Review: Unwind by Neal Shusterman

Sunday, January 13, 2013 10:24 AM
Title: Unwind
Author: Neal Shusterman
Published: November 6, 2007
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Series: Unwind Dystology #1
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian
Pages: 335
Source: Purchased
Rating: 3 stars
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
“In a perfect world everything would be either black or white, right or wrong, and everyone would know the difference. But this isn't a perfect world. The problem is people who think it is.”
― Neal Shusterman, Unwind

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. (Goodreads)
My Thoughts
It's perfect weather for reading and writing blog posts. We have an extreme case of The Fog outside. If I see zombie-like ghosts, I'll be sure to scream and grow some plants for Plants vs. Zombies time. But as of now, I'm staying in and nursing my headache with some hot tea. Onto the book review!

Unwind was not what I expected. It was not as horrific as I thought it would be from reading others' reviews. But you must remember, my dear followers, that I have different standards when it comes to horror. I watch horror flicks regularly and read Stephen King like nobody's business so I might be somewhat desensitized to what others call "disturbing." Don't get me wrong. There was a definite creepy factor throughout Unwind, but it did not give me nightmares. Did this interfere with my enjoyment? Of course not. I don't need extreme horror to make me happy, especially when a book is quality reading. Unwind explored some core issues and raised thought-provoking questions that had me thinking about reproductive rights long after I had finished the book. One of these questions is very relevant to today's society: do we have the right to choose what we do with our bodies? Basically, do we own our bodies?

Unfortunately, it's a difficult question to answer as pro choice and pro life sides battle it out in front of abortion clinics. There never seems to be a simple, indisputable answer. I'm not going to debate the issue or mention my opinion because this is a book review, but I do love the premise of this book because it relates to the present day. In this distant future, the reproductive rights issue has incited a full-blown war. Aborting an unborn child is not an option, but parents may choose to "unwind" their children between the ages of thirteen and eighteen. After unwinding, their organs are transplanted to different donors. Unwinds are supposed to be comforted because they are told unwinding is not the end of their existence or death, for the organs still have the original unwind's feelings, memories, and personalities attached to them. That just makes the whole process creepier. As for unwanted newborns, mothers can choose to stork their babies, leaving them on a stranger's doorstep. If they are not caught in the act of storking, the baby is then legally the storkee's responsibility.

I hope we never see a future where unwinding or the stork initiative exist, and I like to think that they are unrealistic. But I still found this dark world where unwanted children are discarded endlessly intriguing. As I said earlier, Unwind made me think long and hard about reproductive rights. How are we ever going to reach a compromise between pro life and pro choice? Unwinding also came into existence because donors were in short supply, and this is a chief concern in an age where there is a waiting list for heart transplants. But how do we encourage more people to become organ donors? And will that splitting of the self affect someone in the afterlife? This book made me want to go find some people to have a heated discussion with, a group that could debate on all of these issues.

There is one particular scene in Unwind that has traumatized some readers. Shusterman actually included a scene where a boy is unwound. Before this part of the book, I had never truly understood unwinding. I had a vague idea of what it was but I never thought that the unwind would be aware during the operation. It was definitely eye-opening, and while it was disturbing, I appreciated this detailed look into unwinding. It made this dark reality all the more real and tangible, and it gave me goosebumps.

While Unwind is filled with action by the end, I found the beginning to be a bit slow. It was difficult for me to fully immerse myself into the story because I was uninterested in the characters. It took me awhile to feel any connection to Connor, Risa, and Lev, especially Connor. They were naive and controversial, making me less sympathetic when they try to escape their unwinding sentence. I needed a reason to cheer them on. I wanted to know more about them. I felt like I learned about their lives, but their personalities were very basic and undeveloped. They just seemed to fall flat, and I found characters like Hayden much more interesting. By the end of the book, I found myself liking them more and feeling more for them, but I almost put the book down in the beginning.

I want to read Unwholly so I can get another glimpse of this world. I also want to learn even more about the process of unwinding, however disturbing it may be, and some twists in Unwind have me feeling even more excited for the sequel. Here's my advice: read this if you're into freaky dystopians. If even this review turned you off because you don't want to read about children being unwound like a spool of thread, then I would pick up another series instead.

After reading Undwind, I suggest watching the Charlie Wants an Abortion episode from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia where the guys try to pick up chicks at an abortion rally. It cheers you right up.


  1. I really enjoyed this book because, as you said, the world created here is very intriguing and raises some pertinent issues. And that scene where we see the actual process of unwinding...that was so sad; I couldn't believe that it happened like that. I definitely can't wait to read Unwholly. Lovely review, Courtney! :)

    1. Yeah, I felt bad for the unwind even though I wasn't particularly fond of him before. It was a very sad scene. Thanks! :D

  2. Great review! I love Unwind, but it did creep me out. I have to agree that it's not exactly. . . horrific. Not like a Stephen King novel or a horror movie. It wasn't the type of book that would make me have a nightmare. It was more just creepy, the kind of creepy that made me want to jump in the shower and wash the creepiness off. I'm glad you mentioned Hayden; he's one of my favorite characters and when I read the book I often wished he had been one of the main characters. I think Lev is one of the most intriguing characters ever written, though, if not exactly likable. I hope you enjoy Unwholly--I gave Unwind 5 stars and Unwholly was a 4.5 stars, so in my opinion, though it doesn't *quite* live up to Unwind, it does come very, very, very close. Unwholly brings a lot more of the political/corporate side into the Unwind world, which made it a more believable premise for me.

    1. It's good to hear that Unwholly has more of the politics side in it because I've been wanting more background. That should be fascinating to read about! I have some money left on my B&N gift card so maybe I'll use that to buy Unwholly. I have to agree about the creepy vs horrific. It's more invasive than horrific. Like you said, you feel dirty afterwards. Like it's just wrong. It's some freaky stuff when your body doesn't belong to you and can be unwound by your parents. Thanks! :)

  3. I've had this on my list but you've convinced me I need to bump it up.

    1. Yay! Great to hear! Look forward to your review! :D

  4. I loved your review of this, Courtney. I'm looking forward to reading it after so many of my GR friends loving it. I love reading the reviews for this book and yours was absolutely stunning.

    1. Thanks so much Sarah! I hope you enjoy Unwind as much I did!

  5. I loved Unwind! But unlike you, I loved it from the start. Though I do agree with you that their personality aren't as well developed in the first few pages, there was something I immediately saw in the characters that got me rooting for them from the beginning! Unwholly is definitely a step-up! Can't wait for you to read it!

    Btw, I nominated you for a Liebster Award! Details can be found here.

    1. Wow! Thanks Gellie! And I'm glad you enjoyed Unwind from the start. I cannot wait to read Unwholly. :)

  6. First of all, is that second image actually a legitimate cover? Horrifying!

    I should have known that you wouldn't be a fazed by this book as I was. It is an interesting concept, I'll grant that. But otherwise...not my type of book! You can read Unwholly and tell me how it is! :) Glad you enjoyed this.

    1. Yes it is a legit cover. And I will eventually read Unwholly. I'm in no hurry.


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