Book Review: UnWholly by Neal Shusterman

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Title: UnWholly
Author: Neal Shusterman
Series: Unwind Dystology (Book 2)
Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (October 15, 2013)
Language: English
Age Range: 12 and up
Grade Level: 7 and up
ISBN-10: 1442423676
ISBN-13: 978-1442423671
Amazon Reviews: 4.7 Stars

Book blurb as seen on Amazon:

Thanks to Connor, Lev, and Risa—and their high-profile revolt at Happy Jack Harvest Camp—people can no longer turn a blind eye to unwinding. Ridding society of troublesome teens while simltaneously providing much-needed tissues for transplant might be convenient, but its morality has finally been brought into question. However, unwinding has become big business, and there are powerful political and corporate interests that want to see it not only continue, but also expand to the unwinding of prisoners and the impoverished.

Cam is a product of unwinding; made entirely out of the parts of other unwinds, he is a teen who does not technically exist. A futuristic Frankenstein, Cam struggles with a search for identity and meaning and wonders if a rewound being can have a soul. And when the actions of a sadistic bounty hunter cause Cam’s fate to become inextricably bound with the fates of Connor, Risa, and Lev, he’ll have to question humanity itself.

So I have to admit something. When I read male YA authors, I can usually tell (John Green excepted). There’s just something about the way they write, and sometimes it feels like they aren’t as in touch with character’s feelings as female authors. Male authors can usually connect with anger and fear, but I often feel a disconnect when dealing with the other emotions. I fully accept this could be me, and not them, but I have found it a recurring theme. I certainly felt this way while reading UnWind, the first in the series. Maybe I’m getting used to Shusterman’s writing style, or maybe this book was different, or maybe I felt more invested in the characters this time around. Whatever the case, I didn’t have the same issue with UnWholly.

I don’t want to give away too much, but we still have the same set of main characters (Connor, Rissa, Lev), as well as a few other minor characters, and we also have one new character, Cam. I’ll try to be coy, but let’s just say Cam sealed the deal for me. I’d have enjoyed this book without him, but his story line had me hooked beyond the rest of the book.

Especially since we get the same plot around Connor that we had in the first book: Connor doesn’t want the responsibility of being a leader, but he is, and he is thwarted by another teen who wants power for himself. It just felt over done. It was Roland and Connor all over again, but slightly different. Starkey is this new antagonist character, and it felt like just another sub-plot. The novel could have been complete without him. I realize Shusterman has plans for him, and maybe I’ll change my mind when I read the next two books in the series, but for this book, he was just in the way of the story I really wanted to read.

Overall, this was a good read. I can’t wait to read the next two in the series as well as the novella. It explores deep subjects like abortion, mortality, morality, and every sub-topic surrounding those. This is a good way for teens to think about the ramifications and intricacies of these topics and I’m excited to see the series is being used in classrooms as educational material around the country. Not everyone is going to agree with the viewpoints, but I actually think Shusterman does a decent job of expressing ideas without getting preachy and allowing readers to form their own thoughts on the subjects.

My Review: 4/5 stars


Even Agents Make Mistakes . . .

Water abstractI nearly had a heart attack yesterday. Okay, so that’s a little melodramatic, but still, you might see why in a second.

Opening up my email in the morning, I spied one down the list that was possibly from an agent. As a way to ignore potential rejections and calm the inevitable hopes for a request, I answered each email in turn, forcing myself to wait before I could get to this potential let down or joy bringer.

As it turned out, it was a joy bringer. Full request! That was my second in four days. I must be doing something right. It was really going to happen for me. If not these two potential agents, then someone else down the line. This interest couldn’t be a fluke. I was on the right track.

I was halfway through a text to Hubby expressing my excitement and optimism when another email popped up in my Inbox. From the same agent. Somehow I knew this couldn’t be good news.

Basically, he was just back from vacation, swamped with emails, and inadvertently sent me a request for a full, when really he was form rejecting me. It was a nice, polite email, but it sucked nonetheless. Uggh!

The funny thing is, when I received my other requests, I sat staring at my Inbox, making sure it wasn’t a mistake. Waiting for that email that said, “Oops! Sorry about that! JK!” But they never came. And I told myself I was being silly and ridiculous thinking that might happen. Umm, yeah, not so silly I guess. 🙂

Anyway, I’m not even angry at the agent, because we really do all make mistakes. Of course, his mistake caused waves of unmitigated happiness, only to crash with devastating pain, but hey, that’s all right. Agents are human too, and this just goes to prove it. So don’t be too angry at an agent for a form rejection or a mistake in correspondence or how long it takes for them to get back to you. They are busy people. Busy real people. And we all have an off day.

Does anyone else have an odd agent story to tell? Mistakes? Miscommunication? Especially if it’s funny and you can laugh about it now!

Motivational Monday!

So I had this brilliant and not-so-original idea to create Motivational Monday posts designed to promote positive thinking on a day we can all use it. Turns out, I’m not the only one who has ever thought of this. And that doesn’t exactly surprise me. Be that as it may, it is my intention to flood you reader with motivational memes, music videos and quotes to kick-start your week of writing. Okay, maybe it’s more for myself. Form rejections and utter email silence can make an author wonder what they are devoting so many hours to. Hopefully, it will benefit us all. And by “flood” I really mean 2 or 3 or however many I can muster the time to create! Happy Motivational Monday!

In Defense of Katherine Hale??!

Inside Explosion

I feel a sickness in the pit of my stomach as I tap away at the keys. Before you throw me on a Goodreads blacklist, boycott my as yet unpublished book, or unfollow my blog, please read through this post. And keep an open mind. Something I’m afraid very few people have been doing on the internet these days.


But neither do I support Cold Ware-era Red-scare blacklisting going on right now by book bloggers and Goodreads.

I’ll be honest, this is the second time I’ve written this post. And about the fifth time in my head. I had it scheduled to run on Wednesday, but wasn’t happy with it, so made some changes. After careful thought, I decided not to delve too far into this topic, mainly because it’s mostly been done. I have a few thoughts I’ll share and a few blog posts I’ll link to, but beyond that, I’m going to attempt to wash my hands (and my mind) of this whole affair.

For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, you can catch up by reading this article. And check your Twitter and Tumblr feed, and Facebook and blogs everywhere. Because it’s being discussed on every media outlet I use.

For another take, check out this post on the Confessions of a Book Geek blog. The author has clearly done far more investigation into this issue than I (read the comments as well), but I also fear has a bit of a bias being a book blogger herself.

To understand Katherine Hale and what is obviously some kind of obsessive/compulsive disorder, take a look at her article in The Guardian from July.

I’ll be honest, I first read Katherine Hale’s catfish article like a car accident on the side of the road. You can’t look away, but you know it’s going to end badly. There was a part of me that was glad she called out this blogger, but at the same time, I felt it was completely unnecessary. She could have let it go and moved on, but had to create an issue out of it.

But while I believe Hale was wrong, I don’t think she deserves to be crucified for it. And neither do authors who have come to her defense. There is currently a Goodreads blacklist which I will not link to, that calls for a boycott of Hale and all authors who support her. To me, this is the pot calling the kettle black. Hale is vilified for attempting to unmask a blogger and essentially silence her negative criticizing voice, so in turn book bloggers are attempting to silence the voice of Hale and anyone who supports her. Two wrongs don’t make a right. We learned that in grammar school people.

I say, voice your opinion on your blog, Twitter, FB, whatever, if you feel so inclined. Don’t buy or read books by authors if you feel that strongly about it, but really, you’ll never agree with everything an author says or does. Why pick this? You might be against abortion, but are reading books by people who support it, but you don’t know. Banning, boycotting and shunning people because they voice a belief is trying to silence their voice. We don’t want to silence voices in this country. At least I don’t. I’d love to hear all opinions, critically internalize and process, then I go on with my life in the manner I see fit. If Hale committed a crime, then follow that line. If you feel she committed a crime, but legally did not, then try to get legislation changed. Voices are good. That’s how this country moves forward.

And as for what Hale should have done, well take a look at this article on Pub(lishing) Crawl for how to handle criticism.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this situation isn’t black and white. It’s so grey it looks like an Abnegation meeting. What we really need is for everyone to calm down instead of this internet fiasco of polarizing sides and people trying to strong-arm their opinion into the right. Really, everyone is right. Authors should have the right to defend their books, in a business-like and appropriate manner. Book reviewers have the right to their opinions, but they should put it forth in a business-like and appropriate manner. Book reviewers have the right to their privacy, and if they choose anonymity, so be it. But personally, I have never posted a review that I couldn’t and wouldn’t defend to someone’s face. Maybe that’s the key: write your review as if the writer is sitting across from you and reading every word, and they’re someone you know.

The internet has made us too callous to the feelings of others and the use of basic decorum in our conversations. Why is it, we as a society have become so polarized, so quick to judge, and so vehement in our stance of perceived right? Have we lost the ability to see both sides of an issue and grant each person their dues? Where are the moderates in all of this? And every other situation? I’m guessing, like me, they’re afraid to speak out, because the backlash can be too much to bear.

And one final side note. Hale asks if she’s being “catfished” in her article. Several people on Twitter have commented that she doesn’t know what catfishing is. To that I say, you’re wrong. Sort of.

Definition of “catfish” from Urban Dictionary:

A catfish is someone who pretends to be someone they’re not using Facebook or other social media to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances.

Further investigation showed that the term “catfish” is used for any person creating a false internet persona. While this is usually used for romantic endeavors, it is not restricted to that.

Every person posting, tweeting or talking about this issue has their own agenda and bias (me included), and everyone’s thoughts should be taken with a grain of salt when forming your own. But one thing is abundantly clear: Don’t stalk a book reviewer. You will regret it!