Unwind by Neal Shusterman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I just finished reading Unwind by Neal Shusterman, and all I can say is wow! I came across the book on Simon and Shuster’s young adult community Pulse It. Simon and Shuster places a few books on the site every month that members can read online for free. Unwind was one of these books. I have to admit that I was a little hesitant about reading it – most dystopian books kind of depress me. I started reading Unwind and I quickly got sucked in. I couldn’t stop reading until I’d read the last sentence. Unwind is a gripping, action packed, horrifying in places, edge-of-your-seat adventure and receives a very enthusiastic five stars from me.
Unwind">Unwind takes placed in our future, after the country has gone to war with itself – pro-choicers against pro-lifers with the military stuck in the middle. A compromise was reached to end the war – abortion is illegal, but when a child is between the ages of 13 and 18, they can be “unwound” – basically, they are still alive, but their parts are harvested and used for other people. The procedure doesn’t kill the teen – though whether they have a soul, or where it exists after they are separated into so many other parts is questionable. Unwinding becomes a way for parents to rid themselves of “bad” seeds permanently.
One such juvenile that is about to be unwound is Connor. Connor doesn’t get great grades and gets into some fights in school. His parents decide to have him unwound. Connor stumbles across the paperwork and decides to go on the lam. Along the way, he joins up with Risa, a good girl, who is only being unwound for the sheer reason that she is a ward of the state, and they need to make room for new wards of the state. Lev, a tithe, also becomes part of their runaway group. A tithe is a child that parents purposefully give birth to, with the purpose of unwinding, as their tithe to their God. The tithe unwinds are treated differently than the other unwinds, and grow up knowing that they will be unwound.
I have to say, I am horrified by parents throughout this book. The existence of the law has made parents apathetic. Instead of doing real parenting, they choose to unwind obedient teens. You can’t really look at this part of the book from the view point of a parent today. Parents today would be horrified by the thought – and most have this built in desire to protect their children. But in this story, unwinding is the norm – it’s how people live, it’s what they know. Despite that, it’s still awful. The tithing is awful too. What kind of parents purposely have a child and raise it and love it and treat it likes it’s wonderful and tell it that it’s an honored child because at age 13 they are going to sacrifice the child to the Harvest Camps so that the child’s organs, blessed by God, can be part of so many other people? It’s also horrifying. How can anyone think that this is what God would want from his worshippers?
Another thing that is horrifying, is as can be expected of society – unwinding becomes a lucrative business. The body parts and organs of the unwinds become transplants for people that become ill. The doctors almost forget what it’s like to practice real medicine. Their answer is to replace parts instead of fixing them. There are other people that get harvested parts for cosmetic reasons – they want different color eyes – etc.
Connor, Risa, and Lev meet a lot of other unwinds along the way – and their stories are equally sad. One teen is being unwound because his parents divorced and they each couldn’t bare for the other to have him, so they decided to unwind him so neither could have him. I know this story sounds bleak and sad - and parts of it are sad. It was hard for me, because I can actually picture society acting in some of the ways that the book talks about. It isn’t just sad though – there is hope, horror, love, beauty, shock and a whole rollercoaster of emotions.
The main characters are well developed and very relatable. They could be your brother or sister, your best friend, even you. The side characters are well developed as well and all add something to the plot. The storyline moves along quickly and contains several surprises. At times I found myself biting my nails or holding my breath. A few places I actually cheered. I really hope you take the time to read this book. It’s amazing. It’s one of my new favorites – ever. I have the feeling that I will be thinking about this book and the issues contained within for a very long time.
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