to uncover shocking secrets about the process of ‘Unwinding’ and the company, Proactive Citizenry, which created Cam, a teen made completely from parts taken from ‘unwound’ teens. There are plans to mass produce rewound teens like Cam for military purposes, and below the surface of that potential horror lies a sinister layer of intrigue… Proactive Citizenry has been suppressing technology that could make unwinding completely unnecessary. Will Connor, Lev and Risa ever be able to break free from the fear of Unwinding?

This book was a little slower than Unwholly but it did manage to grip my interest the entire way through which I would say makes it just as good. There are two new characters introduced in this book, Grace and Argent Skinner who Lev and Connor meet on their way to Ohio, as they are going through Heartsdale, Kansas. I didn’t really like Argent, I thought he was a bit stupid, especially when he posted a picture of himself and Connor together-he knew Connor was presumed to be dead by everyone after the Happy Jack Harvest Camp revolt and probably wanted to keep a low profile so why the hell would he take a picture and post it all of the internet for everyone to see?! He was also really annoying and so mean to Grace however I did like his scenes with Nelson the parts pirate, they were able to bounce off each other well and it made me like both of them a little more. I’m intrigued to see whether they will find Connor in the next book or not, I’m in two minds about this because if they do then it will make for a good fight scene but at the same time I want Connor to be safe, so I’m looking forward to seeing how that goes.

Grace Skinner is the other new character introduced in Unsouled. She’s Argent’s older sister and unlike him, I loved her. She’s feebleminded (called low cortical in the book) and so in eligible for unwinding even by parts pirates and yet even though she is, she seems to be smarter than everyone else which kind of made me wonder if some of the low cortical thing was an act-like she pretends to be less smart than she is maybe. I liked that her relationship with Connor was more brother/sisterly than her relationship with her actual brother (who is constantly rude to her), I thought that was cute. One of my favourite parts of this book was the scene with Grace and Connor and the juvey cop, I thought it was so funny and I especially liked the “nice socks” throwback to the first book. One of the things I think is so great about these books is that Shusterman manages to balance humour and seriousness very well, because with a book like this it’s easy to get bogged down in the seriousness and he manages to keep it just serious enough whilst adding touches of humour at appropriate moments which I think is great. As with the last book I love how unrelated POV’s link into the story and that he used adverts again, keeping us up to date on what’s going on in their world outside Connor, Risa and Lev.

Risa’s part in this book was a little smaller which I was disappointed about because she’s my favourite character-I was waiting until the second part of the book before I got to see what was going on with her. She had a great scene where she got trapped by a parts pirate and I thought it was so clever how she managed to get herself out but she doesn’t really do much for most of the book which was a shame as she is such a great character and I really wish I could have seen some further development from her this book. I did like her scenes with Audrey (a hairdresser she hides with whilst on the run) because it almost seemed like a mother-daughter relationship and as she’s a ward of the state we haven’t seen that with Risa before and it was nice to see one of the main characters doing something normal for once, like having a makeover even if it was in order to hide her identity. I also loved the tension Shusterman created between her, Cam and Connor and I liked that Risa got her revenge on the juvies on her own little way (you’ll understand when you read the book).

I also thought that the relationship between Cam and Connor was very well done, there was just the right amount of jealousy and rivalry but with some lighthearted humour. I wanted to see a big fight between Connor and Cam but actually I thought the way Shusterman did it was better, less outright fighting but more of an underlying sense of tension. I still think there may be a big fight between them because it feels like there was too much tension for one of them not to blow at some point although it’s pretty clear that Risa has chosen Connor, so I am hoping the love triangle story has ended. I thought that the fact that Connor didn’t immediately blow up at Cam is testament to how much he has grown as a character, he’s not as angry anymore and he doesn’t immediately lead with his fists without thinking things through, yet he still retains the qualities that made me love him (as I said in my review of Unwholly but I think Unsouled has taken his development a step further).

Connor and Lev’s relationship was also great in this book, I think they’ve really become proper friends now and I hope to see more of their relationship in the next book. I’m hoping that in the next book all the three main characters will finally come back together because two books apart is a little too long for my liking. I thought the bit where Connor hit Lev with the police car was particularly well done. As I did not read Unstrung before reading Unwholly (the e-novella between Unwind and Unwholly, I don’t think you need to read it, as far as I’ve heard it isn’t very good and I understood the bits that linked to that in here just fine), I liked that the Arapache reservation was included in this book because it ties together the loose ends of Lev’s story in Unwind for those of us who haven’t read Unstrung and it also tied in to Cam’s story as well which I will explain why later. It also showed a different culture which was great (they are native Americans, called ChanceFolk). It was nice to see Lev finally fitting in to a family and I will be interested to see if he manages to rally the Arapache to their cause or not (as he stayed at the Rez in order to do this).

I liked that Hayden had a larger POV in this book (he had a chapter in Unwholly) because aside from the main three, he is one of my favourite characters and a lot of the humour in Unsouled came from him. I liked his relationship with Bam, they had good banter and I see possibility for romance there, definitely more than with Bam and Starkey whom Bam seems to like. I still hate Starkey but I have to admit his ways of making sure the storks don’t get captured are clever, and whilst I thought he was an idiot to go liberating harvest camps and punishing the leaders of them, they did make for some good action scenes and it seemed like it was kind of reminiscent of the liberations of concentration camps in World War II. It also provided some scenes on the level of creepiness of Roland’s unwinding in Unwind, particularly when he hung five members of staff of the harvest camps to ceiling fans-I will not be forgetting about that anytime soon. I want to see what the clappers want with Starkey-do they really want Unwinding to continue and that’s why they’re letting him continue his “liberations”? I hope that in the next book Starkey gets what he deserves.

One of my favourite parts of the books were the flashbacks of the Rheinschilds, it explained how unwinding came about since without the technology the Rheinschilds created it wouldn’t have been possible and also why the Rheinschilds were erased from history because Janson was trying to work on something that would end unwinding forever. The fact that Sonia was initially so involved in the technology that enabled unwinding explains why she rescues AWOL Unwinds which I thought was great, in fact I wish I could have seen a little more of them. I also loved the way Sonia reacted to Cam when she met him, it was exactly like I imagined and it was nice to see Connor and Risa with Sonia again, I would like some more scenes with them in the next book.

There were some great links from this book to Unwind again, not only with the return of Sonia but we also got to see Hannah (the teacher who saved Connor and Risa at the school) and Didi (now known as Dierdre), the stroked baby that Connor and Risa rescued in the first book. Risa also met CyFi from the first book (the boy who Lev travelled with) which was a nice way to tie this book to Unwind. I did think the Tyler-folk (people who have parts of Tyler Walker, the boy whose unwound temporal lobe went to CyFi and makes him 7/8 him and 1/8 Tyler and causes him to steal) were very creepy though, I wasn’t sure I liked them much.

I wasn’t sure want to think of Cam in this book. I thought it was a bit silly that he basically abandoned his plan to take down Proactive Citizenry to chase after Risa, although I don’t think he’s abandoned it for good, and I bet we’ll see more of him and the others trying to take down Proactive Citizenry next book. I felt kind of sorry for Cam when he was captured by Roberta, I still hate her and I hope he gets his revenge. Cam was treated a lot more like property than a person this book and I’m not sure what to think of that, though the question is still up in the air as to whether Cam is a person, we’re not going to get a definitive answer to that so we have to decide for ourselves and I think that’s the point. Personally I think he has enough of his own feelings to be counted as a person. The link that Cam has to the Arapache Rez is that he is the recipient of Wil Tashine’s unwound hands and the Tashine’s are the family Lev stayed with when he first went to the Rez-Wil was taken by parts pirates saving Lev and other Arapache youth from being unwound. We got to see Cam interact with Wil’s fiancée Una and it was interesting to see the strange relationship between them, as we’ve never seen the relationship between someone who has an unwound’s part and someone who was close to the unwind before.

Connor’s family was briefly mentioned in this book and I’d quite like a scene with him and them in the next book, although I don’t think it’s likely, as Lev has had his scene rejecting his family, I’d quite like to see one where Connor confronts his.

Overall this book was very good, and I’m looking forward to seeing where the next book goes as the next book is the last one and a pretty huge revelation is made at the end of this book which shows that Unwinding is not necessary after all. I’m expecting some big battle or protest of course, but I look forward to seeing how everything works out and how Neal Shusterman wraps up what has been an incredible series of books.

My rating: 4/5

The next book I will be reviewing is Dark Places by Gillian Flynn, which will be the last of my holiday read updates and then you’ll have to wait a while before I finish the book I’m currently reading.

Unwholly (Unwind Quartet 2) review

Book: Unwholly

Author: Neal Shusterman

I was both excited and apprehensive about reading this book, excited because I loved Unwind and couldn’t wait to read what happened next but apprehensive because I didn’t know how the sequel was going to live up to the incredible first book. I shouldn’t have been worried because Unwholly was amazing! I’m not sure I’ve ever read such a good sequel book as this one. It picks up a year after the end of Unwind, Connor and Risa are running the airplane graveyard that saves AWOL Unwinds and Lev is on house arrest after his involvement in the Happy Jack Harvest Camp revolt. Here is a synopsis of the book:

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. Thanks to their high-profile revolt at the Happy Jack Harvest Camp, people can no longer turn a blind eye to unwinding. Ridding society of so-called troublesome teens might be convenient, but its morality has finally been brought into question and a new law passed. However, unwinding has become big business, and there are powerful political and corporate interests, not to mention the illegal ‘Parts Pirates’, that want to see it not only continue, but expand. 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…

This book continues Connor, Risa and Lev’s stories whilst also introducing some new main characters, the most important of which are Mason Michael Starkey (a stork destined for unwinding), Miracolina (a tithe born to save her brother who is now being gifted back to God) and Camus Comprix (who I will explain more about later in this review). I absolutely hated Starkey, he was pure evil but I think that means Shusterman has done his job right because I don’t think we’re supposed to like Starkey. At first I felt sorry for him, but as the book progressed I have to say I kind of understood why his parents wanted to unwind him (I’m not saying they should have signed the Unwind order but I understood). However I did like his scenes with the juvey cops at the beginning, it kind of reminded me of Connor’s scenes with the juvey cops in Unwind. Miracolina irritated me a lot at the beginning of the book with how she went on and on about how she had to be tithed (I mean seriously, who would actually want to be chopped up?) but I found her a lot more tolerable when she was with Lev as I enjoyed their banter together and by the end of the book I was actually hoping we’d see more of Miracolina and Lev together in future books (but I don’t think we will as I think Miracolina’s story was pretty much finished at the end of the book).

As for Connor, Risa and Lev, Risa is definitely my favourite character. I love everything about her, she’s smart, strong, determined, witty, sarcastic, caring and she’s just vulnerable enough that you feel for her but not so vulnerable that it’s irritating. I liked Connor too and I felt that he had developed this book, as in the last book he was very concerned with self preservation and he was reckless, but in this book he was much more concerned about saving the other kids in the graveyard and he was more thoughtful but he still has the same qualities that I loved from the first book. I liked seeing him as leader of the graveyard and I think it was a natural fit for him. I also loved the scene where the Admiral (who ran the graveyard from the first book) came back to kick his ass after Risa left because I enjoyed their scenes in the first book and I think he was the only person who would have been able to give Connor the kick up the ass he so desperately needed at that point. The one thing I couldn’t believe though was that Connor wasn’t at all suspicious of Starkey, I thought that was a little out of character. I liked that Risa had more scenes on her own in this book as in Unwind you only really got to see her with Connor most of the time and it’s nice to see her own personality shining through, however I do love Risa and Connor together and wish there could have been more scenes with the two of them in this book. I liked Lev a lot more this book, because now that he’s no longer a clapper or a tithe I think we’re being allowed to see his real personality which is great and he’s a lot more likeable. I also liked that Lev and Connor’s friendship developed a little in this book, I would like to see more of it next book though. I would also like to see more Risa/Lev interaction in the next two books as they haven’t really been together since Unwind. The one thing I felt was missing a little from this book was that the three of them did not interact together, I would have liked that but I understand why it wasn’t possible and the story was still great anyway.

Camus Comprix is the final new main character introduced in the book (there are other new main characters but Cam, Starkey and Miracolina are the most important) and he is the most interesting. Cam is a teenage boy made up completely of parts from Unwound teens, kind of like a twenty first century Frankenstein as the synopsis of the book says. I thought this concept of having a boy made up completely of parts of other teenagers was a very interesting one because it brings up the whole question of if he’s made up of other people who aren’t technically dead, just living in a divided state then does Cam really exist? I’m not sure whether I like Cam or not, he’s a little too perfect since he’s made up of only the best parts of a hundred unwinds it means he’s good at everything and supposedly very attractive (although from the way he’s described he sounds creepy looking!) and I didn’t feel we got to see his real personality shine through, we just get to see what his parts can do, although I think that was the point, since he doesn’t technically exist, he can’t really have his own personality can he? The introduction of Cam made for some very interesting new questions in this book. One thing I didn’t like was his crush on Risa, I thought that was unnecessary and that these books don’t need a love triangle, although Risa doesn’t seem to be interested in him in that way and I did think they had some cute scenes together. One thing that bugged me was how quickly she got over her initial repulsion of him, I mean I know time had passed from when they first met to Risa’s next POV but it still felt a little too quick for me. I liked that Cam’s crush on Risa was explained by the fact that he had part of Samson Ward’s brain (a boy who had a crush on her from the harvest camp bus in Unwind), I thought that was a nice tie back to the first book. I would like to see Cam and Connor meet in the next book though as I think that will make for some interesting scenes.

This book introduced a new mystery about Proactive Citzenry, who they are and why they want to keep unwinding going. We are also introduced to someone called Janson Rheinschild (who it turns out is Sonia’s husband-Sonia hid Connor and Risa for a while when they were on the run in the first book) who invented the technology that made unwinding possible, although he never intended for it to be used in the way it was. I look forward to seeing how this unfolds. I hated Roberta, the woman who we see works for Proactive Citzenry and created Cam and how she manipulated Risa into getting a new spine to replace her crushed one from the Happy Jack Harvest Camp revolt in the last book and speaking out in favour of unwinding. I loved that Risa did her big fuck you to her in her interview at the end.

I love that Shusterman ties all of his multiple POVs together so that even when he does one that seems irrelevant it’s importance is shown later in the book, I think that’s really clever. I also liked how he showed the effect of having Roland’s arm on Connor (he was given it after he lost his in the explosion of the Chop shop at Happy Jack) and that the “parts” seem to have minds of their own.

Nelson, the juvey cop from the first book who Connor shot with his own tranq gun was back in this book but this time as a parts pirate (basically illegal organ traffickers who gather up AWOL unwinds to unwind them and sell their parts on the black market). I thought that this was a good addition to the book but I hated Nelson as a character, he’s really creepy and his fetish for taking eyes from unwinds for himself was gross but I could understand his vendetta against Connor and why he wanted to hunt him down and take his eyes for himself. I thought his inclusion was a good way to tie back to the first book and I absolutely loved the way Lev used him at the end. The climax of this book was absolutely incredible, with some great action scenes just like in the first book.

Overall this book was great, maybe packing less of an emotional punch as Unwind due to the fact that Unwind has the unwinding of Roland in it, a book chapter that I don’t think I will ever forget anytime soon but Unwholly was great in it’s own right, more mysterious than Unwind. If you enjoyed Unwind then Unwholly is definitely worth a read. Shusterman is definitely on to a winner with this series and you are missing out on an amazing talent if you don’t read these books!

My rating: 4/5

My next review will be of the third book in this series Unsouled-which should be posted quickly as I’ve already read it, I’ve just been on holiday with limited internet so I haven’t been able to post reviews.

Unwind review (Unwind quartet book 1)

Book: Unwind

Author: Neal Shusterman

I had not read any books by Neal Shusterman before I read this one, the first in a series of four books (the fourth of which is being released later this year) about a futuristic society where unwanted children are unwound-essentially they are used as organ donors and so are supposedly not being killed but just living in a “divided” state-there are no cures for anything anymore, if a part of your body breaks down and you can afford it, you can just buy an unwind’s body part to replace it-this procedure of unwinding is the result of a pro-life/pro choice war-abortions are illegal, but parents can choose to have their child unwound between the ages of 13-18 because their child’s parts technically live on-just in other people. It’s an interesting concept and the book kept me hooked all the way through-it’s a chilling book with strong lead characters and the question of if all a child’s parts are used, is the child really dead, or do they just live on in a different state? Here is the synopsis of the book:

Connor’s parents want to be rid of him because he’s a troublemaker. Risa has no parents and is being unwound to cut orphanage costs. Lev’s unwinding has been planned since his birth as part of his family’s strict religion. Brought together by chance, and kept together through desperation, these three unlikely companions make a harrowing cross-country journey, knowing all the while that their lives are hanging in the balance. If they can survive until their eighteenth birthdays, they can’t be harmed. But when every piece of them, from their hands to their hearts, are wanted by a world gone mad, eighteen seems far, far away…

The book follows the three characters mentioned above, Connor Lassiter, a sixteen year old who constantly gets into trouble, Risa Ward (all children who are in the care of the state have the surname Ward) a fifteen year old ward of the state who is a victim of budget cuts and Levi “Lev” Calder who is a thirteen year old tithe-his parents had him specifically so he could be unwound (as a way of giving back to God). The book is written in third person present tense which was a little strange for me at first, since not many books are written like this but once you get used to it, it’s easy enough to follow. The book raises many interesting ethical issues such as-is it acceptable to make organ donation compulsory and where should we draw the line? Does anyone have the right to decide whether other people should live or die? (even though the people who are unwound are not classed as dead), what is consciousness? Can organs remember the body that they came from? and of course is Unwinding murder or are unwinding and death different things?

The characters themselves are likeable-Connor and Risa (who are the couple in this book-don’t worry though, romance is definitely secondary), make a great team as he is the impulsive, rebellious type (yet also extremely loyal to his friends) whilst she is intelligent one who is good at planning and being able to read people’s emotions. Lev was a little harder to like at first as he starts out a wimpy, religious fanatic kid who is willing to be unwound but as the story unfolds he becomes a more likeable character. They all have strong personalities and you have very strong feelings on who you want to survive (or not in one particular character’s case). The characters all by one means or another escape their unwinding and go on the run, hoping to stay hidden until they reach eighteen when the state can no longer touch them.

The story works because the premise behind it is not implausible-admittedly I can’t imagine any parents who would want to have their child unwound, but with the need for organ donors and the situation in their society when the bill was passed, the reason for unwinding is logically presented and it’s not impossible that in desperation a society (even ours) could turn to a solution like unwinding and this makes the concept all the more frightening as it is not something that is completely impossible.

As well as the main story of these three teenagers on the run, there is a subplot of a mysterious, legendary teenager called Humphrey Dunfee (who turns out to be more than a legend but I don’t want to spoil anything) and a father who was involved in drawing up the bill of life and ended up paying a huge price for it, but has spent his life since trying to save these Unwinds from going to harvest camps. There is also a teen called CyFi who received part of a teenager’s brain and has no control over this part of his brain as that part of the brain still thinks it’s in the unwound teenager’s body.

The harvest camps were horrific-they look like idyllic summer camps with beautiful surroundings and pastel colours (no red as it is the colour of anger, aggression and probably most importantly death) with surgeons dressed in colourful scrubs and guards in cheerful clothing which really only serves to remind of the evil beneath the surface-one of the most chilling details is that there is a band stationed on the roof of the unwinding centre (known as the chop shop to the teens) who play as the teens go in for their unwinding-I found this particularly creepy. The camps are a shade of the world war two Nazi death camps. The most disturbing part of the book, without a doubt is when we are taken through the unwinding of a teenager (not going to say who), and the teen is fully conscious throughout-they know exactly what is happening to them but they can’t feel any pain. The child is taken apart and their parts redistributed in just 3 hours nineteen minutes and the process is all very clinical and unfeeling-it’s a horrible thought that a human life can be ended in just over three hours and in such an emotionless way and that chapter stayed with me for a while after reading.

Overall Unwind is a thought provoking, chilling, action packed, incredible read with strong characters (the third person present tense also allows us to see the thoughts of minor characters that the main characters meet along the way) who are well developed and well thought out through the story and we get to see the point of view of Unwinding from all sides-the teenagers who are going to be unwound, the people who carry out the unwinding, the parents and people who decide which teenagers are to be sent off to be unwound and someone who helped the bill of life (and therefore unwinding) be passed in the first place-you get a good idea of all the views but ultimately Shusterman leaves it for you to decide your own stance on unwinding. I was hooked throughout, and although it is billed as like The Hunger Games, I think it’s one of the most unique books I’ve ever read and would definitely make a good movie. I am thoroughly looking forward to reading the sequel Unwholly.

My rating-5/5

The next book I will be reviewing is the first book in the Divergent trilogy-Divergent by Veronica Roth.