Thursday, January 13, 2011
Pages: 335 (paperback)
Published: 2007 by Simon & Schuster
Recommended for: anyone who likes to read dystopia
Connor, Risa, and Lev are running for their lives.
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 considered talented 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.
Unwind is a book that surprised me again and again, in a lot of different ways. First, I was surprised by how much I ended up enjoying the book, granted that the first 20 or so pages didn't exactly captivate my attention and I don't really love the cover. Neal Shusterman has a great talent for story-telling-- not writing novels or character-building or even world-building. It's all brilliant story-telling: the kind of twisty, fast-paced tale that sucks you in, without burdening you with too many or too few details. He has this talent for catchy monikers and throwing in a little bit of humor to even out the often darker tones and settings of his novels. The way everything unfolds is pretty genius, though I ended up liking all the characters, too. There are tons of twists in the plot-- most of them totally unsuspected. By the 21st page, I was well and truly hooked.
The thing about the world of Unwind is that it's dystopian, but doesn't seem too far-out a future for society. The Unwinds-- kids thirteen to eighteen who are sentenced to be surgically divided in a sort of teenage abortion-- all have sympathetic and sometimes disturbing backstories. Lev goes willingly to be Unwound on his thirteenth birthday-- he's known all his life that this would be his fate, and his uber-religious friends and family assure him that he's going to a better place. Conner's that 'troubled' kid whose parents just couldn't care less, and poor Risa is the most sympathetic of them all-- she's a talented concert pianoist who makes a few mistakes during a recital, and is sent to a harvest camp to be Unwound after the state decides she's not good enough to make the budget cut for state orphanages. And then there's CyFi, who received a brain transplant from a former Unwind a long time ago, and is slowly realizing that he wound up with more than just a few of the kid's brain cells from the operation.
There is one particular scene (yes, this is one of those spoilers where you open a book at the library and see someone's scribbled turn to page 289...oops. Well, yeah, the scene starts on page 289. ;) which really made me squirm. It's by no means graphic, in fact, I wish the author hadn't left so much to the imagination. You won't think I'm crazy if you read it. Anyway, Unwind is a stand-alone dystopia by a master storyteller which is by turns disturbing and intriguing, funny and oddly realistic for a futuristic thriller. I definitely recommend it, especially to anyone else as caught up in the YA dystopia craze as I am.
*This book qualifies for the following reading challenges: Dystopia Challenge 2011*