SPOILERS FOR UNWIND
This series is just so chockfull of balls and swagger, irreverent humor and heart that's never laid on thick despite the drama artillery it carries. It makes you think and feel and think and feel and just when Shusterman has lulled you into some "predictable" pattern of thinking and feeling…
At the end of Unwind, you never really get a sense that this was intended to be a series. Things ended clean for its protagonists Connor, Risa and Lev though the bigger story arc of this dystopic world leaves a lot of room for exploration. When you find out its going to be a series there's definitely going to be some reluctance at how well that's going to play out. The premise of this world, for me, feels like it teeters on the verge of emotional exploitation and agenda pushing that is safe to prod at a certain distance at a measured length of time… but to MARINADE on those issues at length for FOUR books? Can my heart take it? Can my brain keep itself from imploding?
Truth be told its scary to contemplate the questions Shusterman posts because they make me queasy with uncertainty. They always seem to end with a choice and a side-serving of second guessing and a dash of self-doubt.
Unwholly paints a more graphic picture of the repercussions the events in Unwind. The age limit for unwinding has been lowered to seventeen and as a consequence, black markets for body parts are steadily gaining popularity, voluntary adult unwinding is now a possibility and a media blitz for this option has taken on a frenetic, propaganda scale.
Connor is now the reluctant leader of the 700 restless flock of AWOLs in the Graveyard, burdened with the knowledge that the Juvies know exactly where they are and their survival rests on the grace of some unknown motivation. Risa is now a paraplegic, confined in a wheeled chair as a medic in the graveyard, also plagued with the psychological aftermath of the choice she made. Lev is now living with his brother in quiet notoriety as the clapper who didn't clap, serving out his sentence while trying to keep away from the limelight.
Each of them gets involved separately with the newer, and surprisingly welcome, additions to the cast (Miracolina as the tithe who wants to get unwound, Starkey as the stork AWOL with dangerous ambitions and Cam) as we go further down the rabbit hole discovering the reasons behind the Unwind Accord, better perspectives from tithes and storks and a new evolutionary conundrum in the person of Cam, the first man-made man created from the best pieces of hundreds of unwinds.
That last bit there alone. Ethical, existential and moral complexity level:
Not to mention how much I ended up liking Cam. He reminds me a little bit of Finn from The Mad Scientist's Daughter (who I love so very dearly) except less robot, more… confusing emotions. And that's one thing that I love about Shusterman's characters, they have that innate complexity that makes me understand and sympathize with them, even that foolish fool Starkey or someone as annoying as Miracolina.
"You're Catholic, isn't that right?"
"And you want to be unwound voluntarily."
"Well… if your soul leaves this world, then voluntary unwinding is no different from assisted suicide - and in Catholic religion, suicide is a mortal sin. Which mean that by your own beliefs, you'd be going hell."
Religion burn is the best kind of burn and I love how Lev handled that conversation and their many other interactions (the shampoo bottle incident was priceless). Also JesusLev…. can I just bask in the glory of having called that as early as book 1?
They are not there to be liked, they are there to trouble your hard-wired values, second guess your ethics and change it every ten minutes the more you think about it. In a way that makes you laugh at the most inappropriate manner and thinking you should feel bad about it but can't bring yourself to.
"You're a real piece of work, you know that? The apple doesn't fall from the tree."
And although Cam knows who he's referring to, he says, "I've got lots of trees, you'll have to be more specific."
But for all the sass and twists and awesomeness JesusLev was, I did miss the frenetic pace that Unwind set. Because a lot of Unwholly involved setting up and character building which is expected to drag but isn't something I'm used to seeing in second books in a series. I did feel like Miracolina's character felt like a reboot and re-exploration of Lev's in the first one. If she brings anything new to the table remains to be seen. Nelson's side story stuck out like a sore thumb for me because he's the only character that was without purpose save for his personal vengeance mission taking out the usual conflict I felt for the rest of the cast.
I like the direction the story as a whole is taking. This book opened a lot of more intriguing possibilities, planted an unknowable fear in my heart for our protagonists and, right now, Cam. Because that boy, his dreams and wishes all have the potential to give me THE FEELS TO END ALL FEELS and I refuse to let it affect me, refuse to be so invested in a character that has tragic hero written all over him, refuse to sign the permission slip to board that bus…
…But I have the sinking feeling I'm already too late. #help