Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Review of Unwholly

UnWholly (Unwind, #2)
I was rather apprehensive of this book when I saw it. I took Unwind as a complete stand alone, and it's a terrific book, one that kept me thinking for days and one of my most recommended YA picks of all time. A sequel has to have its own story, its own voice, and something new to say. While I enjoyed reading UNWHOLLY, I don't think it quite succeeded in doing that.

Goodreads Book Description: 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 tissues for transplant might be convenient, but its morality has finally been brought into question. However, unwinding has become big business, and there are powerful political and corporate interests that want to see it not only continue, but also expand to the unwinding of prisoners and the impoverished.

Cam is a product of unwinding; made entirely out of the parts of other unwinds, he is a teen who does not technically exist. A futuristic Frankenstein, Cam struggles with a search for identity and meaning and wonders if a rewound being can have a soul. And when the actions of a sadistic bounty hunter cause Cam’s fate to become inextricably bound with the fates of Connor, Risa, and Lev, he’ll have to question humanity itself.

Rife with action and suspense, this riveting companion to the perennially popular Unwind challenges assumptions about where life begins and ends—and what it means to live.

My Review: 4 out of 5 stars.

OK. I may have given this book a bonus star to give a nod to the terrific first book because honestly, this book could not really stand by itself. 

I was a huge fan of the first book, Unwind. Shusterman came up with a world we hadn't seen before, and brought up countless ethical situations, which really made me think. It worked very well as a stand alone, so I was a little surprised and worried when this second installment came out. That said, there was no way I wasn't going to read it.

UnWholly by Neal Shusterman takes place a little after the end of Unwind. We are immediately introduced to a new character, Starkey, who is undoubtedly going to be the villain of the piece, who vies with Conner (our protagonist from the first book) for leadership of the Unwinds. We are then in short order introduced to new characters in the next few chapters-- all who have eerie resemblance to the ones we all know. Miracolina is the poster child for a tithe, a person who is raised to be unwound. She is our new Lev. And so on. The story revolves around these new characters, and the struggle of Connor, Risa, and Lev to keep their ragtag band of teenagers safe from being unwound. It's a thankless job. The most unique addition to this group is Cam, a composite created from many Unwinds, taking the best from them and putting them all together in one being-- a modern day Frankenstein. I believe that this introduction saves the book.

I don't know if Shusterman had the intention of doing a trilogy at the beginning. To me, it feels like he wasn't ready to leave this fascinating world of the Unwinds, and it was undoubtedly a runaway success. But this installment has the feel of being a bit tacked on, rather than its own story. I feel that for the first half, we see the first book retold from very similar characters, and from an evil character that is not very interesting. As I said before, the introduction of Cam saved the book from entirely repeating itself, because he was a fresher idea. Even then, what happened was pretty predictable. The book is well written and flows well. I was able to make it to the end and was interested enough to keep going. Since the first book was so good, I was a bit disappointed in this book, but not much, because I already had reservations going in.

Overall, a well written follow up to Unwind, but its content makes me wonder if Unwind should have remained a stand alone.

What did you think? Did UNWHOLLY live up to the hype? 

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  1. Never heard of this book, but you make it sound good! May have to pick up a copy now. :)

  2. I'm sorry you didn't love this one, however... you have sold me on the first one!

  3. AAH! I have some SERIOUS catching up to do! I can't wait to see where this story goes.... I need to get through my tbr list FASTER!
    Too bad this one didn't live up to your expectations, but it happens to most of the series' i've been reading. it sucks. Oh well, maybe authors will learn better some day.
    Great review!

    Rola @ xo'reads

  4. I LOVED Unwind and really enjoyed Unwholly, but I wish it had remained a standalone. That's not often something I say, because I love a good series...but it just felt so finished.

  5. Interesting take, but not surprising. The phenomenon of great first books, lackluster second books I think stems from the fact that (especially a new) author has a head full of ideas for a book, pours those ideas along with his/her heart and soul into that first book and it unexpectedly becomes a hit. Now the pressure is on by a publisher to produce a sequel (quickly) and you just can't capture lightening in a bottle on demand. I think the exceptions are when an author has written a first novel with a clear idea for sequels, but then you run the risk of it not feeling like a complete story on its own. Tough to balance.