Shelby's Reviews > UnWholly

UnWholly by Neal Shusterman
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's review
Jan 20, 2015

really liked it
bookshelves: scifi-dystopia, love-triangles, male-pov, disappointing, ya
Read in September, 2012

3.5 stars. I KNOW. I'm disappointed. Some spoilers below.

UnWholly is still a great sequel, but it isn't Unwind. Reading UnWholly still unnerved me, but it didn't shock me speechless as much as I thought it would. I remember reading Unwind several years ago and marking it as one of my favorite dystopian books ever. I've reread Roland's unwinding scene several times since then, and I'm still blown away by the very concept of the book. Unwind ate away at my head with its pitch perfect blend of action and suspense. In a way, it sort of sucks that Unwind is just so memorable and perfect because I held UnWholly to the same standards.

In a perfect world, middle books carry on the legacy of the first book and set up the final climax of the third and last book. Unfortunately, I felt like Shusterman focused too much on setting up the final Unwind series installment, so he neglected instilling the signature tension in UnWholly. The book has a stagnant feeling to it almost immediately. The action is mostly saved to the very last couple of chapters; up until then, it's all exposition. I missed reading about Lev, Risa, and Connor's fast paced run from the law. Actually, I missed reading about Lev, Risa, and Connor as the infamous Happy Jack trio in general.

Instead of limiting the perspectives to his past three protagonists (separated after the explosion), Shusterman added more characters and chapter POVs. The additional narrations adds depth to the story's world but it also diluted the overall cohesiveness of the plot. There are really 4 completely different plot lines instead of one fluid story. There are also two new main characters: Cam and Starkey. With two extra narrators, the veteran characters' airtime is restricted. Lev, Connor, and Risa all have shortened narrations, and much of their stories are told from outside perspectives. Also, there are just some miscellaneous character POV chapters too. It was interesting to read about random AWOLs' captures by parts pirates, but it didn't do anything for forward plot movement.

UnWholly excellently fleshes out more of the Unwind universe. Shusterman elaborates more on the Heartland War, "feral" teens, storking, which wasn't touched upon thoroughly in Unwind. Cam also was the one new character I enjoyed reading about (I'm very sure no one will like Starkey). I absolutely adored his metaphorical way of speaking. It is a brilliant idea on Shusterman's part. The only complaint I have is the insinuated future love triangle between Cam, Risa, and Connor. Cam could shine so brightly without the tangle of romance. If Unwind proved anything, it proved that a book can be superb without romantic drama. Also, I just think it is very out of character for Risa to leave Connor when Cam's love for Risa is based on a memory.

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