By: Neal Shusterman
This series just gets better and better. The crazy thing is that I'm always shocked by how much each book blows me away. And I know I shouldn't be, but I can't tell if it's just because each book is better than the last or because I lower my expectations so the brilliance will blow me away again. Either way I love it.
Connor: I love this kid. I just, ughh. He's the best. His character development is showcased so well in this book. He's always been brave and clever, but now he's compassionate and wise as well. I love that he still struggles with not wanting to become the kid he used to be, but it also makes me sad because I just want to hug him and tell him he's awesome.
I love how he takes Grace seriously when nearly no one else will.
"My idea!" Grace reminds them. "Send the Juvies on a detour, I said."
"Yes, you did, Grace," Connor says, and she gives him a hug for agreeing with her."
And even his dealings with Cam most of the time. He's much better now at not letting his anger take control of him. He's so smart and a brilliant leader.
I'm so looking forward to seeing him and Risa finally reunited in the next book. I've always been a fan of their relationship because I think they're each exactly what the other needs. Connor needs a calming voice of reason and Risa needs the brand of street smarts that Connor has made his own. I love that those things were alluded to, even in their time apart (like Connor hearing Risa's voice in his head.)
He's also hilarious as all get-out. His comebacks make my life.
"The direction of the conversation makes Cam uncomfortable. "Exactly whose kid is it?"
Connor smirks at Cam and puts one are around Risa. "Ours," he says. "Didn't you know?"
Overall I think Connor has worked his way into the list of my favorite heroes. Don't mess with him or I will hurt you.
Lev: Still in love with his character arc. His storyline was smaller and tamer in this book than in the last two, but I think he's building up to something important in the next one with the ChanceFolk. I wish we'd seen a bit of Miracolina in this book, but I'm hopeful for the next one.
Grace: OH MY GOSH. I FREAKING LOVE HER. She's a genius in a really unconventional way. She saved everyone's butts a lot more than once. Beyond that she's a brilliant character. Her love of games and strategy and history added depth and her perspectives sounded like you would expect her voice to sound like.
Risa: I still really love her. She's managed really well on her own. I loved the scenes with her in the salon, particularly when she was giving the JuvieCop a horrible hairdo. I was nervous for her, but laughing.
As for her dynamic with both Connor and Cam, it is so complicated. The thing is that Connor's love for Risa is self-sacrificing, but to Cam she is just manic-pixie-dream-girl. She came into his life and changed him and then left. He's trying to use her to solve his own doubts instead of facing them.
Cam: My relationship with Cam is also complicated. I think he's an incredibly complex character and I love him for it. He's a genius, but he's also his own special brand of stupid. But that's what makes him genuine because he hasn't actually existed for that long so it makes sense for him to be a bit naïve. But sometimes he's really logical and poetic,
"My birthday will be October tenth---Columbus Day." What could be more appropriate than a day commemorating the discovery of a land and people who were already there and didn't need discovering?"
"We'll have to be smarter than they are to break it down." And then Cam smiles. "But they made one mistake."
"They built someone who's smarter than they are."
But I absolutely love being in his head during his sections. He's intriguing and truly thought-provoking. I love when he gets flustered and shouts out word-associations. I think it's a really cool detail (also a clever device to show which other characters actually understand him).
Hayden: This kid. I love him so much. He's the voice of reason to Bam. I'm always shocked by his blatant courage, as well. He's so not willing to compromise his morals that he puts himself in dangerous positions in the hopes that he could do some good. I love his whole vibe, too. He's hilarious in a morbid and sad way. He'll say something and have me laughing and 'awww'-ing in the very same breath.
"He guffaws at that. "Point for Bam! You truly do excel in disturbing imagery. Someday I may want to study under you."
"Geniuses, those Egyptians. They knew the last thing a pharaoh needs is a brain of his own, or he might do some real damage."
Starkey: What a complete psychopath. I'm thoroughly convinced after this book that Starkey is sick in his stupid little head. Can I punch his moronic face? Someone let me punch his face! His complete belief in his own heroism is proof enough that he's not one. Not to mention that he is literally ruining everything that Connor, Lev, and Risa have worked to build. His killed so many people on his quest to save people and the worst part is that he doesn't feel guilty about it at all. Connor is haunted by the casualties he's inflicted, Starkey is proud of his. And his "relationships" with the "prissies?" HE IS DISGUSTING. I just...I HATE HIM SO MUCH. He needs to get his comeuppance in the last book.
Bam: Very possibly the LAST character I expected to start pitying and yet, here we are. I'm interested in her and Hayden's dynamic and I hope that together they'll affect change in the way the Storks are being paraded around. (But I have a feeling it's going to get worse before it gets better).
Argent and Nelson: Their sections were easily my least favorite of the book, not because they weren't well written, but because they are a couple of creeps and I had a hard time controlling my unending hatred for them.
Cyfi: I just loved seeing him again and what ended up happening to him.
There are so many groups moving around the game board and so many motives from so many characters and Shusterman is excellent at melding them all into a decipherable plot.
It was brilliant how Shusterman made sure that Lev, Connor, Risa, and Cam were all well-known, household names. Together their sphere of influence will be insanely large. They might just be big enough to change things.
This book showcases the slow expanding of the Unwinding ideal in their culture. Why stop at kids? Why not unwind criminals and druggies and everyone else not strengthening society? It's sick, but it's how industry woks in the real world. Want becomes need becomes an integral part of society.
And I still love the articles and "quotes" and advertisements that are included between chapters. The sickest and creepiest thing was when their logic almost sounded...well...logical. Not like it made sense, but like they had some brains and yet were STILL missing the problem. Proactive Citizenry is way too smart for my logic, as well. They know propaganda and they do it scarily well.
There was a lot of additional world-building in this book. The introduction of the ChanceFolk and their refusal to sign the Unwind Accord. Also finally hearing the Rheinschilds' story fully.
Once again Shusterman shows his mastery of switching narratives. The switching point of views push the story and the plot along and make it interesting. And it's the details, like that Elina was pointing out to Lev that true heroes always believe that the aren't heroes when it switches to Starkey to hear him say that he 'knows' that he's a hero.
"...but Cam has come to understand that a pedestal is nothing more than an elegant cage. No walls, no locks, but unless one has wings to fly away, on is trapped. A pedestal is the most insidious prison ever devised."
"But then again, ignorance and blind cruelty have been known to go hand in hand."
"Do we exist because others perceive our existence, or is, indeed, our own affirmation enough?"
"Not all locks are about restraint, dear," he tells her. "Some are merely about timing."
"If there's one lesson she has learned...it's that one cannot let the events of one's past murder one's future."
"Hope can be bruised and battered. It can be forced underground and even rendered unconscious, but hope cannot be killed."