Friday, March 30, 2012

Book Review: Unwind by Neal Shusterman


Neal Shusterman


Connor, Risa, and Lev are running for their lives. 

The Second Civil War was fought over reproductive rights. The chilling resolution: Life is inviolable from the moment of conception until age thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, however, parents can have their child "unwound," whereby all of the child's organs are transplanted into different donors, so life doesn't technically end. Connor is too difficult for his parents to control. Risa, a ward of the state is not enough to be kept alive. And Lev is a tithe, a child conceived and raised to be unwound. Together, they may have a chance to escape and to survive.


One thing you will all find out quickly about me is that I'm a sucker for Dystopias, Adult and Young Adult alike, and though often Young Adult Dystopias seem to miss out the point of a Dystopia as a Social Commentary, this one does not.

The idea of unwinding sent chills down my spine, and the ideas and philosophies discussed were exaggerated echoes of arguments and situations I've seen and thoughts I've wondered. At first the world feels almost like a shock, it is so much like our own, not overly futuristic that it's hard to comprehend that people would just "recycle away" their kids if they weren't pleasing. As the book continues, however, you start to understand that, although the society seems so close to ours, it is in fact not our society.

What is also great is that I didn't feel like there was an agenda pushed in this book, just a lot of questions asked, the readers put up to think their own answers. The abortion argument is one of the most heated political arguments someone can get into and what's scary is that America going into a Civil War over it does not seem to farfetched, and although the book deals with that I couldn't tell you what Shusterman's thoughts over it are at all.

For example the fact that abortions are no longer allowed seem to point towards that philosophy, while the idea of "storking" and the problems it causes shows that stopping abortions doesn't stop the problem.

The other idea explored is that of unwinding, of one's organs being harvested and then being completely used in other people. The society of the book wants to believe that means that the child who was unwound is still alive, but what individual people believe is different. And by the end of this book I'm sure every reader asks themselves the same question: Would they rather die or be unwound? I would rather die, personally.

Prose wise, I enjoyed the writing style immensely. Shusterman created three very distinct very developed characters in who we see most of the story unfold. All three of the characters captured my curiousity and interest. The thing I loved most about the prose however is the fact that although many things about this world are introduced, nothing that isn't needed is introduced. Every piece of information ends up being important to the plot later.

In Depth Spoiler Review

There are two parts of this book that left the biggest impression on me, the first I can assume would leave a huge impression on ANYONE, and that is Roland's Unwinding. The fact that it is done to the kids while they awake and reading the process through Roland's consciousness I started crying in horror, a hand covering my mouth, unable to turn my gaze away from the page until his final thoughts. After that chapter I set the book down and took five minutes to take it in, in complete shock that it had been written. The including of the that chapter is both brave and clever of Shusterman, specifically since we know that Conner is supposed to be next and we are almost sure that the book is going to end with his death.

The other is the whole idea explored with CyFi and in fact his final chapter especially. What happens if parts of your brain are transplanted into another person. Shusterman's world predicts that thoughts may come from you into this new person. CyFi gets led on this journey to his "brain donator's" hometown so that the piece of that brain can see his parents and be assured that he wouldn't be unwound.

It really makes you think and question about the soul and what happens if all your body parts are used somewhere else and never die, does that mean you never die?


This is a book that made me think, it made me gasp, cry, laugh, become involved in the characters. It is however not a light book. I would not read it if you're looking for fluff, this book is not fluff. I recommend this book for any Dystopia lover, especially those who have been annoyed at the lack of social commentary in Young Adult Dystopias. The last YA Dystopia to leave an impression on me was 0.4 by Mike Lancaster (which if you enjoyed Unwind and haven't read 0.4 I recommend they have a similar feel to them).



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