UnWholly by Neal Shusterman young adult science fiction audiobook reviewsUnWholly by Neal Shusterman young adult science fiction audiobook reviewsUnWholly by Neal Shusterman

UnWholly (2012) is the second book in Neal Shusterman’s UNWIND DYSTOLOGY. You’ll need to read the first novel, Unwind, first, so I’ll assume you have. This review will contain minor spoilers for that book.

Connor, Risa, and Lev have each escaped being unwound, are hiding from the juvenile authority, and are determined to stop the evil practice of unwinding that their society has embraced. The plot splits into a few subplots as each teenager has their own dangerous road to travel in this installment.

An intriguing new member of the cast is Cam, a young man who, so far, is hard to figure out. That’s because he was created by a Frankensteinish scientist who fashioned him out of the body parts of many talented teens (we met one of those teens in the previous book). Cam was built to be an ideal human being but, when he comes to consciousness, he feels disjointed and confused. Will he embrace his superiority and enjoy the indulgent elite life he was born into, or will he turn against the institution that created him?

In addition to his loveable protagonists, Schusterman has created some really odious characters for this series – the kind you just love to hate. There’s Nelson, a body parts pirate who is eager to catch and sell high-value bodies such as those that belong to Connor, Lev, and Risa (plus, he’s out for revenge, not just money). And there’s Starkey, a competent stork (abandoned at birth by his parents) who is working his way up the ladder at the camp that Connor runs. Starkey has his own agenda and it’s not the same as Connor’s.

The UNWIND DYSTOLOGY by Neal Shusterman science fiction audiobook reviews young adultIn my review of Unwind, I mentioned that I had trouble believing in Shusterman’s premise, but his world becomes more believable in this novel due to additional history and press clippings and commercials sporadically placed throughout the text. From them we learn why citizens voted for unwinding and how the practice has profited businesses, parents, and other consumers. For example, one commercial advertises neural weaves made from unwound brain tissue that can be pre-programmed with any academic subject and implanted into kids’ brains so they can excel in school. You can see how parents might justify the unwinding of feral or troubled teens so that children who are loved and wanted can have the best life possible.

This moral dilemma is one of the best parts of the UNWIND series. Unwinding was a compromise between the pro-life and pro-choice armies but, through the clear eyes of our teenage protagonists, Shusterman does a good job exploring many of the ugly consequences of this decision.

As with the first novel, the fast pace of UnWholly rarely lags and the plot is never predictable. It’s exciting all the way through and my daughter and I were eager to pick up the third book, UnSouled, as soon as we finished UnWholly.

The audiobook, produced by Audible Studios, is narrated by Luke Daniels. We don’t love all of the voices he chose for Shusterman’s characters, but he does a fine job and I can recommend the audio version.

Published in 2012. Thanks to Connor, Lev, and Risa—and their high-profile revolt at Happy Jack Harvest Camp—people can no longer turn a blind eye to unwinding. Ridding society of troublesome teens while simultaneously providing much-needed tissues for transplant might be convenient, but its morality has finally been brought into question. However, unwinding has become big business, and there are powerful political and corporate interests that want to see it not only continue, but also expand to the unwinding of prisoners and the impoverished. Cam is a product of unwinding; made entirely out of the parts of other unwinds, he is a teen who does not technically exist. A futuristic Frankenstein, Cam struggles with a search for identity and meaning and wonders if a rewound being can have a soul. And when the actions of a sadistic bounty hunter cause Cam’s fate to become inextricably bound with the fates of Connor, Risa, and Lev, he’ll have to question humanity itself. Rife with action and suspense, this riveting companion to the perennially popular Unwind challenges assumptions about where life begins and ends—and what it means to live..


  • Kat Hooper

    KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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