Monday, August 16, 2010

REVIEW: Unwind by Neal Shusterman

In a society where unwanted teens are salvaged for their body parts, three runaways fight the system that would "unwind" them

Connor's parents want to be rid of him because he's a troublemaker. Risa has no parents and is being unwound to cut orphanage costs. Lev's unwinding has been planned since his birth, as part of his family's strict religion. Brought together by chance, and kept together by desperation, these three unlikely companions make a harrowing cross-country journey, knowing their lives hang in the balance. If they can survive until their eighteenth birthday, they can't be harmed -- but when every piece of them, from their hands to their hearts, are wanted by a world gone mad, eighteen seems far, far away.

In Unwind, Boston Globe/Horn Book Award winner Neal Shusterman challenges readers' ideas about life -- not just where life begins, and where it ends, but what it truly means to be alive.

I really liked the idea of Unwind a lot more than I enjoyed actually reading the book. Let me just get that out of the way right now. I didn't hate the book by any means, but I felt like the third person narrative over many different perspectives distanced the reader too far away from the characters, at least for me. I've heard a lot of people say nothing but good things about Neal Shusterman, but the structure of the novel just didn't work for me. :( I hope this isn't the case for all of his books...

Unwind is a scary dystopic YA novel which focuses mostly but not entirely on the journeys of three different characters, all with different backrounds and reasons for running away from the system and the title of 'Unwind' What is unwinding? These three characters live in a not-too-distant world whereby children can be aborted retroactively. From the ages of 13-18, a child can be 'unwound' and organs and tissue will be distributed to those who need it. The child being 'unwound' will continue to exist, only in individual parts instead of as a collective whole.

Each of the three characters represent different areas of society that people would choose to use such a function. Connor, as a trouble-maker, is sent away for unwinding by his parents for convenience. As a parent, I couldn't relate to this decision at all and wasn't able to fully believe those type of decisions can be made. Risa, on the other hand, is a ward of the state and to make room for others, she's sent off to be Unwound. I can understand this. Lev has a different title to the others - he's a 'Tithe' which means he is an embodiment of a religious sacrifice. I don't understand this, but was able to accept it in terms of the story. Already, it was a little bit too much of a stretch for me to believe and relate to these people's circumstances. If I were able to believe without question, I think I would have found Unwound to be a lot more powerful and emotional than I did.

As it was, I still found Shusterman's messages and ideas about good and bad, adoption and the soul to be quite interesting. When does life begin? Are we beginning to lose sight of what it means to be human and are there lines that shouldn't be crossed? It's a thought-provoking book, one that will hopefully ask some controversial questions. I just wish that it was done in a way that I didn't have to suspend by disbelief by so much and in a way in which I could have felt closer to the characters and the decisions and actions that they take.

This has been read as part of Presenting Lenore's Dystopian August!


  1. The idea of unwounding really creeps me out! But funny enough, I'm almost tempted to read this, just so I can, you know, prove to myself I can read dystopian! Lol. Great review, always so insightful!

  2. I have to say that I loved every word of this book. It blew me away.

  3. Thanks for joining in the fun! My reading experience with the book went like something like this:

    I picked it up at the library to read the first page and then about 3 hours later, I realized I had read the whole thing! It's not without its flaws, but dang, it sure sucks you in!

  4. I had mixed feelings too. I found myself completely caught up in the book but didn't exactly love it. I have to agree that some of Unwound's content seems a little bit of a stretch. For me, it's not that parents would choose to have a 'bad' kind unwound, but that the state would condone, encourage and carry out this practice. I also wasn't crazy about the writing styel, which also left me feeling a lack of connection with the characters. Great balanced review.


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