Thursday, September 6, 2012

Review of Unwholly by Neal Shusterman

Simon & Schuster BFYR
Unwhollyby Neal Shusterman
5 Scribbles

Everyone thought that “unwinding,” the practice of using every body part from a living teen for transplant, was a humane way to solve two problems at once. After all, The Unwind Accord ended The Heartland Wars that began years ago between the pro-life and pro-choice factions, thus saving thousands of lives and resolving the abortion conflict once and for all in the United States. At the same time, unwinding gave frustrated parents a way to deal with their troubled teens. However, the solution of unwinding isn’t nearly that simple. Now, rogue crooks capture teens (whether Unwinds or not) and sell them for parts on the black market, religious extremists tithe their children to the Harvest Camps, and thousands of AWOL Unwinds are hiding in the desert—but that’s not all. A top-secret, underground group has an even bigger plan now that unwinding is legal, and readers will be shocked when they find out just what that plan entails.

Following the action-packed, tension-filled style of book one in the trilogy, Shusterman hooks the reader and doesn’t let go until the last page. Key characters return in book two, although they are much changed. Connor has become a burdened, brooding young man with more responsibility than he ever wanted—and yet he is in a unique position to understand and guide the AWOL Unwinds under his guardianship. Lev too has grown, although he has begun to struggle spiritually, not fully understanding what his purpose in life might be.  Risa, now confined to a wheelchair, becomes more of an observer, slowly watching her relationship with Connor crumble under the weight of his leadership responsibilities. Despite the heavy character development, however, the introduction of new conflicts and players creates grand culture clashes and skirmishes the reader will scramble to keep up with.  Clever and ironic Public Service Announcements riddle the story, encouraging teens to accept and embrace the special, “divided state” and advertise that unwinding is “an adventure.” Other PSAs encourage adult unwinding, voluntary unwinding, and repealing the 17-year age restriction for Unwinds. All PSAs conclude that citizens should see “Unwinding. [As] not just good medicine, it’s the right idea.” Yet, even more disturbing than the repeated propaganda is the appearance of a new, brainwashed character, Miracolina, who wants more than anything to be unwound for God.  And finally, but perhaps most importantly, is the introduction of a new character so disturbing and chilling that Mary Shelley would be proud to claim him, a character named Camus, who wonders, —“If a human being has a soul, then where is his?”

This timely trilogy speaks to the ethical dilemmas of our generation and promises to become a staple in YA literature. Applause to the next installment in Shusterman’s disturbing vision for the future of our country.

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