Unwind by Neal Shusterman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Unwind is a horrifying dystopian novel that you just can’t look away from. In a near future, the pro-choice and pro-life camps have come to a head and neither side can be satisfied. As a result, a devastating war breaks out and the only way to stop it is to come up with a solution that will satisfy both sides, or neither – the result is an utterly horrifying decision: “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.” Essentially, if parents decide they no longer want their teens, then they can be removed from their lives. Since it’s a form of incredibly effective organ donation (99.4% of them is being used for other people), they don’t technically die and go on to help other people in a newly divided state.
We are introduced to three main characters: Connor, Risa, and Levi. Connor was a decent student, but prone to outbursts of aggression and troublemaking that eventually caused his parents to decide to unwind him. Risa was a ward of the state and gifted piano player, but not gifted enough to save her from being unwound when the home was faced with budget cuts. Levi was a tithe, chosen by his family specifically to be unwound as part of their religious beliefs. They each bring a different perspective to the story and lens through which to experience this new world. While I feel for Levi and his struggles, he was my least favourite of the three main characters and I wasn’t particularly interested in his storyline when he had been separated from Connor and Risa.
The world that we are dropped into is one very similar to our own. Though they have made some medical advances, we are not so far into the future that the world is unrecognizable. As such, it makes the story even more affecting because it can more feasibly happen in our lifetime than typical science fiction or dystopian novels. The author did not need to do much in the way of world-building, but I felt as though his locations were well described. I could visualize each place that the teens were in, from the crowded Graveyard to the dark hideaway in the antique shop.
For a while, dystopian fiction was very popular and I can see how this series would appeal to teens interested in the genre. I was fully engaged in the story and would like to read the rest of the series to see how it all plays out. I can imagine the plot being fraught with tension and the world changing over the course of the next three novels. I would recommend this series to teens who enjoy dystopian or horror fiction.
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Unwind by Neal Shusterman