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.