Book Review: Unwholly by Neal Shusterman

Book Review: Unwholly by Neal Shusterman

Series: Unwind (#2)
Shelved: Young adult (science fiction, dystopia)
Rating: ★★★★
Buy: The Book Depository
More: Goodreads

Unwholly is the second book in the Unwind series, so you might not want to keep reading this review if you’ve not read the first book.

Unwholly, for me, was one of the most highly anticipated sequels of 2012. Unwind was published in 2007 and fans were eager to know what happened to Ackron AWOL Connor, state home ward Risa, and tithe Lev. Unwind is one of my favourite young adult dystopian novels and I read it again recently, ready for Unwholly. I enjoyed revisiting the story and our three protagonists. I had forgotten about some of the surprise twists (there are plenty of them!), which made for a thrilling read, although I’ll never be able to capture the rush of excitement I felt the first time I read the book. It was also fun to notice the foreshadowing now that I already knew how the book ended.

As in all novels where world-building is an important part of the story, it was essential to discover a bit more about the origin of Unwinding and what was happening outside of the Graveyard. Unwholly takes place a year after the end of Unwind. The Graveyard is continuing to function just as it did when the Admiral was running it. Connor is the leader, but tension is bubbling under the surface. Will it suddenly turn into Lord of the Flies? It’s difficult for the characters – and the reader – to know who to trust, who’s being honest, and whose decision is best. A multitude of parallel narratives mean we receive information from many different sources – fractured, incomplete, and, like the fate of Unwinds, in a divided-state. Unwholly is littered with ‘advertisements’ from those who are pro-Unwinding, and genuine news reports that add chilling realism to the story, from depicting how teenagers are represented in the media to real cases similar to Unwinding.

Unwholly has a very different tone to its predecessor. Perhaps this is due to it being unplanned (Unwind was originally meant to be a standalone novel), or because it was written a while after the first book. But perhaps it’s because we have a host of different characters narrating the story this time round (yet it feels like our protagonists have never left, yet at the same time have become much more determined). Some of the new characters are unnamed and we may only hear from them once. Hayden is a character that I did not appreciate as much the first time round. He’s full of vigour and wit. He uses humour as a defence mechanism, but he has a way of seeing the world as it truly is, a way of looking outside of his own situation, which many of the other characters struggle to do. His personality shines throughout both novels and I hope to read his viewpoint in the third book, Unsouled.

Unwholly is a thought-provoking sequel to one of the original young adult dystopian novels. It challenges the judgements you may have made while reading Unwind, and throws up new challenges for everyone involved.

Thank you Simon & Schuster for providing this book for review!

Published: 28th Aug 2012 (US) 27th Sept 2012 (UK)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 402

5 thoughts on “Book Review: Unwholly by Neal Shusterman

  1. I agree, for me this one wasn’t as thrilling as the first book, but it still packed quite a punch. Great review!

  2. […] The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling A World Between Us by Lydia Syson Rage Within by Jeyn Roberts Unwholly by Neal Shusterman Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans (review held until in January 2013) Scott Pilgrim vs. the World Scott […]

  3. Unwind was good, but UnWholly was just so much better! I loved the fact that Shusterman introduced new characters instead of confining the story to the point of view of the old ones.
    Here’s the full review on my blog! 🙂

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