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:
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.