Thursday, May 24, 2012

Review: Unwind

Neal Shusterman
Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
I rarely do this, but for Unwind I'm using Goodread's summary of the book because it's much better than whatever I might write: "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."

I'd been hearing about this book for a while, but never really planned to read it until I came across it at the used bookstore and decided to give it a try. There are a myriad of problems, I think, with the chilling premise of this book. Like, whatever your views on abortion are, I can't imagine anyone thinking oh, yeah, this is a good idea. Compromise! Huzzah! But the amazing thing here is that, despite the problems I had with the premise the writing was such that it made this creepy, horrible thing feel completely real. Usually, I'm a very character-driven reader and the surprising thing is that, with this book, I didn't particularly like any of the characters. The book itself is very plot-driven and this plot was good enough to keep me completely riveted despite not hugely caring about the characters. Shusterman twists certain things (like the Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme, or storks bringing babies) from our current culture for his futuristic world, and makes them fit perfectly, which makes the book both more real and more creepy.

Each of the three characters in this book have a slightly different set of circumstances, which gives a broad view of the society within Unwind. While rebellious, short-tempered Connor is the typical "Unwind" -- difficult to control, often thought of as a criminal type -- the other two come from very different situations and the one thing that unites these three is the reality they're faced with: the unwinding. Will they die? Or will it be like everyone tells them -- just a change? None of them know, and the prospect of finding out is terrifying. However, we do find out, in bits and pieces (how appropriate) as the book heads to its ultimate, surprising, climax. Though this is set to be the first in a trilogy, it works well as a stand-alone.

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