Sunday, December 29, 2013

The UnWholly Unwind

The Akron AWOL is infamous. The other whollies worship him and the Unwind Culture despises everything he stands for. But behind the moniker is Connor. Connor is just a boy who made it to 17 and can't be unwound, but the weight of the world rests on his shoulders in Unwholly, the second Unwind book by Neal Shusterman.

Connor is in charge of the entire plane Graveyard. He has hidden over 800 AWOLs there, but the fact that missing kids slated for unwinding are hiding there is no secret. He isn't sure why the authorities haven't come to get them yet, but he takes each and every day as a gift. While he and Risa can't be unwound anymore, there are a lot of kids whose lives are in his hands. He can barely feed the kids he has, but that doesn't stop them from the constant rescue missions to save more. Of course, not every kid is as grateful as they should be, and some, like Starkey, have only their interests in mind. When a bunch of kids are barely holding it together in the face of imminent unwinding, all it takes is one very smart, very devious rabble rouser.

Meanwhile, Camus Comprix tries to find his way in a world where he shouldn't exist. The product of dozens of unwound kids, he is made of the parts of others. He was created, not born. When he struggles to find his way in the world with so many conflicting thoughts and memories swirling around his head, his handler feels a companion will keep him on the right track as the most revolutionary advance for humans in their existence. The only problem is the girl Cam wants is an unwilling participant in the experiment. When Risa is captured and blackmailed into joining Cam, she is forced to support the Unwinding movement, the single thing she hates the most. While everyone at the Graveyard thinks she has betrayed them, Risa is trying everything to hold them together. For a group of kids who no one cares if they exist or not, the responsibility sitting on their shoulders is overwhelming.

This was such an interesting follow up to Unwind for a number of reasons. First, it was a book that came out after a significant hiatus. Shusterman took a while to get this book together, so if you followed the series from its inception, you needed a refresher at the beginning of this sequel before you started the new story. But who wants to read an info dump or a recap? So Shusterman created a really ingenious "index" that catches you up quickly and efficiently at the beginning of the story so you know where you are without some silly recap. I also really liked how he balanced the story between the main characters from the last book, Lev, Connor, and Risa, and the new characters Starkey, Cam and Miracolina. The addition of the focus on new characters made it more interesting while still keeping me connected to the previous book.

On a whole, this is one of the creepiest premises I have ever read. I mean, seriously, unwinding kids?? People fighting to preserve the unwinding? The public service notices to convince people what a wonderful solution to abortion? CRAZY! But a brilliant fictional examination of just how far people can go and how blinded they can be in the face of fear and propaganda. It is the kind of series that can be related to everything from the Holocaust to the battle over same sex marriage or abortion. I love a book that is going to elicit passionate discussions from my students, and unwinding is definitely one that will get them fired up. But in addition to the infinite discussions, you will get wrapped up in a really crazy, really interesting story. Shusterman always does that to me!

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