My wonderful librarian handed me Unwind while I was searching for a novel to read. Immediately I said I hated horror stories. (I mean look at the cover doesn’t look like a horror story???) So anyways… she set me straight and told me this was a great book and checked it out to me despite my initial inhibitions.
Unwind is a dystopian novel set in the near future where parents have the option of having their children “unwound” from the age of 13 to 18. The unwound parts of the children are donated to people who are in need of organs or a limb. By law, every part of an unwound child is used so that the child is still in a twisted sense “living”. The novel follows the lives of 3 children who are on the path to a harvest camp to be unwound. Connor is a trouble maker his parents cannot reform, Risa, a ward of the state who is being unwound to save money, and Lev, whose unwinding has been planned as a tithe to God. However, when their roads literally meet, their lives are changed forever. This novel is an odyssey to their journey to survive in a world that is morally lost.
At first, it’s a really big shock to read about a future where parents would actually pay to have their child dissected for body parts. Once you dig deeper, you discover Shusterman’s mastermind behind this world. These horrifying unwindings were a result of a fictitious second civil war in the United States, a fight over reproductive rights. After a long and bloody war, the two sides came with a compromise. Life existed at the moment of conception until the age of 13 where parents could opt to have their child unwound in a living, but in a divided state. The parents who chose to unwind their child had selfish reasons such as, bad grades, misbehavior, and expenses. Then there is the added issue of advertisements which pollute every corner of society. Unwinding is promoted by companies who benefit off of unwinding children by selling unwound parts to those in need of a new body part(s). Behind the horrors of unwinding shows the plausible reality of how twisted humans could become in greed, and selfishness.
The character progression was one of the most compelling aspects of this novel. Each character changes dynamically in so many ways, emotionally and physically. (spoilers)
At the end of the novel Risa and Conner are changed physically, but despite their deformities, they learn to forge a stronger love and trust. Levi struggles to find his purpose throughout the novel, he first tries to be a perfect tithe and then tries to use his body as a bomb to destroy the harvest camps. In the end, when Levi chooses life above death, love before anger, he becomes a symbol for all that his friends stand for. At the end of the novel, there is hope, when Levi’s story speaks out to the world that unwinds, are human, and they cannot be cut apart from society silently.
In my opinion, this book was the complete break through into the theme of dystopian novels, this came before the Hunger Games, Divergent, and Legend. If this was my first dystopian novel that I would have give it 10/10. It has every making of a great novel, hair-raising suspense and action, romance, and typical teen angst in a crazy futuristic society. (Unwind is part of the Unwind Dystology which consists of 4 novels)
UPDATE: A Google slides presentation by meee for class