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Book Review: UnWholly by Neal Shusterman (Series, #2) (Audiobook narrated by Luke Daniels)

October 21, 2015 1 comment

Book Review: UnWholly by Neal Shusterman (Series, #2) (Audiobook narrated by Luke Daniels)Summary:
Picking up where Unwind left off, UnWholly finds Risa and Connor managing the Graveyard full of unwinds themselves with no adults in site, and Lev struggling to find a purpose now that he’s both free of clapper chemicals and under the watchful eye of the government.  Into the mix comes Cam, the first ever “rewind.”  He’s been assembled completely from the parts of unwinds of every race and religion.  And his creator intends to meddle with the runaway unwinds too.

Review:
I picked this up right after finishing the first on audiobook, because finding a fast-paced story with a good narrator can be harder than it sounds.  So once I found that with the first book in the series and I saw the rest of it had the same narrator, I figured I may as well continue along with it.  While I found the first book engaging and thought-provoking, I found myself periodically bored with the plot in this one, and also found it more difficult to suspend my disbelief than before.

The basic premise is that Connor is all torn up over having the arm of his once-rival (who also just so happened to threaten to rape his girlfriend, Risa).  He thus holds Risa at arm’s-length (pun intended) because he’s afraid of what his own arm will do.  While I appreciate the fact that it must be truly atrocious for your boyfriend to now have your attempted rapist’s arm, I think the fact that Connor lends the arm so much agency is a symptom of one particular idea in this world-building that just doesn’t work for me.  The idea that body parts have their own spark of soul or agency or thought.  It’s rife in this entry in the series, and it’s just plain weird to me.  I can understand a character not bonding with a transplant that was forced upon him. I can understand it being weird for loved ones.  I don’t, however, find myself able to suspend my disbelief enough to believe that someone’s arm has their personality in it so much that the person who it was transplanted onto would be afraid of it.  It’s an arm, not a piece of brain or even a heart. The author does provide links to sources about transplant recipients feeling connected to the person whose body part they received or having memories or what have you.  I appreciate that.  But for me personally this plot point just does not work.  Other readers may be able to suspend their disbelief better than I was able to.  I for once can’t imagine not going near my own girlfriend because I was afraid of my arm.  I also just disliked how much agency Connor removes from himself for his own temper.  If he hits the wall when he’s angry it’s not him hitting the wall, it’s the arm hitting the wall.  The arm got mad. The arm got out of control.  There’s just a ridiculous lack of agency there, and I’m not super comfortable with that level of lack of agency being in a book marketed toward teenagers, who are at the best point in life for learning agency and responsibility.

I similarly have a hard time believing, from a neurological perspective, that the rewind boy, Cam, could exist.  His brain is dozens’ of peoples all wound together.  I could believe replacing a brain piece here or there with transplant technology, I couldn’t believe mish-mashing many together and having them actually function.  Let alone with the only issue being that Cam struggles to learn to speak in words instead of metaphors.  While Cam did strike me as grotesque, he mostly just struck me as an impossibility that I was then supposed to have sympathy for because he’s a person with his own feelings…but are they really?  The whole thing was just a bit too bizarre for me.

On a related note, I found the scenes where Cam wakes up and learns to talk and slowly realizes what he is to be very tedious to read.  They move slowly, and there is an attempt at building of suspense, but it is clear nearly immediately that Cam is a Frankenstein’s creature like experiment, even without Cam himself knowing it right away.

The other big new character is Starkey, a boy who was storked who is brought into the Graveyard.  He’s basically exactly the same as Connor (he’s even still a white boy), the only difference being that was a stork and that he has no Risa to ease down his temper.  I found his characterization to be uncreative, even if the building up of strife between the storks and the rest of the unwinds was a good plot point.  It would have been better if the leader of the storks was more creative.  Similarly, Starkey’s two main assistants are a black girl and an Indian-American boy.  Just as with the first book, non-white people exist, but only as seconds to the white people.  Why couldn’t either of them have been the leader of the storks?

All of these things said, there was still a lot of plot to keep the interest.  I’ve barely touched on a couple of them.  The world is still engaging, even if it’s hard to suspend the disbelief for it.  I doubt I’d keep reading if I was reading this in print, but the audiobook narration makes it feel like listening to a movie, and it’s the perfect match for my commutes and doing dishes and such.  Plus, now I’m curious as to where else the plot will go.  I’m betting it will end up going in a direction I find it even harder to suspend my disbelief for, but it’ll be a fun ride seeing where that is.

Overall, fans of the first book may be disappointed by the slightly more meandering plot in this one.  The addition of two new characters to follow will be distracting to some readers while others will find it adds to the interest and suspense.  Some readers may be turned off by the continued lack of diversity in such a large cast of protagonists.  The plot is engaging and the world is unique, though, so fans of YA dystopian scifi will probably still enjoy it.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Audible

Buy It

Previous Books in Series:
Unwind, review

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Evidence, Bias, and Use…Oh, My! (MLA12 Seattle: Complementary and Alternative Medicine Section)

So at the meeting, librarians present their papers that were accepted to the conference.  These are organized into groups of four sponsored by one of the MLA’s sections.  I’m pleased to say that on Monday I made it to an entire session.  Complementary and Alternative Medicine includes everything from yoga to special diets (veg*nism, gluten-free) to acupuncture to traditional Chinese medicine to etc….  I appreciate CAM because it tends to look at the patient as a whole instead of just the diseased body part.  Plus I was curious as to what the presentations would have to say.  One thing that it is important to know.  Cochrane is a database of systematic reviews.  A systematic review is a study of the studies done.  It then summarizes what we know so far.  Think of it as centralized scientific study information.  The other thing to know is that in Western medicine, a treatment is come up with and then tested before it is used with people.  In CAM, the treatments are already in practice, so traditional randomized control trials (RCTs) used in Western medicine aren’t super-applicable.

“Cochrane Complementary and Alternative Medicine Systematic Reviews: An Analysis of Authors’ Comments on the Quality and Quantity of Evidence and Efficacy Conclusions” by Robin A. Paynter

  • CAM limited by RCT-driven evidence-based practice
  • 10% of database are CAM topics
  • Cochrane has a project to develop a classification scheme of CAM topics.
  • 47 out of 53 Cochrane groups have at least one review on a CAM topics
  • Treatment ares cover everything from vitamins to yoga
  • dietary intervention has 37 studies
  • Cochrane expresses concern over poor study designs.
  • Difficult to determine active content in plant-based meds
  • Significant groupage of comments around insufficient evidence and no effect.
  • cross-cultural issues

“Alternative Research Education in a Post-R25 World: Assessing Acupuncture and Oriental medicine (AOM) Student Attitudes Toward Research and the Scientific Method” by Candise Branum

  • Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine–AOM
  • R25 grants intend to develop research literacy and view research as a bridge between Western medicine and CAM
  • Acupuncture Practitioner Research Education Enhancement (APREE)
  • AOM student interest in research declined with years in school, a 2006 study found
  • Do students recognize the benefits of AOM research? Overwhelming yes.
  • Students at schools without dedicated research departments were very unsure about the impact of research.
  • Feelings about research slope toward the negative over time.
  • Students see the benefits of research but that doesn’t necessarily mean they like it
  • A lot of students want to stay alternative and not become complementary
  • If they don’t want to be attached, they’re not gonna want to use the bridge of research.

“Complementary and Alternative Medicine’s (CAM’s) Research Agenda and Its Unique Challenges” by Jane D. Saxton

  • In 2007: 38.4% of adults used CAM over the previous 12 months.  Also, adults spent $33.9 billion out of pocket on CAM.
  • NIH funding to CAM is only 0.5% of the overall budget.
  • CAM is individualized not standardized.  (It’s adjusted to fit the patient not one standard applied to all patients).
  • Whole Systems Research (WSR) is a term coined in 2002.  It is an approach to studying non-linear, whole systems of care.
  • Use of pragmatic RCTs: measure effectiveness, don’t use placebos, patient-centered outcomes (transformational change)
  • CAM is the opposite of Western meds.  The treatment is already in use, whereas Western medicine is proposed, tried, then used.
  • You don’t need to know the biological mechanism in order to know its effectiveness.
  • MeSH terms currently available: complementary therapies, nonlinear dynamics, systems integration
  • We need more funding, different approaches, Whole Systems Research!
  • Please take a moment to check out the libguide of this presentation.

“Hitchhiker’s Guide to One Corner of the Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) Universe” by  Ron LeFebvre

  • Vitalists are more interested in information (they “know” it works).
  • Empiricists value EBM but may not be great at finding what they’re looking for.
  • Chiropractors don’t like to be associated with medicine.  Use terms like “health care” and “practice” with them.
  • A good chiropractic search string: spinal manipulation OR chiropractic OR manual therapy
  • New graduates are more likely to be EBP savvy.
  • “There’s nothing that makes you more skeptical about research than studying it.”
  • There is no widely-used, well-regarded point-of-service tool to serve chiropractic interests specifically.  They do use Dynamed though.
  • PEDRO–database for physical therapy/exercise therapy that is also useful to chiropractors

Q and A

  • Diet is odd.  Sometimes it is viewed as an alternative medicine, sometimes not.  If it’s a non-western diet, though, it’s considered alternative.
  • NIH funded PROMIS is focused on patient-reported outcomes, particularly in treating anxiety/depression.
  • N-CAM databse has outcome scales and measures