Unwind by Neal Shusterman
This review contains potentially sensitive
“I’m being unwound?”
Silence. It’s more of an answer than if they had said “yes.”
The social worker reaches over to take Risa’s hand, but Risa pulls it back before she can. “It’s all right to be frightened. Change is always scary.”
“Change?” yells Risa, “What do you mean ‘change’? Dying is a little more than a ‘change.’”
The headmaster’s tie turns into a noose again, preventing blood from getting to his face. The lawyer opens his briefcase.
“Please, Miss Ward. It’s not dying, and I’m sure everyone here would be more comfortable if you didn’t suggest something so blatantly inflammatory. The fact is, 100 percent of you will still be alive, just in a divided state.”
(Pages 23 & 24)
Not too far into the future, scientists create the ultimate solution to the ongoing debate relating to abortion – unwinding. Parents can observe their unwanted children and judge whether they are fit to “unwind” them as teenagers, a process in which a one’s body parts are salvaged and given to others in need. The scientific innovation allows the teen in question to remain alive through their body parts that now reside in other people. This story follows the adventures of three AWOLs (teenagers that have escaped from their unwinding), all with very different backstories and personalities. Connor, an undisciplined and rowdy 16-year-old boy, leaves behind his girlfriend and secretive, unforgiving parents; Risa, a gifted 15-year-old pianist who is a ward of the state, abandons her friends and her dreams of being a talented musician; and Lev, a brainwashed 13-year-old tithe who has been prepared for and awaiting his unwinding since the day he was born, is forced to rethink what he considers normal. The three children desperately attempt to avoid their fate while taking a stand for what is right, but how long can you run from the inevitable?
I’ve been hooked on Neal Shusterman ever since I read “Dry”, which was a collaboration between him and his brother (you can find my review for it HERE). He has such an exclusive writing style, and he raises awareness for modern issues in every text that I’ve read so far. This led me to try out Unwind, and I don’t regret it.
This novel comments on the ethical dilemma of whether all lives are equal (a topic first conversed in George Orwell’s 1945 political allegory “Animal Farm”). Do rebellious adolescents have lesser value than respectful, rule-abiding citizens of the same age? Should their bodies and lives be traded for the needs of others that could possibly be fixed through other kinds of surgery that don’t involve human sacrifice?
I found the general concept of tithing extremely interesting (a tithe is a teenager who has brought up to believe that unwinding is “holy” or “sacred”), as the child in question’s parents have forced propaganda upon them for their entire lives. This is reflected multiple times throughout world history, but this book is set in the future, inferring that this will remain a problem for a long time, which makes sense as it is so difficult to fix. The end to propaganda, however, can be seen in Lev’s character – he begins the story as a misinformed, unenlightened tithe but as the storyline progresses, he finds himself fighting for a much better cause. This gives humankind hope for the eradication of propaganda.
This story isn’t sexually inappropriate but understanding the concept of taking away a teenager’s body parts without their permission requires a great deal of empathy. Some younger readers may not have the emotional capabilities to put themselves in the characters’ shoes and consider what they are going through, especially in a surgery scene where the process of unwinding is graphically described. The audience must try to understand some of the words that are exclusive to the series (unwinding, tithing, clappers and storking to name a few) and some people may find this confusing. Because of this, I recommend Unwind to anyone aged 14 and over.
This novel is so gripping and unpredictable that I couldn’t put it down until I had read the entire thing. I moved directly onto the second instalment in the dystology (Unwholly), and I’m currently waiting for the third book to arrive in the mail. The characters are all so unique with fascinating backstories, and Neal Shusterman writes so well. I would give it 8 stars out of 10.
Simon and Schuster Books