Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Book Review: Unwind by Neal Shusterman



As a high school librarian, it's obviously hard to read every book in my collection, and I often find myself recommending books that I haven't even read yet... going by what critics or other students say, or by having read a synopsis of the book.  I must admit, that I've been recommending Unwind for quite some time without having read it.  So this summer, I was determined to get to this book.  I finished it tonight, and I now know that I will be recommending and book talking this one with a whole new passion!

The idea behind this book is what really grabs your attention and makes you want to read it--to find out more.  The characters, and how the story is told, are what keep you from ever wanting to put it down!  The novel takes place in an unspecified future time.  A second civil war has ended... a war between the pro-life and the pro-choice movements.  A compromise has been established.  Unwanted pregnancies can no longer be terminated.  However, a child's life can be terminated by his or her parents between the ages of 13 and 18.  Should a parent decide that they no longer want their child, he or she can be "unwound."  Doctors slowly "dismantle" the body, one part at a time, and each part is donated and used by someone in need.  This story centers on three characters.  Connor, after constantly getting into trouble, is being sent away by his parents to a harvest camp, where he will be unwound.  Risa, whose mother left her when she was just an infant, is a ward of the state.  She has failed to make a great impression on the board who decides her state, and so she is also being sent off to be unwound.  Lev is a tithe.  He has always known that he will be unwound.  As their tenth child, his parents are giving him up as a contribution, a sort of sacrifice for the greater good.  Lev looks forward to his unwinding and believes that he is special, a chosen one.  On one fateful day, their lives intersect, and their survival depends on each other as well as those who want to help.  But not everyone can remain "whole" when the entire world seems to be collapsing.

This is one of the most exciting books that I have read this summer!  I appreciate that, rather than being preachy, Shusterman has even avoided taking sides on the abortion issue while telling a compelling story of what happens when people are so divided that either extreme fails to see what truly is evil.  One of my favorite quotes from the novel goes...
"You see, a conflict always begins with an issue--a difference of opinion, an argument.  but by the time it turns into a war, the issue doesn't matter anymore, because now it's about one thing and one thing only: how much each side hates the other."
Reading this during an election year, with slandering ads on the television every five minutes, and arguments flying back and forth over social media, these words really carried some meaning.  Still, the novel tells a compelling and exciting story based on a heated issue, without getting overly political.   Mostly because you, the reader, want to know what happens to the characters more than you are interested in the political or legal outcome.  Near the end, questions arise.  Seeds of doubt and rebellion are planted, and I see the next books in the trilogy headed in a more political direction.  Still, Shusterman and his characters are dealing with the issue of unwinding, not abortion.  I see readers on both sides of the pro-life/pro-choice debate enjoying this story.  I couldn't put it down, and I'll be waiting on August 28th, for the release of its sequel, UnWholly.

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