Thursday, September 6, 2012

Review: UnWholly by Neal Shusterman

UnWholly by Neal Shusterman
(Unwind #2)
Review by Maggie: September 6, 2012
Published: August 28, 2012
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Goodreads • Buy at AmazonKindleBook Depository

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.


  1. OMGosh, you know you're going to have to tell me about this plot-hole explaining back story. Or I guess I could just read the ending of this book to find out. I'm just so curious about how he explained that!! HOW?! Totally dying to know.

    Fantastic review Maggie - you sort of made me want to read this!

  2. Wuuuuuuut? I was supposed to buy this last week but my wallet disagreed. I loved Unwind so much and even though I was having second thoughts about UnWholly, I was still excited to read it. But, what plot-hole? I think I'll have to read Unwind again before reading this.

  3. I am a big fan of books that manage to pull themselves together when they start off so weak, so it's great that this eventually got it's act together!

    And yes re. True Blood, this season lost me after 2 eps, I was so bored, I don't know if I could watch more just to wait for the good ending!

  4. I haven't read the first one of this series but it sounds like I should wait until book 3 comes out to see if I even want to pick it up. Glad it picked up for you in the end. :)

  5. Meh. I was SO excited to read this because I loved Unwind so much but then I just...wasn't anymore. And now I feel good in my decision to hold off a little while longer. I do wonder if I will like it more since it's been a few years since I read it. Maybe the characters' similarities to the Unwind ones (lol @ Tithe-1000) wouldn't bother me as much.


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