UnSouled (Unwind #3) by Neal Shusterman
Pub: Oct 15, 2013
Connor, Risa, and Lev–the most notorious teens-on-the-run–hunt down a woman whose science made unwinding possible and who may have the answer to its undoing.
“They signed it. The Heartland War is over.”
There’s so many things to love about this series: the crazy-complex world-building in a society where everything’s gone completely amok, the complicated characters who are each so distinctive and authentic, and the tough questions it raises about people and their worth. Though his Skinjacker Trilogy still tops my personal favorites list, the Unwind Dystology is definitely worth a place on your shelf.
That being said, I’d have to say this is the weakest of the series thus far. It suffers from the typical second-book-in-a-series symptoms, despite it actually being the third. Basically, there’s a lot of back story, a lot of characters wondering how to fix things and plotting and having their best-laid plans twarted, but not a whole lot that’s actually fresh. It’s a setup for the final book in the series, and if you weren’t one of us hard-core Shusterman fans who ran out to get the book right away, I’d have to say my advice to you would be to hold off until the fourth is published (sometime in 2014) and read them both together, because really, this read like the first half of a much larger book.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
There are no pictures, but the woman is describing the process — how bits and pieces of almost a hundred different Unwinds were used to create it. Rise feels a shiver go as far down her spine as she can feel…
“Why would they do such a thing?” she asks.
“Because they can, Connor says bitterly.
The heroes of the first Unwind novel are all trying to adapt to their new lives of fame. Connor struggles with being the new leader of the Graveyard, keeping things running while unbeknownst to him, a manipulative and ruthless newcomer plans a mutiny. Lev is back in society, villainized by one group and adored by another, and eventually thrown in with a female tithe-to-be that reminds him far too much of his old self. Meanwhile, Risa is just coming to accept her life in a wheelchair when everything changes for her and she’s chosen to be the companion of a boy who is comprised entirely of other Unwinds in a Katniss/Peeta-type media campaign.
I loved how, even years later, Shusterman is able to draw the reader back into the time and place of Unwind, reacquaint you with the characters, and make you once again care deeply about them and their cause. I appreciated that this book went into more details about the history leading up to the beginning of Unwinding, including present-day news articles that solidify the backstory for those that think the world of Unwind is too unfeasible and unrealistic (and really, it’s dystopian/sci-fi, people… it doesn’t have to be completely feasible). The conspiracies run deep, giving another layer to the story of the first book, but — like the first one — this book is really about the people and their struggles, their frustrations, and their simple humanity. The moral dilemmas brought up in this book go beyond those in the first book, once again making the reader really sit and ponder what it means to be human.
A sequel, sadly, is rarely ever as good as the original, and I think the brilliance of the first book gave me incredibly high expectations for this one, which were mostly met. The addition of new characters in conjunction with the old ones creating a multitude of storylines, and while these jumps were clear-cut and were essential to the story, I grew impatient waiting for the narration to jump back to certain characters’ storylines. Also, I think some of the shockingness of the first one was lost because we already knew the world and knew about unwinding and how it worked. Though gripping and heartbreaking, the “death chapters” (yup, somebody dies) in this book pale in comparison to Roland’s unwinding chapter, but do make you wonder what Shusterman is going to do in the third one to top it. Also, as typical with second-books-in-a-series, it really just seemed to set everything in motion for a final book, though the lack of resolution probably wouldn’t be so frustrating if the third book weren’t still being written.
Overall: A fabulous sequel, and one that I’d highly recommend for those that loved the intense emotional experience of Unwind.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
“With the war getting worse… we proposed the idea of unwinding, which would terminate unwanteds without actually ending their lives. We thought it would shock both sides into seeing reason — that they would stare at each other across the table and someone would blink. But nobody blinked… Everyone was so happy to end the war, no one cared about the consequences.”
Connor is a “troubled teen,” sent to be unwound because his parents don’t know how to deal with him. Risa is an orphan, sent in because of budget cuts and lack of funding in the state homes.
Lev is a tithe — the sacrifice of religiously fanatical parents — who has been raised to believe his unwinding is an honor.
Together, they’re on the run from Juvey-cops who would turn them in to have their bodies divided up, all the pieces used as transplants for others, a process known as Unwinding. As they journey to what they hope will be a safe haven, they encounter others with different views and experiences, raising questions of morality, sacrifice, and the sanctity of life.
This was a re-read for me, and though I knew how everything would turn out, I still found myself on the edge of my seat, clutching the book, and not wanting to set it down. The philosophical and moral questions raised by the book keep the reader intellectually engaged, and the situations the “Unwinds” get themselves in keep the plot moving, making this a quick, but incredibly thought-provoking read. The characters are human and flawed, but grow and develop through the course of the story, becoming better people for their struggles. There are many parts of the story that are emotionally jarring, taking the reader from the frustration and anxiety of being on the run, to the sorrow and grief of regret, to the sheer terror and helplessness of being unwound. It’s one of those rare books that keeps breaking into your thoughts long after you’ve closed the last page.
There are, however, parts that are disturbing, and others that are downright terrifying, so this is a book I’d only recommend to mature readers who are ready to take on weighty topics and don’t have a weak stomach. If you’re squeamish, skip chapter 61.
Overall: Still one of my favorite books due to its emotionally engaging plot and the fact that it really makes you think.