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Nessa's Thoughts

Just a British girl who reads a bit too much.

Currently reading

The Dead Zone
Stephen King
The Diving Bell And The Butterfly
Jean-Dominique Bauby
Clarissa, or, the History of a Young Lady
Samuel Richardson, Angus Ross
Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison
Piper Kerman
The Cuckoo's Calling
Robert Galbraith
Unwholly (Unwind #2) - Neal Shusterman The last time we visited Neal Shusterman's Unwind series of books, I ended up rather disappointed at the ham-fisted, ghost-written '1.5' e-book Unstrung, which I downloaded on Christmas Day after all the festivities were over. However, what happened when I picked up Unwholly again? Consider my mind blown.You know the whole concept of unwinding and how it's terribly unfair that most of these kids have to willingly walk off to suffer a nightmarish fate being cleaved apart on the operating table, and realise that their parents disliked them enough to send them off to it? In the hands of a less skilled writer, that concept could have been so preachy and overblown. So thank goodness for Neal Shusterman being talented enough to pull this off.Unwholly takes place a short while after the events in book 1.5, and we have all the familiar faces from the previous book. There's Connor and Risa's team of kids who rescue children who have been earmarked for Unwinding by their parents and guardians, and Lev's now living with his brother and pastor and trying to lead a normal life. Naturally, you're going to need new characters, or the plot will wind up being a bit flimsy. Enter Starkey, Miracolina and Cam. Hey, do you remember that Roland kid from the first book who was a horrible bully, and very, very manipulative, constantly plotting against any ideas Connor had? Yeah, Starkey is almost exactly like Roland. Maybe he's a tad smarter, but I still kept reading him as Roland. Basically, he was my least favourite of the new characters.Miracolina, on the other hand, is a holier-than-thou Tithe, which readers of the first book will recognise as what Lev started out like. However, Shusterman kind of flips Lev's story on its head when it comes to Miracolina. While Lev was quite uncertain about being Unwound and had to slowly forget his indoctrination about how glorious his Unwinding would be, Miracolina is stubborn as a goat. Her parents throw her a small Tithing party, and they remind her several times that she has the right to back out of being Unwound at any time, but she refuses to be swayed. Lev's parents just pushed it on him, and even disowned Lev's older brother for disagreeing with them. This can make for pretty frustrating moments with Miracolina. I mean, there's this part where she is rescued on the way to her Unwinding, and brought to a secretive mansion with other ex-Tithes. Miracolina spends most of her time here stomping around about how unfair it all is that she was taken away from her destiny, and refusing to associate with her rescuers and fellow ex-Tithes, or even eat with them. I remember her also defacing a painting in the house, and by the time Lev just realised talking to her to try and change her point of view was futile, and he let her run away with him, I was cheering. Thank the bloody stars. Okay, I understand the emotions and the psychology and blah, blah, blah, but Miracolina was so irritatingly sanctimonious for the majority of this book.New character #3, however... OH MY GOD, I LOVE YOU CAM. Seriously, Cam has to be one of the most utterly fascinating characters I have ever read in any YA book. He's pretty much a modern Frankenstein's monster. The scientists who created him used all the best Unwind tissue they could find (since muscle memory is a big thing in these books), and so, Cam is a multi-lingual, poly-racial Adonis who has every talent you could think of. His hands came from a prodigy guitarist, his heart came from a would-be Olympic swimmer, his arms from an extremely talented baseball player... you get the gist.Since Cam has the body of a 15 year old, however, he has no life experience and has to slowly learn how to get along in the world, as well as be the spokesperson for the nefarious organization who created him. Said nefarious organization who want to create more people like Cam, and who have enough influence to advocate for more kids to be Unwound.Cam's first few chapters are basically dedicated to his 'rehabilitation', so to speak. He has to go through physical therapy, and learn to build bridges in his brain so he doesn't talk in long-winded metaphors all the time. For example, this part:Up above, in the corner of the ceiling, there's a machine with a lens that zeroes in on him. There's a machine like that in his room, too, constantly watching him in silence. Electric eye. Cyclops lens. He knows the name for the device. It's on the tip of his tongue. "Say cheese!" he says. "It puts on ten pounds. Rolling... and... action! A Kodak moment."I can imagine that gimmick grating on the nerves of some people after a while, but I found it absolutely amazing. He drops this way of speaking after a while when his psychiatrist Roberta (argh, that evil cow!) stops interpreting for him. His morality is also really conflicted throughout the book. He's been told he's the birth of a super-human, and he's got all this weight on his shoulders from the expectations of Roberta and her company. Cam and Risa are even brought together later in the book, and it kind of unravelled a bit here for me. You see, Cam is brought all these girls and told he has to pick one to be his girlfriend. For plot-driven reasons, it winds up being Risa, and she's not too happy about this. She's utterly repulsed by Cam to begin with, and starts warming up to him, but... it doesn't really happen in the same way for Cam. Cam kind of stays fairly static. Sure, he gets upset when Risa calls him a freak, but he doesn't really have much of a change in personality up 'til the ending. And even then, the sudden change of heart he has is really baffling.If I had to say anything negative about Unwholly as a whole (ha, see what I did there), I'd say it suffers a little bit from middle book-itis. It tries to weave everything together, but can't. It's setting things up for the next book in the series, and naturally you have to hold on to all these unresolved plot threads until the next book ties them together again. Not quite what I was hoping for, to be honest.I really liked the inclusion of the Parts Pirate guy who was a police officer in the first book, disgraced for having let Connor get away. He also has this creepy obsession with plucking out the eyes of the Unwinds he captures, and as somebody who's particularly squeamish to the Eye Scream trope... yeah, you get the drift. The scene where he gives this kid a hopeless ten seconds to start running for his life is actually pretty terrifying, edge-of-your-seat stuff. As is when he captures two other characters and ties them up in a cottage in the middle of nowhere, tracking their every move as they escape to the Graveyard.But... why was there not much to do with his new boss? You know, this wanted criminal guy who has to live just in the border of Canada because he'd be arrested on the spot if he set foot in the US? The guy who has no qualms with hacking children apart as painfully as possible and selling their parts on the black market? Why wasn't there more about him and his organization? Or even Roberta's company? I don't particularly care for all these long chapters set in the Graveyard where Starkey is plotting to overthrow Connor, who was also pretty boring in this book. I wanted more of Lev! More of Cam! Less of Miracolina and Starkey, please.Lev's also a character whose personality fluctuates a little too strangely for my liking. I mean, one moment he's the awkward hero of the people, trying to avoid being recognised and not really sure why the public are adulating him for his actions in the previous book... and the next, he's the figurehead of this group that rescues Tithes. Then he's conflicted about it and wants to go on the run? Huh?I'd also like to point that the ending is certainly not the bang I was hoping for and had experienced with the ending of the first book. I'm still going to read Unsouled when it comes out, though. Shusterman is an excellent writer, and he's very good at character drama, doesn't focus too much on introspection, and really knows how to show, not tell. The book overall is really good, and plumbs the same socio-political and psychological depths that the first one did, but it's not quite as good: some of the least interesting characters have the spotlight for the majority of the book, the ending isn't really all there, and I guess Shusterman is just saving all these awesome characters and plot threads for the next book. Oh, well. 4/5.(This review is also on my blog: http://book-wyrm.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/book-review-unwholly-unwind-2-by-neal.html)