Friday, May 18, 2012

Rereading Unwind

Unwind. Neal Shusterman. 2007. Simon & Schuster. 336 pages.

The prologue:  The Second Civil War, also known as "The Heartland War," was a long and bloody conflict fought over a single issue. To end the war, a set of constitutional amendments known as "The Bill of Life" was passed. It satisfied both the Pro-life and the Pro-choice armies. The Bill of Life states that human life may not be touched from the moment of conception until a child reaches the age of thirteen. However, between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, a parent may choose to retroactively "abort" a child...on the condition that the child's life doesn't technically end. The process by which a child is both terminated and yet kept alive is called "unwinding." Unwinding is now a common and accepted practice in society. 

First sentence: "There are places you can go," Ariana tells him, "and a guy as smart as you has a decent chance of surviving to eighteen." Connor isn't so sure, but looking into Ariana's eyes makes his doubts go away, if only for a moment. 

Did you know there is going to be a sequel to Unwind?! I know!!!! It's very exciting news. As soon as I learned about Unwholly--which releases in late August 2012--I knew I just HAD to reread Unwind. It's been years since I read Unwind, and essentially I just remembered how great it was and how it was near impossible to put it down. It was just so intense, so compelling, so DIFFERENT from what I was used to reading--at least at the time.

And I am very glad I took the time to reread this one. It is just as great as I remembered.

Imagine living in a world where—if you're a teenager—your life is constantly in danger. If you anger your parents just one time too many, you could be on the next bus out of town heading to a Harvest camp or the "chop shop" as it's called in slang. Your organs—every single part of you (except maybe your appendix), stripped away and 'donated' to make someone else's life better. This scenario is about to become terrifyingly real to three teenagers.

Connor is a guy who hasn't always had the best temper or attitude. But he never thought his parents could be so cruel as to unwind him just because he's going through a "difficult" stage. After accidentally finding the papers that will end his life—at least as he knows it—he decides to run away. After all, if he can manage to survive for two or three years—until his eighteenth birthday—he'll be safe and legal.

Risa is a girl from the State Home. She is a musical prodigy, but after making a few mistakes at a concert, she's told she's reached her potential in life and that she can best serve society now as an Unwind. After all, they can only feed and house so many, and new babies arrive all the time. It's normal to eliminate at least 5% of the teen population every year.

 Lev is different from Connor and Risa. He's only thirteen. But the big difference? Lev has known all along that he was 'destined' to be unwound. He's a tithe. A baby set apart from birth—chosen from birth—to be sacrificed on his thirteenth birthday for the good of society. He is told that his is a holy service, a holy life. It's a "religious" and "spiritual" experience or gift. After all, there is no greater gift of love than when a man lays down his life, right? When these three meet for the first time, it is pure chaos. But their lives, their destinies, are woven together for better or worse. Can these teens escape their fate?

Told through many narrators, Unwind is a suspenseful, fast-paced read. While the premise is fascinating in and of itself, Shusterman manages to make this story resonate with strong characters. The world he creates is haunting yet not completely without hope and redemption as people—teens and adults—team up to change the world one step at a time.

Unwind by Neal Shusterman is dystopia at its best.

"Funny but when he was little Connor was terrified of the boogeyman. He would have to sleep with the lights on, he would have his parents check his closet every night. They told him that the boogeyman wasn't real, but they lied. The Bill of Life made the boogeyman real, and he didn't need the closet; he came walking right in through the front door." (4) 
"What does it take to unwind the unwanted? It takes twelve surgeons, in teams of two, rotating in and out as their medical specialty is needed. It takes nine surgical assistants and four nurses. It takes three hours." (288)
Read Unwind
  • If you're a fan of dystopias, yes, it is YA dystopia, but I think adults will enjoy this one too.
  • If you're a fan of science fiction; if you like thought-provoking science fiction.
  • If you're looking for a book that's hard to put down.
  • If you're a fan of Neal Shusterman.
  • If you're looking forward to the sequel, Unwholly, and want to refresh your memory of the first book. 
© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Michelle @ 1morechapter said...

Love Unwind, and so do my kids. I didn't know there was going to be a sequel -- great news!!!

Ms. Yingling said...

I recommend this a lot, but it never occurs to me to recommend it as a dystopia. Guess that wasn't quite the genre when this was published! Can't wait for Unwholly!

Unknown said...

My daughter introduced me to Unwind. It falls into the 'just crazy enough to be possible' pile. It is excellently written and she has ordered the sequel from our local bookshop.