UnWholly (Unwind, #2)

By Neal Shusterman

50,470 ratings - 4.25* vote

It’s finally here. The long-awaited sequel to the bestselling Unwind, which Publishers Weekly called a “gripping, brilliantly imagined futuristic thriller.”Thanks to Connor, Lev, and Risa—and their high-profile revolt at Happy Jack Harvest Camp—people can no longer turn a blind eye to unwinding. Ridding society of troublesome teens while simltaneously providing much-needed It’s finally here. The long-awaited sequel to the bestselling Unwind, which Publishers Weekly called a

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Book details

ebook, 416 pages
August 28th 2012 by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Original Title
1442423684 (ISBN13: 9781442423688)
Edition Language

Community Reviews

Brigid ✩


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."



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.

Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin

These books are messed up! I still feel sorry for kids brought up in this world! I think I would rather deal with a killer clown!!! Mel ???

Jillian -always aspiring-

WHOA. I was always hoping there would be a sequel to Unwind (that ending was just too open-ended!!), but now that it's confirmed that there *will be* one. . . Oh my goodness, I'm so excited, and I know nothing about the plot (more twists, turns, and suspense, of course), the timeframe (taking place a few months or YEARS after the first book?), or the characters (same cast or not?). That is definitely the mark of a GREAT first book if I'm wondering about the sequel even YEARS before it may see print. :)

Anyway -- I love the word play with this title. UnWholly. Now, the *obvious* play comes from how it is a homonym to unholy -- like actions that are despicable, horrendous, and sinful (like how the process of unwinding itself can be perceived). On the flip side, though, "wholly" means "completely" -- so unwholly would be incompletely. . .like someone's body, mind, and soul after he/she has been unwound. (Those are the pathways MY mind takes with the title, though. :) ) I just love it. So inventive.

Neal Shusterman, you are very gifted. Oh yes indeed. I very much look forward to this sequel. Here's hoping you transcend even your own high bar and soar to make us readers all awed and amazed. :)


Is it possible to get a heart attack from reading a book?

Because these books should come with a warning label:
⚠️Unsuitable for readers of weak constitution.⚠️

I am blown away. What the hell else can I say about Neal Schusterman by now??

This was a worthy sequel to an already phenomenal start. There wasn’t a single moment of boredom and what makes it even more of an epic read? (Aside from the winning plot, that is?) The characters.
I can’t get over how utterly fascinating, incredibly fleshed out and well written each character is.

In awe. I’m in awe of his writing. The thought and care that goes into his characters and the way every loose thread brilliantly interweaves at the exact perfect moment.



I felt about UnWholly the way I felt about this season of True Blood.

I kid (and shamelessly take advantage of any opportunity to use an Alexander Skarsgard gif). But for the majority of the season, I was banging my head against the wall and yelling, "Stop trying to make Arlene happen!" And I'm pretty sure ifrit is Arabic for "waste of fucking time." But then just when I'm ready to wipe my hands of the show, it finally wraps up the extraneous storylines and gives me what I really care about -- Eric, Pam, Sookie. By the end of the season finale, I was completely reinvested in the story and anticipating next season.

Likewise with UnWholly...

Shusterman introduces three new characters who take up a good chunk of the novel with their background and development. While the characters weren't uninteresting, they felt like Unwind redux. Starkey is a less likable version of Roland, Miracolina is Lev 2.0 (or as I liked to call her, Tithe-1000), and Cam... Cam is a whole 'nother beast. Literally. Meanwhile, I'm thinking, "I came here for Lev. Bueller? Bueller?" The first half of the book felt like retread and what I did see of Connor, Risa, and Lev either annoyed me or wasn't enough. At one point, even Shusterman's writing started to grate on me. After he specifically mentioned Aquafina and Nike, I wrote in my notes, "WTF is this product placement? The most advanced technology exists and they still drink Aquafina's bottled sewer runoff?!" I actually like Shusterman's writing style but at this point in the story, I was so uninvested and detached that only nitpicking kept me engaged.

And then all the tedious groundwork came together and Connor, Risa, and Lev started acting like Connor, Risa, and Lev again. It's not that there was a lack of action earlier in the story, but this time, I actually cared and the tension increased tenfold. By the end of the book, I was sucked back into the story and eagerly awaiting Book 3.

Aside from the new characters, another aspect that may make-or-break UnWholly for you is the new development regarding the Unwind Accord. We learn more about how and why it came to be, which was a plot hole in Unwind. However, by filling that plot hole, it shifts the focus away from the abortion debate, which sets up a great storyline for Book 3 but also does a bit of a disservice to the issues raised in Book 1. For me, UnWholly lacked some of the heart and guts of the original, but still raised interesting questions and made me think. Shusterman also writes taut, tension-filled action scenes like few can. I'll definitely read the next book, but go in with modified expectations.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars.

This review appears on Young Adult Anonymous.


“Words don't hurt you." Which is one of the hugest criminal lies perpetrated by adults against children in this world. Because words hurt more than any physical pain.”

Not as perfect as the first book in the series but still pretty good for a follow-up if you ask me. Shusterman did justice to the characters, new and old ones alike. So the book picks up from where it left in book one when Connor was left in charge of the Whollies. The book kicks it off with a new character, Starkey, who I'm sure you'll find pretty easy to dislike.

Apart from Lisa and Lev who are still part of the story, we have some new characters accompanying each of our main characters journeys. What I loved about this book was that each main character had their own adventure in this one, it really made things more intriguing. Especially, seing how every piece came down together as one.

Maybe a reason why I didn't give this a 5-star rating is because I would have liked more back-bone story. Still, this was really good and I enjoyed immensely every second of it and if you loved the first book then you're sure as hell going to like this one as well.

What's more, Mr. Shushterman didn't forget a very important detail: that character development is really signifacant to having a great story. Connor, Risa and Lev, they are all more conscious of their actions, they have matured, seeing a greater picture other than just themselves.

Now, I won't lie that I had my concerns about this series when I had read the first book because I thought that because of the sensitive subject it breaches, it could get bad real fast. Thankfully, that's not the case.

Wendy Darling

4.5 stars Brutal. But spectacular. Review to come.


Actually, I really like the title :), makes me think of Lev...:)

I don't know whether to rejoice or start crying that there's a sequel to 'the best book ever- no I mean it this time dude', Unwind. Some authors and series should quit while they're ahead *coughMaximumRidecough*. But I'm sure it will be excellent. The ending was very open and that's how I liked it. It allowed hope and optimism.

The only thing I'm dreading is a Risa/Connor sex scene :P.

Robin (Bridge Four)

Buddy Read/reread with my peeps at Buddies Books and Baubles

Shusterman is one of my favorite YA writers. He writes in such an engaging and imaginative way. The alternating PoVs each have a different voice and the glimpses into the minds of even the 'bad' characters gives immense insight into their motivations. I liked this just as much the second time through and it still holds strong as my favorite YA series to date. Well done Mr. Shusterman, well done.

Even if you aren't a fan of YA or only give few YA series a try I highly recommend this well thought out series.

Original Review July 2013

4.5 Stars.

“Anger is only our friend when we know its caliber and how to aim it.”

Unwind left me reeling with complicated horrible ideas and shocking moments that really stick with you. The unwinding of Roland left me torn because he was such a horrible person but unwinding was so horrible and to witness it step by step was one of the most heartbreaking things in the book. That said Unwholly didn’t have many moments like that for me. Perhaps that is because how more shocked and appalled can you get after Unwind.

Unwholly was more about how a revolution begins stalls and tries to pick back up. It is about finding your place in the world and dealing with the consequences of actions both yours and others. Finding the truth about the past and trying to use that to build a future.

Connor is stuck running the Graveyard he has so many responsibilities and no time for anyone including Risa. He hasn’t come to terms with having Roland’s arm and is so afraid that he will hurt Risa with it he is avoiding her. The anger in him is building but he is trying to keep everyone safe. The juvies know where the graveyard is and are just waiting for an excuse to take it down for parts.

Risa is trying to get through to Conner but he has built up so many walls. She ends up in a precarious position as Cam (the first person made from all unwind parts) brings her into his life. Risa is trying to save the Graveyard but as she gets to know Cam she can see he is just as much a victim as everyone else in the Unwind game. Risa and Conner struggle in this book but I love that they never really seem to give up on one another no matter if they are together or apart.

“The sad truth about humanity, Risa was quick to realize, is that people believe what they're told. maybe not the first time, but by the hundredth time, the craziest of ideas just become a given.”

Starkey is a sociopath, but he is a sociopath with a cause. Being storked as a baby he wants to save all the other storked kids. But unlike Conner he is willing to sacrifice anyone and everyone else in his way. Starkey was the most disturbing thing in this book. The lengths and deceptions he was willing to go to were horrifying. Is he what the government has finally made to go against the system or is he part of the reason why the system is in place to begin with?

But the break out character was Lev!!! I loved Lev in this book. The insights he had and fumbling to find a new role in life had moments of both joy and heartbreak. Lev sees the role he played in some of the changes that came after he didn’t clap, but they didn’t turn out as he had hoped. He really wants to make a difference but where to begin. Now there is an organization abducting tithes in his name and treating him like he is the second coming. As Lev tries to save Miracolina from sacrificing herself to be a tithe you see the redemption he desperately is seeking for himself. It was so touching his story really inspired me.

Like Unwind this took off quickly and kept going. There was not a lot of down time something was always happening. The shifting POVs make the story more three dimensional. Seeing into the mind of the Cam and Starkey were the most disturbing for completely different reasons. While Unwholly shifted gears and changed themes the plot and story are so good you can’t help but be riveted. I can’t wait to see how things resolve in Unsouled. I will say well worth the five year wait in between Unwind and Unwholly.