Book Review of Unwholly: The Neal Shusterman sequel to Unwind
Book 2 of the Unwind Trilogy
The new release Unwholly by Neal Shusterman is the second book in the Unwind trilogy. The book is set in the future, after America has gone through a second civil war, which came to be known as the Heartland War. The war ended when pro-life and pro-choice armies reached an agreement which protected all life from inception to age 13. It also allowed "retro-abortion" for troubled teens, also known as "Unwinding".
The first book in the trilogy centered around a diverse group of teenagers that were all supposed to be unwound. Each had their own story and reason for being in this position, but by the end of the book several of them had escaped the Harvest camps and were hiding until they reach the safe age of 18, when it once again becomes illegal to Unwind them.
The second book, Unwholly, continues the story line of the kids that escaped the unwinding and also gives us many more details as to how and why the Heartland Wars occurred in the first place.
Recap of some of the Unwinding basics
If you have not read the first book, I highly recommend you read that before Unwholly. Since the original book was intended to be a stand-alone novel, there was a five year gap between the two books. However, the author did a great job of "summarizing" the key terms needed to understand the premise of the first book and refresh our memories. He placed this at the beginning of the book in a dictionary type format and it was very helpful.
Here are a few of the key terms:
1) Unwinding is the process by which the individual is dismantled.
2) The Unwind Accord is the law that states that 99.44 percent of the person must be used and kept alive in the form of a transplant. They are not considered dead, because the majority of them continue to live on in the various transplant recipients.
3) Once an individual has been unwound, it is called the divided state.
4) The teens are shipped to harvest camps, where the process of unwinding is actually performed. Think of a harvest camp like a detention center where the kids are kept until it is time. They are fed healthy meals and kept physically fit, because it is not to anyone's benefit if the donors are unfit.
5) Tithes are teenagers that were born and dedicated at birth to be unwound. Some religious and elite circles choose to tithe one of their children, similar to tithing money in today's standards. These children are raised being taught that they are very special and that becoming a tithe is their sole purpose in life. They are dressed in white from birth and treated very special. When they turn 13 they have a tithing party, like a sweet sixteen, and are then sent to the Harvest camps.
6) Clappers are teens who protest the Unwinding by blowing themselves up. Similar to suicide bombers, only the explosive device is themselves. They drink a highly combustible liquid and then when they cause the most damage, they clap their hands together and explode.
Preview of Unwholly
Unwholly: Has the future gotten better or worse?
After the "uprising" and destruction caused by clappers at Happy Jack Harvest camp, there were some changes. The Unwind Accords were not abolished, but the age cap for unwinding was lowered from eighteen to seventeen. This was great for all the seventeen year-old kids who were sitting in the harvest camps waiting to be unwound. They were all set free.
You would think this would be a step in a positive direction, however, society has become very dependent on the donor parts and begin to experience a shortage. The media and various special interest groups begin aggressive campaigns targeting parents and guardians to think of society's greater good. The black market for unwinding also increases dramatically and creates a very seedy underground network of bounty hunters who don't care if a teen is a run-away or kidnapped. Good money can be made for these kids and no one is regulating the black market.
Some lobbyists are trying to make it legal for adults to "voluntarily unwind" for profit. If you have been out of work for a year, you have a family to support and you are about to get foreclosed on your home--you could provide for them with the money you would be paid for your parts.
One corporation is even able to create a "superhuman" from 100% donated parts. Built from the very best donations of over 100 Unwinds and Tithes, this boy is closer to perfection than any other human being. But if he was created and not born, does he have a soul? Is he really human? Or is he a monster?
This dystopian society seems almost impossible to comprehend in today's world. But as we continue to see the value of human life decline and man's inhumanity to man, is it really such an outlandish possibility?
Heartland War mystery and other plot lines
The author Neal Shusterman originally had not planned for there to be a sequel. The storyline in Unwind, while still complete, did leave some open-ended situations. It was an excellent novel by itself, but continuing the storyline in 2 additional books allowed Shusterman to "fill in the blanks" and he created a rich backstory and intrigue into how the Unwind Accords and the Heartland War came to be. While Unwholly did continue with a few of the characters from the original book, it also added several new characters and started giving us brief glimpses into the shrouded mystery behind the wars and the accords. Just like real history, the victor gets to tell the story. So finding the truth requires some dangerous research.
Of course no teen dystopian novel would be complete without some love interests and teen angst. Shusterman is able to work in some of these themes fairly subtly and although the subject matter would lend itself to some graphic violence, it really isn't too bad. There was still plenty of excitement and suspense. I highly recommend this for both the young adults and not-so-young adults.
The third and final book in the series, Unsouled, should be released in the fall of 2013 and if it lives up to the first two books, it will well be worth the wait.