Undivided by Neal Shusterman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
There are storytellers, and then there are storytellers. Neal Shusterman is a storyteller! I was drawn in from the first book, reading on the lives of three young people trying to just survive in their world.
There was Connor, the angry-at-the-world boy who just got into too many arguments and fights with basically everyone, including his parents… or especially his parents.
There was Risa, the ward of the state, the orphan in a world that doesn’t need orphans, trying to give anyone a reason to accept her and want her.
And there was Lev, the misguided boy who was willing to sacrifice his life for the “greater good” of the people, accepting his fate as a step-up over living his own life, whole.
Each one of them went through more than any child (and let’s be real, teens are still children), or even any full grown adult, should have to face.
In this final book of the Unwind dystology, we finally get to see if any of their efforts in stopping unwinding will have any effect on the world, and if people will be able to finally see the likes of kids like Connor, Risa, and Lev as worthy and capable of being a part of society. Of course, that depends on society.
First off, I’m not one to try to figure out how it’s going to end, and see if my theory matches with the author’s. Sometimes it happens that when I’m thoroughly into the book, I do every once in a while try to predict what happens next, or what options there are. But if it’s not obvious, then I try not to bother and just read on. If I was that type of person, I just don’t think I’d be able to figure it out if I wanted to. Alas, I’m not and I was taken on a crazy roller coaster of a ride, psychologically and emotionally.
Too many times for me, I found the events happening so unpredictable, I didn’t know how the author was going to get the characters out of the situation they were in. Sometimes I was met with relief, sometimes with shock, and sometimes with sorrow and heartache.
The final book didn’t just encompass the lives of Connor, Risa, and Lev. It pulled in the stories, if just a glimpse, but a very enlightening glimpse, of many other faces of this dystopic world.
There’s Nelson, the juvey-cop-turned-parts-pirate, whose embarrassment and ridicule from the first book left him wholly bitter and increasingly beyond sympathetic to readers’ eyes. You can’t help but dislike him, where you might have been somewhat understanding of his situation before.
There’s Grace Skinner, the low-cortical girl who chooses a friendship with Connor and Risa instead of being the verbal punching bag to her older, unelegant brother, Argent.
There’s Camus Comprix, the sole rewind creation of Proactive Citizenry. Last we saw him, he was intent on making Risa his own, but sacrificed his freedom to save Risa, along with Connor, instead.
There’s Starkey, the stork leader with a vendetta for all who go against him and other storks.
And there’s many others that may not be that important, but in the grand scheme, you’ll find out that every character has something to contribute. That’s what I really liked about this, too. The fact that it’s not just up to one or two or even three characters, but a vast amount of them.
Throughout the book, the author takes his time in giving the readers the details of each character’s plight. He doesn’t rush things, and he certainly doesn’t give too much away to allow us to guess what will happen next before it’s time.
Maybe slower than it takes for unwinds to be placed into another body, he weaves and knits the pieces of the story together, bringing all the characters and events in at just the right moment and in such a way as to make us believe that what type of major change in society could happen would happen because of said events.
There were many times during the story that I thought how easy it is for us humans to not only justify our actions, despite how such actions affect others. This story shows not only our faults in how we react or accept things, but also how we are manipulated. We are manipulated. All. The. Time.
What I found in this story was how much it scared me. Not for the idea of unwinding in our own world, but how he uses real world fact and functionality in his books to show the readers just how manipulated we can be. No, we wouldn’t accept unwinding right now. But that doesn’t mean we won’t accept something just as heinous if advertised in such a way as to make it desirable to us.
Throughout much of the book, the situations the characters are caught in are fraught with danger and even hopelessness. I am not ashamed to admit that I shed several tears for some of the characters in the book, even characters that I didn’t think I should shed tears for. Maybe it’s me, and I’m much too empathetic, but I do tend to feel heartache when a character has regret or despair or sorrow, probably more so than when I feel happy for a character’s luck or love or hope.
Thus, due to Shusterman’s ability to bring in different perspectives, even for a short amount of time, I found myself a bundle of emotions.
As for Connor, Risa, and Lev. They are not perfect characters. None of them are. They’ve made mistakes, crazy mistakes throughout the series, but still, they are better whole than they are apart, both figuratively and literally. Shusterman doesn’t let these characters stay the same. They are very much different in many ways than what they were in Unwind.
I felt for all the characters, even the ones meant to be the villains. The thing about the villains here is that they are human, too. Well, at least physically, they are. For the most part, each has their own story, and we’re able to see into some more than others.
And we’re able to see that most of us are not inherently evil (obvious statement, maybe, but still good to be reminded of once in a while). Most of us are just making our path in life. Most of us are just trying to survive. Shusterman shows humanity at its worst in this story. But he also shows the regret of some of our decisions. And he shows the possibility of redemption and forgiveness. And hope.
Luckily, there’s always hope. It’s not always an easy thing to find, but he shows us it’s there.
Because of that, I find this book to be much more than the sum of its parts, but as a whole, a very interesting and insightful take on humanity. Let there be a good lesson learned for every abled body out there, whether you’re in one piece or not.
This review was first posted on TheFandom.net