UnStrung – Neal Shusterman & Michelle Knowlden
How did Lev Calder move from an unwillingly escaped Tithe to a clapper?
In this new ebook original short story, author Neal Shusterman opens a window on Lev's adventures between the time he left CyFi and when he showed up at the Graveyard.
Lev's experiences on a Hi-Rez, an extraordinarily wealthy Native American Reservation, introduce him to a teen with remarkable musical talent . . . and whose gifts are destined to end up in the hands of another. And it is this teen's heart-breaking story that inspired Lev to choose the clapper's path.
This is a review for book #1.5 in a series. The review is as spoiler-free as I can make it, but you might want to check out my reviews of books #1, #2, #3, and #4.
Review: I was slightly disappointed in this novelette. It didn’t deliver what I’d hoped it would. Maybe I would have been more impressed with this story if I had read the series in order, but I’m a rebel and didn’t do that. I read UnStrung after finishing the fourth book.
UnStrung fills in some of the gaps in the Unwind series. Before thirteen-year-old Lev arrives in the airplane graveyard in book #1, he spends some time on a “ChanceFolk Rez.” In book #3 of the series, the reader learns that a musical prodigy was kidnapped by parts pirates while Lev was on the Rez. Lev got the blame for the kidnapping. This story explains what happened with Lev and the musical prodigy.
Like all of the books in this series, UnStrung is a quick and entertaining read. It only took me about an hour to finish this novelette. Even though I knew exactly how the story would end, I read the whole thing without putting it down because the Unwind universe is so interesting. I’d probably read anything set in this world.
My biggest issue with this story is that the synopsis is misleading. It says, “How did Lev Calder move from an unwillingly escaped Tithe to a clapper?” Unfortunately, the story doesn’t answer that question at all. It doesn’t explain how a thirteen-year-old became involved with terrorists. The story fills in some plot gaps in the series, but it doesn’t do anything else. The other books did a fine job of showing why Lev became a suicide bomber. This story doesn’t add anything to the explanation.
Lev’s character seems “off” in UnStrung. This could possibly be because the author was working with a cowriter. The other books in the series show that Lev became a suicide bomber because he feels exhausted, hopeless, angry, and powerless. None of those emotions are present in this book. If this story is meant to explain Lev’s decision to (potentially) blow himself up, then shouldn’t those emotions be there? Lev’s character seems shallower and more passive than he does in the other books.
I also had a hard time with the end of the story. In book #3, the people on the Rez are angry at Lev for the kidnapping, but this story shows that Lev didn’t have anything to do with it. And, why didn’t the people on the Rez try to rescue the kidnapped kid? Did I miss something? Shouldn’t there at least have been a search party? The kidnappers were on foot when they took the kid, so could the kidnappers have been intercepted before they got to a road? I have so many questions!
If you like this series as much as I do, then this story is an entertaining gap-filler, but I wouldn’t call it a must-read.