Monday, October 29, 2012

Dystopian Pick: Unwholly

by Neal Shusterman
Simon & Schuster
402 pages

Disturbing, chilling, dark, and sickly dystopian, Unwholly is a tour de force. This is the second book in the Unwind series, and Shusterman is superb!

Captivating but broken characters carry the plot along. Unwholly is set in the not so distant future where medicine can cure just about anything. Parents who can no longer “parent” turn to a system that can take their errant teen off their hands. The kids get shipped off to a facility where they are unwound, or basically taken apart and sold for parts. One arm here, one eye there, one spinal cord over there. Of course, the parents think they’re doing the right thing—allowing their broken teen to live on in many other people. Imagine, a blind boy getting new eyes, a cripple walking, a car accident victim given another limb. What a great program, the parents think.

Some teens are able to escape and form a resistance movement. Led by the Akron AWOL, or Connor Lassiter, the teens live in the Phoenix desert holed up in an airplane graveyard. Connor is getting nervous. He knows the Juvies, sadist cops who turn in Unwinds, know about the graveyard and know that there are hundreds of kids living there. Why aren’t they making a move, Connor wonders. Why are they leaving us alone, he asks. When he finds out there’s a traitor in his own camp, he realizes that the kids may have to make a run for it.

Risa, Connor’s sometime girlfriend, is captured and becomes the face of Proactive Citizenry—the organization responsible for thousands of teens’ unwindings. Not only that, Proactive Citizenry has a new project on its hands—it’s produced the very first artificially developed human Camus. Camus is a scientific and genetic miracle to behold. He is made from over 100 different Unwinds and was developed to show the public what the future holds. Cam falls in love with Risa but she turns on him; he promises he will never let her go; he will search for her forever.

The camp is compromised and the kids are in for a huge fight. Just when Connor and Lev think it’s over, they see the milk of human kindness. Unwholly sets up nicely for book 3—where some important questions will be answered and the plot will UNWIND (pun definitely intended).

Shusterman belongs in the ranks of sci-fi giants George Orwell and Ray Bradbury. Unwholly is wholly great! I raced through this book, and teens will, too. Don’t pick this one up unless you’re ready to stay up until the wee hours.

Highly, highly recommended grades 7-up. No sex. One g-word.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I purchased this book for my library. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

This review has been posted in compliance with the FTC requirements set forth in the Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (available at


  1. Sounds grim, but good! Terrific cover art as well! :)

  2. I have it in my library too. But, I have to ask, what is the "g-word"? I have wracked my brain trying to think of what it could be. Is it the "G-D word"?

    1. It is the g d word, Lisa. Good to hear from you! Pamela

  3. Shusterman is a great author - I have gotten several of my reluctant readers to read (actually listen to) his books.