UnWholly by Neal Shusterman

A sequel to Shusterman’s best-selling Unwind. I think publishers probably talked him into making it a trilogy in light of the success of The Hunger Games and other dystopian fiction series. It was a good move for all concerned, whoever had the idea.

UnWholly begins where Unwind left off: Connor and Risa are leaders at The Graveyard, an airplane parts yard in the Arizona desert, where teens who have escaped from the unwinding centers have taken refuge. Lev lives with his brother in an apartment under sort of probationary status, and he spends his time counseling troubled youth who are in danger of being sent by their parents to the unwind centers themselves. This new book includes:
trouble in paradise in the relationship between Risa and Connor,
evil parts pirates who sell children to the highest bidders so that their organs can be harvested,
a “storked” (abandoned) teen named Starkey who will stop at nothing to get revenge on his parents and to wrest control of The Graveyard from Connor,
a million dollar creature named Cam who is simply a conglomeration of parts from dozens, maybe hundreds, of unwound teens,
and Miracolina, a tithe (person who chooses to be unwound as an offering) who isn’t brainwashed but really, truly does want to give herself to others through unwinding.

This second book continues to bring up ethical dilemmas and give readers room to work through them in a story environment. If the idea of self-sacrifice bothers us as a society, do we have the right to force people to not give up their lives for others? When does the laudable goal of sacrificing oneself for others become the horror of suicide and self-immolation? What is real leadership, and how much responsibility should a leader take for the entire group? Does a good leader keep secrets that he thinks are too hard for the group to handle? What is the right way to deal with teenage rebellion? Do all humans need something or someone to worship? If so, should they be allowed or even encouraged to worship whomever they want as long as they are learning to become psychologically whole? What makes someone a “real person”? If you receive transplanted body parts from another person, at what point do you become not yourself, but some else?

Mr. Shusterman wrote UnWind in 2007. In the five years since that book was published, we have come closer and closer to the kind of society he describes. Already we have a “black market for body parts in Europe” and other places. Children are encouraged, sometimes forced, to become child soldiers in Africa and suicide bombers in the Middle East.

2 thoughts on “UnWholly by Neal Shusterman

  1. Just put ‘Unwind’ on hold at the library. I’ve been needing a good, gripping novel to read. Thanks for the review!

  2. Pingback: Sunday Salon: Books Read in January, 2013 » Semicolon

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