Saturday, July 2, 2011


Unwind, by Neal Schusterman

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. -Plot summary borrowed from Good Reads

This book was chilling. Sure, the premise is completely unrealistic (hacking teenagers to bits in a creepy lab setting is a "compromise" that would horrify pro-choicers and pro-lifers equally), but once (/if) you can get past that, this is a suspenseful ride through a truly scary setting. You can't not root for these kids, especially as they mature and attempt to overcome their situation. Lev's character is especially interesting as he goes from an eerily willing sacrificial lamb to a jaded runaway and ultimately to something completely new.

I think it was a smart move on the author's part to not just show kids due for "unwinding," but to show the many different reasons parents or other authorities would opt for this horrendous procedure. Kids acting up? Why not cut your losses?  State can't afford a ward who underperforms musically? Let's break them down for their useful component parts! Want to show your support for your society? Offer up one of your kids, you can always have more! All areas of abortion politics are explored here, including the idea of unwanted newborns. In this setting, parents unwilling or unable to raise their child are able to "stork" them, leaving the infant on someone else's doorstep. Whoever opens that door becomes the child's official legal guardian.

Schusterman covers as much ground as possible, and answers through various happenings pretty much every question a reader can think of. What happens to the consciousnesses of the unwound? Can a parent change their mind after ordering their child to be unwound? What happens if someone did not want to be "storked"? Does anyone in this society realize how crazy this all is??

He does give one chapter detailing the unwinding process, which is not for the faint of heart. Never mind that you may have found the idea of unwinding silly, this will Freak You Out. If you are a fan of dystopias, or biopunk, or suspenseful stories with engaging protagonists and a philosophical bent, I would definitely recommend Unwind.


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