Finished re-reading this! And I think I loved it even more the second time. For some reason, I'd kind of forgotten everything that happens in this one (I think I read it too fast the first time), so I'm glad I took the time to read it again––and this time I went through it a bit more slowly/carefully.
For once, I feel like my original review is pretty solid and covers almost everything I have to say about this book. I'm always blown away by Shusterman's writing, world-building, and characterization. UnWholly
is a brilliant sequel to Unwind
––and like it's predecessor, I love how haunting, thrilling, and morally complex it is.
I still haven't read books three and four yet, but I'm excited to see what they have in store!
Old review under the cut.
----------Original Review (1/16/13):
Putting out a sequel five years after the first book came out is pretty risky. And honestly, I was a bit skeptical. I mean sure, I was excited, because I get excited for everything Neal Shusterman writes. But still ... I'd spent several years with Unwind
lodged in my brain; even though I read it when it first came out about five years ago, so many of its details are still crystal-clear in my mind. It's such a memorable and brilliant book, and I'd basically put it up on a pedestal. Therefore, I had really high expectations for this book and I was nervous that they wouldn't be met.
But they were. Oh, they were ...
Now, did I love UnWholly
as much as Unwind
? That's hard to say. While of course they have their similarities, I think they're very different books. Also, I have more of a sentimental attachment to Unwind
and that probably affects my judgment a bit. I think I still love Unwind
more. But don't get me wrong, its sequel is amazing.
As far as picking up where the first book left off, Shusterman does a brilliant job. I was afraid I would have forgotten some of the important details of Unwind
(I probably should have re-read it first, but oh well), but I can't think of a time in UnWholly
when I felt too lost for any reason. Shusterman does reference back to the first book a lot, but without info-dumping and only when it's important/relevant to the story. I found that a lot of the time, he would mention a pretty small detail from the first book and I would still remember it. So, it could be that the details of the first book were just so memorable, but I also think Shusterman did a great job reminding the readers of what had happened in book one.
Secondly, the characters were handled so well in this book. First of all, it was great to see our heroes from Unwind
again––Connor, Risa, and Lev. All three of them have matured and changed a lot and have become legends in the world they live in, yet they still are the same people and they seem like real kids. They all have to deal with the mess left behind after the events of Unwind
, and I could really feel their struggle. My hearts went out to them ... poor babies. But on top of that, Shusterman adds a very compelling new group of characters––including Cam, Miracolina, Starkey, and Nelson.
Man, I don't even know how Shusterman manages to have so many characters and yet make them all so distinct from each other and make them all so interesting. This is something that also impressed me in his Skinjacker
series (which is also incredible). It seems like when he writes a series, with each book he piles on more and more new characters, and somehow he manages to keep it all from spinning out of control. That is an impressive feat, my friends. Every one of the new characters was compelling, served an important role in the story, and gave the reader something new to think about.
The idea of Cam was just freaking brilliant. I mean, a person made entirely out of Unwind parts? *Shudders* It's super creepy, but at the same time I feel like that's something that would actually happen (if the events in this story really occurred, I mean). It's really interesting to see how Cam has to adjust to having so many different Unwind's thoughts and memories, and how even though he has the mind of several different people, he still struggles to become his own individual person.
And Miracolina ... GAHHH I LOVE HER. Of the new characters, she was probably my favorite. Her backstory is incredible and thought out so well. Her relationship with her parents is so twisted and heart-breaking. I loved seeing her change throughout the story. Basically she was super badass and awesome. And her relationship with Lev is so adorable."So," says Lev, as casually as he can, "you wanna dance?"
"Do you believe in the end of the world?" she responds.
Lev shrugs. "I don't know. Why?"
"Because the day after that is when I'll dance with you."
AWWW MY BABIES.
Then there were characters like Starkey and Nelson, who were just terrible people. And yet, I couldn't really bring myself to hate them just because they were such good characters. And that's the thing I love about Neal Shusterman's characters ... Even the really despicable ones (another good example being Mary from the Skinjacker
books) almost don't really feel like "villains" just because Shusterman has thought out their stories so well and makes the reader understand why they've become the way they are.
In addition, Shusterman gives us a lot more to think about in UnWholly
. While of course the first book was thought-provoking, he adds a lot of elements into the sequel that give the reader more to consider. I think that, in this book, he does a brilliant job showing how both sides of the conflict can be manipulative––both those who are for Unwinding and those who are against it. Not only that, but I love how he mixes real-life news articles into the book that show how the concept of the story isn't all that unbelievable. While I don't think Unwinding could ever actually happen (just because it's scientifically impossible), I could see it maybe happening if it really were an option. As Shusterman demonstrates, society does have this overwhelming hatred towards teenagers, and in the media they are often portrayed as "feral" and inhuman. So, it's pretty scary stuff.
And of course, the plot was amazing. Even with so many characters and so much going on, Shusterman handles it fantastically. The plot is fast-paced and never stops moving, but it doesn't get confusing either. I spent most of the book pretty much like this:
So yeah, it was super exciting.
Over all, this book was just the bee's knees. It's compelling, it's moving, it's heart-wrenching, it's brilliantly paced ... and altogether it was a very strong sequel. I'm excited to see what's in store for the characters in book three.