Author: Neal Shusterman
Genre: Dystopia | Young Adult | Thriller
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: November 6, 2007
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 (goodreads).
Unwind is brutal. Downright brutal. I just wish that the characters spoke more to me.
Plot: One thing you should know about Unwind is that you'll never be bored. Neal Shusterman tells Unwind from a plethora of perspectives - some characters you travel with for the majority of the book, and others just make appearances during that one scene. This makes it easy to keep flipping pages and wanting to see what will happen next.
Unwind is also wondrously original. It asks the question of what would happen if there actually was a physical war over reproductive rights. While this was wildly original and clever, I did think that it tried to hard to be deep and ask the difficult questions. At times, I felt like Shusterman's dialogue was hitting me over the head with the issue of reproductive rights. I would have loved to see the topic fleshed out more with more personal stories, instead of the characters sitting in a circle and debating the pros and cons of unwinding.
Characters: It's hard to determine if there is a main character in Unwind, but because the novel opened with Connor, I'm going to use that as a determining factor. He's your typical teenage boy; he's troubled (well his parents just ordered him dead so I understand), but he is also the face of this rebellion. I felt it hard to get under Connor's skin and get the depth of him. Actually, I had that problem with all of the characters. Connor, Risa, and Levi are often separated and rushing towards new points of action so there isn't any chance to become attached to anyone which was a real loss.
Worldbuilding: Unwind is clearly a dystopian novel, but I don't know when (or for that matter - where) it takes place. There are documents and materials from the early 2000s and the newspaper is antiquated - but I still don't know what year this was supposed to be. Just like in terms character development, I wished that Shusterman had fleshed out this world's history. What brought about this war on reproductive rights? What are some of the political advantages? Some backstory would have really helped me understand the motivation and made this issue more complex and thought-provoking.
Short N Sweet: Unwind isn't afraid to go 'there,' but it falls flat in character development and fleshing out the real issues.