Author: Neal Shusterman
Published: November 6, 2007
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Series: Unwind Dystology #1
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian
Rating: 3 stars
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“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.”My Thoughts
― 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)
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.