It’s Friday my dudes! So what does that mean? It means it’s review time!! Also, that I have so much time in my very near future to read, read, read! All my holds are coming in from the library so I’m super amped to get to them. Between reading, I’ll be working on my house, couch shopping and finishing up our DIY hexagonal shelves! I was tagged in another book tag/award thing that I’ll throw up on here sometime this weekend as well. Anyway, onto today’s main event! A review for Unwind by Neal Shusterman! As I mentioned in my last review, I’ve been re-reading a bunch of books I read a super long time ago (IDK why, it’s just happened that way) and this is the second book I’m very happy to have revisited.
This is my fourth Shusterman title to read in the last couple of months and man, this guy is KILLIN’ IT – he just doesn’t disappoint, time after time. Each of the worlds and scenarios he builds are so unique and vibrant that I’m consistently in awe of his imagination. Unwind takes place in a future where America has lived to see and survived a second civil war known as The Heartland War. Following the war, abortion laws are changed. Abortion is now illegal, but what does become the legal opportunity for parents who don’t want their children is known as “unwinding” from the ages of 13 to 18 parents are allowed to sign orders to have their children unwound. The idea behind this, that makes it palatable for society, is that no part of the child dies, 99.6% of the child still lives on, as every piece of your baby, that you sent off because they’re difficult or you didn’t want them, lives on through another person.
We enter this story with Connor – he’s a difficult son with a quick temper and a penchant for bad behavior. When he finds out his parents have signed orders to unwind him, he takes off, “kicking-AWOL” and tries running from the police to avoid unwinding. Along the way, he unwittingly saves a girl named Risa and a boy named Lev. Risa, a state ward was set to be unwound due to overpopulation in state schools and her performance just wasn’t “up to par” for them to keep a space for her. Lev is the youngest child in a family of religious zealots and he is their tithe. If you’re unfamiliar with tithing, it’s the act of giving 10% of what you have to the church. Lev is the tenth child in his family, and they are sacrificing him to be unwound as part of their tithe.
Funny, but the Bill of Life was supposed to protect the sanctity of life. Instead it just made life cheap.
I don’t want to give too much of the synopsis away because there are a lot of interesting aspects here that I think would be incredibly riveting for most readers. What consistently strikes me with Shusterman’s works is that everything he writes seems to be based somewhat in reality. His stories play on our worst fears, as individuals and as a society. I saw some reviews griping that this was too unrealistic – while I did have some of these feelings to start, the longer you sit with this and meditate on the things our society has already done then it doesn’t feel quite so far fetched. Furthermore, I don’t think Shusterman’s whole point was to be totally realistic. The point, is to guide the reader in to pondering deeper topics and where you would draw the line, what society would be able to sweep under the rug and ignore.
“…One thing you learn when you’ve lived as long as I have – people aren’t all good, and people aren’t all bad. We move in and out of darkness and light all of our lives. Right now, I’m pleased to be in the light.”
Unwind does absolutely not shy away from heavy topics. Topics of death, abortion, religion and what makes someone a good person, or a bad one. I wish I would’ve read this with someone else because the intricacy in not just the world and the story here lies in the deep philosophical questions that this book proposes. Shusterman handles these hard hitting topics with a deft hand and I never felt the answers were spoon fed to me nor were they sensationalized. This book was published in 2007, but it’s relevance is just as important, if not more so in today’s political climate.
This book was creepy AF ya’ll. My only issue with this, which may be my own fault because I’ve read multiple YA books recently (pretty much all Shusterman) but I had a bit of a hard time connecting to the characters and I felt their development wasn’t quite as strong in this novel as I’ve seen in say… Scythe. While there were some plot holes, I didn’t find them overwhelming and they didn’t distract too much from the overall story. However! Despite being a YA novel, this is incredibly dark and Shusterman does not wash away the darkness for the sake of a younger audience. While I don’t want to give too much away, I will tell you that Shusterman writes the unwinding process from the POV of the child being unwound and that scene is going to stay with me for a very long time.
Unwinds didn’t go out with a bang – they didn’t even go out with a whimper. they went out with the silence of a candle flame pinched between two fingers.
In the end, it’s the detail that gets me with Shusterman’s work. I think I could write forever about how impressive I find the depth of his thought processes. There’s so many small, fascinating aspects at play here that I never would’ve thought of myself. Along the way, Connor, Lev and Risa meet various people who shine new light on the unwinding situation and the way unwinding affects not just the kids being unwound, but the people receiving new body parts. There are characters here who retain their unwounds muscle memories, or their actual memories and have to fight to remain fully themselves. The intricacy at play here is another slam dunk for me and I’m truly thrilled to see what Shusterman does in the future, as well as reading more of his past works.
Would you rather die, or be unwound? Now he finally knows the answer. Maybe this is what he wanted. Maybe it’s why he stood there and taunted Roland. Because he’d rather be killed with a furious hand than dismembered with cool indifference.
All in all, this isn’t for the faint of heart. Unwind is a hard hitting novel, that despite any hang ups I may have had, once this books grips the reader, it’s not going to let go. This isn’t one you’ll fly through and move on from, it’s something you’re going to want to sit with, ponder and meditate on the emotions this book will make you feel. Once again, I’m left incredibly impressed by Shusterman’s writing skill and story development. He has easily shot himself to the top of my favorite authors and anyone would do well to read his works.
Long Story Short:
Suggested For: Fans of Neal Shusterman, YA/Dystopian readers, general fans of fantasy and intricate story work.
Music Mood: Sing Along by Robert Ellis
Have you read Unwind by Neal Shusterman, if so what did you think? Does “unwinding” sound as awful to you as it does to me? Drop me a note in the comments and let me know!