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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
UnStrung (Unwind, #1.5) - Neal Shusterman Well, well, well. Neal Shusterman. We meet again.I apologise profusely for my ridiculously slow progress on Unwholly. I am enjoying the story, but I think my copy has been reclaimed by the monster under my bed, since I remember it fell on the floor one night, and it wasn't there when I woke up the next day. Anyway!With the beauty that is an Amazon gift card, I downloaded Unstrung, which is one of those odd little '0.5' novellas that are supposed to fit in between canonical events. I know Julie Kagawa has so many of them that I decided to buy the physical copies of her Iron Fey books and read the novellas online later. Anyway!You know, I wasn't really all that curious about where Lev had gone to begin with in Unwind. In fact, I reacted to him leaving the group in the same way that Connor did – good riddance, he was a bit of a third wheel anyway.Then Lev comes back later in the book and (SPOILERS) reveals that he's joined a terrorist cell who go through some ritual that turns their blood explosive. If they clap their hands hard enough together, kaboom. Lev, however, despite going through this procedure, does not clap, and is viewed in the media – especially in Unwholly – as a hero. While I wasn't exactly surprised that Lev eventually comes back in Unwind, it was a pretty huge change of heart for a pious boy who was essentially raised as a sacrificial lamb to suddenly join these extremist freedom fighters. So hey, what gives?Unstrung is basically Lev climbing into a rich Native American reservation, making friends with a boy named Wil, and seeking protection from the world outside, who see Lev as a fugitive.The Native population never signed the Unwind Accord, so their teenagers can't be taken for Unwinding (body part harvesting, for those of you who haven't read the first book). Unfortunately, due to this law, an economy has opened up in the black market for Parts Pirates, seemingly funded by a mysterious organisation to kidnap Native children from their reservations. Why? There aren't enough Native American parts harvested due to their refusal to sign the Unwind Accord, and there are also some shady people interested in artificially creating poly-racial superhumans from the body parts of supremely talented kids who were unfortunately sent off for Unwinding. But that's in the second book. Anyway!Another thing about the Natives in this book (or 'People of Chance', as they are archaically referred to – yes, after the casino stereotype), is that because they refused to sign the Unwind Accord, they have to get their transplants from elsewhere. And so... the Native doctors and researchers and scientists have come across a (rather dumb, in my opinion) way of getting around not using human body parts for transplants. (Seriously, every single doctor in this world replaces body parts rather than fixing them. I don't see much sense in that, but hey. Sci-fi dystopia away!~)The Natives use animals for transplants. Yeah, we first meet one of the members of this tribe tracking a mountain lion, and it's revealed that they're going to use its organs for transplants.It's explained that in their clan, children are sent on a vision quest when they come of age. They are put on a fasting diet, exhausted mentally and physically, and whatever animal they see in their dreams becomes their totem animal. This means that most people will only take organs from their spirit animal. Wil's totem animal is a crow, and of course, he would die from any attempt to connect a penny-sized blood-pumping muscle to his body. Interesting... I guess.This unspoken rule of totem animal transplants means that some parents have started coercing their children into saying that the animal in their dream was a pig, or a similar animal, just in case they do ever require a transplant some time in their lives.I'm sure it's a clever idea, you know, for people to try and get animal transplants based on their totem, but it doesn't really work in my head. I mean, what's the point in going for a foreign (let's say anything other than human and pig) transplant that lowers your life expectancy? If they're so morally against using human organs, then keep some pigs handy, right? This element is fairly (pardon the pun) ham-fisted. I think this idea could have been better executed if the writer had gone for the Natives doing a completely different method of medicine to everyone else. Maybe Lev could have clambered over the wall and met with people with mechanical slash bionic engineering to replace the dysfunctional parts of their bodies. It would have been revealed that rather than being all transplant-your-deadbeat-kids-happy, they turned to engineering. Or hell, even just fixing rather than transplanting.Let's talk about Wil for a second. He is a beloved son of the tribe, and he is also a guitar prodigy. (If you've read Unwholly, Wil plays a part in it alongside Cam. *cough*) Wil is quite fearless, and an all-around good guy, and keen to learn whatever he can from an outsider like Lev. But still, he's kind of boring and I was expecting a lot more from him. It didn't stop me from feeling really bad for him at the end, though.Speaking of the ending, I feel that there should have been a lot more to it than what did happen, from Lev's point of view. Wil's part of the ending was just tragic, and Shusterman still has that talent for writing gut-wrenching, horrific scenarios that seem to happen to all the likeable characters. (Una burning Wil's guitar at the end. *sniff*) Lev just gets driven out of the reservation, given some money, and is then told to be on his way. And then the story ends.Really? I thought I was going to get some answers about Lev's psyche changing, from slightly shocked and disillusioned to full-on going down the route of getting his blood turned into some explosive chemical that detonates your body when you clap or throw yourself hard at something. The final tap of the spoon that broke the egg shell. (Oof, apologies for that metaphor.)I was expecting so much more than: 'Lev hangs out with some people, a bad thing happens, and Lev is now inspired to join the terrorist effort.' Seriously? You couldn't have explored a little bit more in the way of psychology? Heck, Lev still has the trauma of that CyFi kid fresh in his memory. It could have been a slow-burning catalyst, and perhaps there could have been more elements of that in this little novel. Lev remains quite passive throughout. It's Wil who shows him around the reservation, who mostly explains the culture and medical practices, and it's Wil's grandfather who gives Lev permission to go on a spirit quest, because... Lev is apparently considered sagely by him. I don't know anymore. When the Parts Pirates do come along looking for Native American kids, Lev doesn't get to do much. Wil performs this amazing song on his guitar, and the Pirates decide to take him away. Seriously? Lev might be a bit of a milksop most days, but he was growing as a character in Unwind. Here he's just like a blank slate, a pair of goggles for us to look through. There's a few scattered references here and there to the events in Unwind, but otherwise... nope.Now, I haven't finished with Unwholly yet, so I don't know the ins and outs of what drove Lev to becoming a Clapper, but I was expecting a lot more than just the story of a partially-related character, while Lev looks on and decides something must be done. I think it needed a lot more than just sixty pages to tell its story. 3.5/5.(This review is also available on my blog: http://book-wyrm.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/unstrung-by-neal-shusterman.html)