UnWholly – How Do We Define Human?

Book Review: UnWholly
By Neal Shusterman

Spoiler Alert!



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 simltaneously 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.
(Courtesy of goodreads.com)

Adult Point of View

It has been quite a while since I read Unwind and I didn’t review it prior to reading UnWholly. I like how Unwind left an ambiguous ending and unanswered questions. In UnWholly some of those questions are answered, such as why the Juvies would leave them alone in the Graveyard when they know they are hiding there, and new issues are raised. Overall, I didn’t feel like UnWholly was as strong of a novel as the first and actually wish it had been left as a stand alone novel.

On the good side, Shusterman has developed the existing characters. Connor’s perspective has changed as he is trying to care for hundreds of kids. Risa is willing to make a personal sacrifice, that she believes will be better for Connor and the other kids at the Graveyard. She also learns to see humanity in a new way as she comes to know Cam. Lev discovers that he has been seeking forgiveness, and is changed when he unexpectedly receives. New characters are also introduced. Starkey is completely unlikable from the beginning. Starkey’s motivation is well thought out and his sequence of actions to bring himself power are credible.

The new ethical question in UnWholly centers around the creation of life.  When does life begin, and what constitutes a human, and where is the human soul? Cam has been created through 99 unwound people to assemble the best of what it means to be human. At what point does Cam become human? He is aware of his own existence, he has feelings, and he makes his own choices. It is interesting that Cam chooses to rebel and commits himself to take down the very institution that created him out of a passionate attachment to Risa and consequently her ideals as an expression of his humanity. (The seeds have been sown for a love triangle, and I hate love triangles! Yuk!)

Other questions are answered like the beginnings of the unwinding movement, the science that began the hope of helping others and pointers to how to end the monstrosity of taking life with abandon. UnWholly ends on another cliff hanger. I would have liked to see more out of UnWholly, perhaps a more polarized society or stronger ethical questions raised. It felt like it was supporting the first novel and didn’t move forward enough. In ways, I hate to see this series wound up in a tidy package with all the problems solved. The strength in Unwind was the unsolved issues – more of a dystopian with a dark ending.

There are moments of crass language and sexual innuendo in addition to strong ethical themes. It’s probably best for ninth grade and up.

3.5 out of 5 stars

  • the Mother

About Tales Untangled

I am a mother of four children and have a passion for reading. I love sharing my treasury of books with my kids. I also do experiments in cooking which includes such things as Indian Tandoori Chicken slow-cooked in a tagine. I write stories and illustrate in ink.
This entry was posted in young adult book reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s