Be Better Than The Gap

UnSouled (Unwind, #3) - Neal Shusterman



"Sometimes Lev, I just want to smack you."

But I'm getting way ahead of myself there. It's probably the disorientation talking because I'm still reeling from the WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED??? pinging inside my brain. This review will probably echo a lot of 2-star sentiments but I ended up giving it a hopeful 3 because something about Connor still reminds me a little of Jack Bauer.

The biggest chunk of the story concerns Lev and Connor on their way back to Ohio, to uncover the mystery behind the Rheinschilds and their old, severed ties with the Proactive Citizenry (PC). But the road to Akron is paved with wayward ostriches, small-town idiots and, unbeknownst to either, vengeful former Juvey cops. A few of these end up hampering our two heroes with health issues (of course) and Raymond Babbitt Grace Spinner, a low-cortical strategy savant. This forces them to make a pit-stop to the Arapache Reservation to seek ironic asylum since Lev pretty much left the place burdened with guilt and pain back in Unstrung.

Risa has escaped the clutches of Roberta's public relations machine and eventually finds sanctuary in a revival commune with a person from Lev's past. While Cam continues to be the poster boy for PC's Rewinding campaign while secretly hatching plans to destroy the organization in the name of Risa's love. 

The members of the Stork Club who survived the plane crash are now being led by Starkey and Bam as a full-fledged terror group wreaking havoc and liberating unwinds from harvest clinics.

Now put all of those together in a box, shake well and throw them in the air. Who ever lands closest to each other will eventually find their way to that group's quest/mission/personal space in five chapters or more. 

Connor realizes that everything has now changed, and their lives have become infinitely complicated.

I don't know if that was a joke, considering how apt and how often this applies to every plot progression this series ever dished out. But there's a limit to how much I'd enjoy these kinds of twists. Too often it just becomes a pointless whim (what's the point of the Nelson chapters again?). To be blunt, Risa and CyFi's encounter felt bizarre and senseless. Does Risa really need to meet CyFi to "galvanize her belief to end unwinding once and for all"? Risa, the girl who opted to be a paraplegic than get a new, unwound spine? That Risa? 

Speaking of, Risa's easily one of the strongest heroines I've read in a while and I really liked how she ended in Unwind. InUnwholly she gets a new pair of legs. Here, she gets a makeover, because she's on the run and needs a disguise. But I'm starting to feel I've lost the Risa I've loved from Unwind as she gets reconstructed to *that* kind of heroine. You know, the one in the middle of a love triangle? The way she was written in the Akron scenes was just like jumping from a cliff and taking ten paces back from where her character has evolved so far. I had high hopes that Shusterman, with all the existential conflict he so smartly presents, would handle the Connor-Risa-Cam story line with better treatment but with how things ended here, I am very nervous. 

Speaking of conflicts, this somehow left me feeling hollow after finishing it. I do realize that the pit stops Lev, Connor and Risa encountered here somehow functions as a last temptation of sorts. Seducing them from their quests, making them second guess their capabilities to exact any change. But the execution leaves a lot to be desired. Once I finished Unwind and UnwhollyI found myself questioning existence, the concept of the soul and the ethics behind the prospect of unwinding should it be a scientific reality. Once I finished Unsouled I am left with an unresolved love triangle, an unrecognizable Lev and the promise of Una and the Arapache's bigger roles in the next book. 

I could hardly recognize Unsouled as part of this dystology were it not for Hayden, Bam and Starkey's story line and Connor's dynamic with "Roland" (the "Spank the monkey with your own damn hand" was just golden). I liked Grace as a new character, I just wish she wasn't stuck with the company she was with in the majority of this book.

The narrative was clunked down by the endless recapping and the humor fell flat more often than not. The shaky logic that I was willing to let pass in the first two books were piled on with more questionable developments. It's almost as if this book is hell bent on REVERSE CONVINCING me that it makes sense. Cam's charm just brushes with arrogance and douchiness a little too often and I can't even start with Lev without wanting to hurt something fluffy.

For something that started with such a radical premise, this somehow devolved into a stereotypical young adult romance with excessive padding of unnecessary characters and the bizarre need for everyone in this story to know everyone else. Is there going to be a tea party at the end and these are pre-emptive measures so no one gets awkward? 

I would still pick up the last (please tell me its the last) book of this series out of my faith in this author's ability to squeeze my guts painfully and rattle my brain with unanswerable questions. Don't sink to tired tropes, dad jokes and YA-romance stereotypes, Neal Shusterman. You are not the GAP.