Monday, January 07, 2008

Neal Shusterman's Unwind

Sometimes, books are well-written, gripping, AND thought-provoking. This dystopian novel from Shusterman is all of that and more. Set in a future America that has been torn apart by a war between ProChoice and ProLife factions, the compromise that has been made is that abortion is illegal, but mothers may abandon their children on people's doorsteps or at massive state orphanages, and children between the ages of 13 and 18 may be "unwound". Three children-- Connor, whose parents make this decision because of his behavior problems; Risa, who is a ward of the state and unwound due to budgetary constraints; and Lev, whose religious parents decided to unwind him at birth because they believe in tithing everything-- meet up on the run from their supposed doom, which is to become organ donors for people who need livers, arms, even brain cells, since technology has advanced to the point where these transplants are easy and effective.

Eventually making their way into an underground system that saves such children, the three get caught up in intrique at a camp whose leader was an author of the Bill of Life, which set up the unwinding process. Feeling guilt over having his own son unwound, he has set up a camp in the dessert for children to bide their time until their 18th birthdays while working for him.

When they try to save this man when he has a heart attack, the three get discovered and sent to a Harvest Camp. Another boy from the camp is "unwound" and we get to hear how this is done. The society has decided that this is not death, since 99 and 44/100th of the children live on. This is a chilling premise that is handled in such a brilliantly delicate manner that I found myself thinking "Is Shusterman ProChoice or ProLife?" For being such a central part of this book, abortion is not really discussed; the reader has to draw his own conclusions on what this society thinks of the sanctity of life, and also what are own society does

A long book, this is not easy to describe, but the most effective part of this book is that the philosophical musing is broken up by car chases, explosions and fights. Things HAPPEN.

This is my son's new 5th favorite book. If I had my way, this would win the Newbery. Riveting. Chilling. Absolutely excellent.


  1. I've been wanting to read this book, and your review makes me that much more eager. Thanks!

  2. Sounds like something my 7th grade son might want to read (hint, hint) if he hasn't already. ;-)

    I'll get around to it one of these days, am adding it to my ever-growingn list of books I want to read.


  3. Anonymous4:52 PM EST

    I'm waiting for my copy to come in the mail! I cant wait to read the actual book. I've read many of the reviews but this is the most detailed one and it explained a lot. I cant wait to read it!!

  4. Anonymous1:58 PM EST

    I have enjoyed the books of Neal Shusterman I have read so far. In preparation for his visit to my school I had the students look at his website. A majority of the students are clamoring for Unwind, which I do not have. After reading your review and some others I am going to purchase the book this weekend. It sounds like it will be a great book for discussions on human rights! T

  5. Anonymous12:25 PM EST

    As a teenager who enjoyed Unwind immensely, I'm so excited to see the adults out there getting into this book rather than writing it off based on the premise. Several adults (none of them librarians, of course) with whom I have discussed the book felt that it was too grotesque for young adults--and never bothered to read it. The Eva Perry Mock Printz Book Club, a group of teens (myself included) who read newly published YA novels and choose our own unofficial Printz award winner, chose Unwind this year as our top book. You can visit us on the web at

  6. Pamela Kramer4:19 PM EDT

    My husband (a former high school English teacher) and I (a reading teacher) feel that this book should be on the required reading list for freshman in high school. It is thought-provoking and at the same time exciting. This book grabs you from the first chapter and doesn't let go. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.