Book Review: Unwholly by Neal Shusterman

Unwholly, book 2 of the YA dystology by Neal Shusterman, continues an impressive weaving of storylines that is rare in any text.

As a writer and critical reader, I confess myself conflicted with my overall rating of Book 2. The complaints I had in book 1, which really was just one complaint, is taken to another level in Unwholly.

The chapters are divided (on purpose) into point of views of dozens of characters. But more often than in Unwind, there’s instances of omniscient POV where we shift character POV without shifting chapters, and many instances of straight up info that ONLY the narrator would know. Once I shrugged off the negative feelings toward omniscient POV, the book is fantastic. I don’t mind omniscient POV, but if you’re going to separate chapters by POV, why take the cheap way out and also go omniscient?

The good: Pretty much everything else.

Unwholly does the same thing as Unwind. Shusterman weaves amazing and complicated storylines together while keeping the pacing fast and doing what only YA does well…bring sociopolitical issues to the forefront simply and effectively. Shusterman makes you think. And I don’t think I’m giving too much away when I say that not only are the old philosophical questions present from Unwind, there’s the added bonus of “What is life?” “When does it begin?” “Is there a black and white version of right and wrong like we think?”

The Unwind series should be required reading in every school.

It makes the reader think about things that only literary fiction tends to hit. Questions not only of the beginning or end of life, identity, but also broader questions of what to do when compromise doesn’t seem to be an option? Do you force compromise? What happens when “black and white” isn’t so black and white? These are not simple philosophical questions for anyone. But they are important questions for everyone. Especially in a culture where we seem to reward LACK of compromise and reward vulgar and extreme sides of coins that don’t have to be sides of coins.

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