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Unwind (1) (Unwind Dystology) Hardcover – November 6, 2007
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* "A thought-provoking, well-paced read that will appeal widely."--School Library Journal, starred review
"Well-written, this draws the readers into a world that is both familiar and strangely foreign, and generates feelings of horror, disturbance, disgust and fear. As with classics such as 1984 and Fahrenheit 451, one can only hope that this vision of the future never becomes reality."--Kirkus Reviews
"Poignant, compelling, and ultimately terrifying, this book will enjoy popularity with a wide range of readers."--VOYA, 4Q4P
"Following in the footsteps of Jonathan Swift, Shusterman uncorks a Modest Proposal of his own to solve a Pro-Life/Pro-Choice dilemma...ingeniously developed cast and premise."--Booklist
"Nail-biting, character-driven thriller."--The Horn Book
"The shocking premise is unveiled immediately, and a nail-biting pace is sustained throughout, with the teens flung headlong into a true life-or-death struggle...these haunting debates will likely linger in the reader's mind even after the riveting plot fades...an ideal blend of philosophy and action set in a compelling futuristic landscape."--The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"The power of the novel lies in what it doesn't do: come down explicitly on one side or the other."--The New York Times Book Review
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This story is about a society that has been created within the United States. There was a civil war in which people fought either for pro-choice or pro-life in terms of abortion. However, in order to satisfy both sides, a bill was passed in which a child that is born cannot be harmed. Rather, when a child turns 13, the parents have a choice to have their child unwound. The parents have until the child turns 18, when they become a legal adult, to make this choice. Being unwound is where a person’s organs are harvested and put to use in someone else. The trick about this bill is that 100% of the person must be used. If a person is used 100%, then the person is not technically dead, and are living in a “divided state” instead. This satisfied both sides of the argument. However, the children are the ones who are left to deal with being casted as an “unwind.” The book doesn’t revolve around one person, but rather several. These characters are escaping their fates and dealing with a society that doesn’t seem them as anything but troublesome and could be put to better use in someone else’s body.
As you can see, this is a very unique story. In my opinion, I believe that this book is a reflection of current day issues that we battle with in our society, specifically the issues of abortion, life, death, the right to live, being pro-choice, and the modernization of medicine. I don’t want you walking away thinking that this book will try to persuade you one way or another, because thats not what the story does. It will leave your own opinions intact. I believe Shusterman did a good job in finding a balance in a delicate issue. This was merely a story about a group of teenagers having to deal with the cards that they have been dealt. For me, what I got out of the story was that the way that our society and government is built, there are many choices that are made for us. Adults have a little bit more of a choice in what happens to them, but for teenagers, they are often found without having an opportunity to voice themselves because they are not labeled as adults. I think what happened in this book was that a group of teenagers fought to have their voices heard. They didn’t go out and start a revolution, but rather they did the best that they could with their situations.
The fact that there were so many characters in the book was both a blessing and a downfall. On one had, as a reader, I was able to get different perspectives on a particular situation. You learned more tidbits from each character as the story went on. The story alternated between the same 3 or 4 characters, so you were able to return to a familiar character. However, because the perspective was continually alternating, I wasn’t able to relate to a character as much. I think I am used to so many books being written in first person. I am able to relate to them, feel the growth, and form a connection with that character. I felt myself having to work a little bit with trying to switch my mindset back to another character.
Another issue I had with Unwind was with the characters themselves. The author stated that the characters were about 13- 16 years old, but they came off as 18 year olds. I sometimes feel that authors will say that their characters are a certain age but then write them to act much older in order to relate to the audience that they are writing for. I know that the prospect and fear of having your organs harvested against your will is going to be a scary experience that changes you, even ages you, but it never seemed like these characters ever had that childlike innocence to begin with.
When I first heard about this book, it seemed really creepy. The cover of the book didn’t help either. I have to say, this book wasn’t that creepy at all. There’s only one scene where I felt creeped out. I’m not going to give that scene away because I feel like you just have to read it in order to know what I mean. I also thought that the book was going to be a little bit more fast paced. The story seemed to drag a little bit in the middle, but the ending made up for it. I especially loved the ending, and I would have been more than okay with that being the ending to the entire story. There are two more books in the story called Unwholly and Unsouled. The cover to Unsouled especially creeps me out!
I really liked this book. I have to say, if you decide to read it, don’t expect it to be like a typical dystopian book, because thats not what it is! You’ll just have to dive into the book and prepare for a unique experience.
Highly recommend this book , on the order of the Underground railroad , George Orwell's "1984" and Nolan and Johnson's "Logan's Run" combined.
The concept itself was interesting enough, but Shusterman's expert craft takes it further and makes it a book that has stuck with me over the years. The characters are realistic, and flawed. At points, they aren't likable. Their various stories take the reader through the process of really considering the value of human life and hoe er handle it. It forces the reader to ask themselves hard questions as the characters are doing the same, and at the same time gives teenagers a sense of agency to stand up for what they know is right.
This is the kind of book I would want my children studying in a classroom.
Top international reviews
This society is a weird one but no weirder than many in its genre. I think it's better not to look too deeply into the thinking behind it as you could drive a truck through the holes in the 'pro life vs pro choice' storyline and just accept that it is what it is and come to terms with a society that has no need to deal with illness any more due to an abundant supply of 'spare parts'.
I found the first half compelling, got a bit bored towards the end, and found some ideas - most notably the 'clappers' - poorly explained. This didn't hook me in the way that the Hunger Games or the Divergent series did, but it was better than some other dystopian YA books that I've read. I won't rush to buy the rest of the series but will grab them if they come up on special offers.
Kudos to the author for the eeriest chapter where we're taken step by step through an 'unwinding' process - really moving stuff.
16-year-old Connor is destined to be unwound. What's that? Well following a pro-life/pro-choice war, the government passed a new law - abortions are illegal, children are protected `til age 13, but between the ages of 13 and 18 a child can be `unwound' - taken to pieces and re-used in other people. This means that no child actually dies - their constituent parts live on. Yeah right! Tell that to the poor kids being unwound!
Connor messed up a bit when he was younger, Risa was a ward of the state - and there were budget cuts, and Lev was a tithe (his parents were unwinding him as a way to give back to god/ humanity!).
Irrespective of their reasons for being unwound, all three find themselves on the run, and thrown together through circumstance. Finding themselves in unusual circumstances and strange places along the way, they grow in ways they never would have otherwise, and question what being alive or having a soul is really about. But when it comes to the chop, which is worse; to die, or to be unwound?
Wow! That is one of the first things that comes to mind with this book. I absolutely could not put it down, and when I did put it down I couldn't stop thinking about it!
The book has an eerie dystopian setting, which is unsettling in the way that the reasons for the changes in society are ultimately understandable! Which is very scary! The idea of unwinding is sickening, whilst at the same time makes a disgusting sort of sense. Why abort a child that you can allow to grow up, and then harvest for parts? Parts that are desperately needed! And what an interesting argument - if all the parts live on, then has the child really died?
There are loads of questions like this posed in the book; with tricky subjects such as life and death, the human soul, and religion all touched upon. It is truly an emotional experience to get an insight into each childs life and viewpoint, and to see how they view the idea of their own unwinding, and ultimately their own death. It is also interesting to see how much each child is willing to fight to preserve their life, and really does make for an absorbing read.
I have to say that at times I did feel physically sick though - especially the chapter where we follow a child through the operation to be unwound (the child is conscious throughout), especially given the fact that we are told that this child is taken to pieces and ultimately redistributed in just 3 hours 19 minutes. How wrong that an entire life can be disassembled into constituent parts and ultimately ended, in such a clinical fashion, in a little over three hours.
Overall, I enjoyed this book, and the ideas that it provoked, (even the sickening ones) and I think anyone with an interest in young-adult, dystopian stories will really enjoy this.
9 out of 10.
Imagine a World in which mistakes are rectified, abortion is forbidden and new laws mean that, if you feel like you've just bitten off more than you can chew and had just one too many kids than you can cope with, that you can just get rid of it. Or leave it on a neighbours doorstep and it be socially accepted and legalised. Imagine a situation in which you need a transplant. Forget the waiting. Those times are gone. Now there are endless supplies of organs just waiting for you to buy. Even if you just want a new eye colour. Or hands that know how to paint. Crazy right? It's diabolical, makes me feel sick just thinking about it and made my brain whir for hours afterwards.
In Connors world though, this is commonplace. In fact his family have been "Storked" plenty of times by neighbours not wanting their newest addition. But Connor is a rebellious teenager. And his parents really want that trip to the Maldives; Connor is about to be Unwound. That's right, he's been signed away by his parents for his organs to live on in someone else. You see, the people of this generation believe this isn't manslaughter. Oh no, it's just transferring of your soul, in bits, to others. No death involved...right? The only catch was that all children must be unwound before they turn eighteen and become an adult.
Risa is a ward of the state. Her parents didn't claim her. But the state home doesn't have space for another girl who plays piano. They have mouths to feed. So Risa is declared ready to be unwound too.
Oh and Lev, well he's slightly different. You see, rather than Spring it on him at the last minute, Lev's parents have chosen to Tithe Lev. This basically means that they've sacrificed Lev from the goodness of their hearts. For God. And Lev is effectively brainwashed into thinking this is cool.
All three main characters have a unique story, which somehow blend really wonderfully together. I think Shusterman writes so intelligently. He pulled me in immediately with short chapters, fast pacing and a particular knack for surprisingly me by doing the unexpected. No characters path was straight forward to me, no fork in the road became too obvious to see coming and he had no issue with damaging key characters here and there.
What I liked most was the moral dilemma. I like that this concept is structured by rules, to make it easier for me to believe. But I think the best part was the human corruption within. It is difficult to imagine, in a world where these things are allowed, how commonplace unwinding would be. And I loved questioning human nature and where my own beliefs fell within this.
A large part of the book, the latter end, was hard to read. Not because it was bad. But because it was so so good! There's a particular scene many reviewers have mentioned which really left me with goosebumps feeling sick and doubting whether I could read on but knowing some sick part of me had to see it through.
Ultimately this book is disturbing, thought provoking and challenges you to think about what you might feel, or do, given a similar situation. The world is well fleshed out and the characters are easy to connect with - something I find essential to actually continue with a book. My only complaint was that some of the story lines were disjointed. At times characters would appear somewhere without the reader being shown how they got there - a bit difficult when it really is a massive change in situation for a character.
Nevertheless, a really good read and I can't wait to see, given how explosive the ending was, what happens next!
In Shusterman's book it has become a problem to which the world has to find an answer, and troubled teens are subject to a new law. If they cause trouble, and with their parents' permission, (if they have parents, that is), they can be Unwound. Once they reach the age of 18, they are safe and can't be touched. The same thing can happen to teens living in State welfare houses, or who have got themselves into trouble in other ways. In some homes, the religious values mean they may be marked out very early as Tithe children, brought up in a household which surrounds them with their destiny. The book follows three such young people who become Unwinds, which means they will be harvested as spare parts for those who need transplants. Risa is a 16 year-old, raised in a State Home, Connor is given up by his parents because he is a fighter, a brawler, and Lev is a Tithe. If you read a lot of SciFi, you usually know at once whether you can accept the extremes of the writers imagination. I admit I had trouble. Connor's parents seem particularly heartless; Risa has no one to speak for her, and Lev is, at first, completely reconciled to his role as sacrifice.
Then it suddenly doesn't seem to matter because you are embroiled in the story of how they try to fight the system. There are obvious echoes here with Never Let Me Go , by Kazuo Ishiguro, but these kids are less passive. Sometimes a lot less passive. How they, and others among the kids marked out for Unwinding find ways to help each other, how they learn to think before they act, and the way those who help them fight their corner makes a thrilling story. I can remember how the adult world seemed to be a foreign country. If you can put yourself in their position, it's a good, exciting, sometimes very sad story - and okay, maybe it couldn't happen here but who knows?
This isn't entirely in the mould of other young adult dystopian novels. Where The Hunger Games or Matched describe worlds that are vastly different from the one we live in now, the events of Unwind more or less take place in our world as we know it - other than one key and very well-defined difference. Cell phones, clothes, transport and so on are all distinctily recognisable. What's different is that, in Neal Shusterman's America, the pro-life/pro-choice debate has escalated to the point of war. In the aftermath of the Heartlands War, abortion is illegal and two new concepts exist: `storking' (whereby an unwanted baby can be anonymously entrusted to the care of others) and `unwinding' (whereby an unwanted adolescent can similarly be given away by its family).
I don't want to spoil the book, so I won't explain exactly what unwinding is. What I will say is that Unwind raises a number of interesting questions: Is it better to be unwound or to die? Is there such a thing as a soul, and if so where does it reside and from when? If 100% of your body is alive but divided, are you alive or dead? It only raises these questions, rather than really attempting to answer them, but thoughtful readers might prefer that.
Unwind gathers pace not only in terms of the story and events that unfold, but also in terms of narrative voice. Initially, we follow three unrelated characters (Connor, Risa and Lev) whose stories quickly intertwine. Towards the second half of the novel more and more voices chip in, and certain chapters are introduced by extracts from newspapers or government handbooks. Interesting subplots emerge, some of which are nods to stories and themes past and present (including King Solomon and suicide bombers). The writing isn't faultness: each chapter is told from one character's perspective but I noticed several slips, where we are told something about another character's thoughts or motives, which the current narrator couldn't possibly know. Nonetheless, all this contributes towards an interesting and unpredictable narrative.
The obvious comparisons are with other young adult dystopian novels, but for me there were also strong echoes of Kazuo Ishugaro's Never Let Me Go. There are similar themes across both novels, and both avoid coming down firmly on either side of a difficult moral debate. It's this questions-not-answers approach, along with the unpredictability of how things turn out, that makes Unwind worth reading.
The whole book seems to centre round the theme of "not my problem", in a way that seems to reflect where society is heading in some respects. How many people do you know who do the bare minimum to help other people, or when they have a dispute with a neighbour feel it is the responsibility of the government or other agency to resolve it; rather than just having a chat with their neighbour. The people you come to care about in the book are those who go out of their way to help these children that society seems not to care about.
Even if you can't get you head around the premises, the dystopia created feels so real and so horrific. I found myself glued to its pages, staying up till 1:30am just to find out what had happened to the children. While this nook is disturbing, and there are still some bits that I remember with terror, it is near impossible to put down. As soon as I finished, I bought the second in the series which I am reading now.
One thing I really liked about the book is that it asks important questions, such as when does life begin, abortion, the detentions of rights and wrong as defined by society, and what is a soul and when do humans get one. There are no answers really given to these questions, but it is interesting to consider that an individual's moral compass could be so easily influenced by what others people, and ideals government perceive as right or wrong.
Some reviewers have written that such a world takes suspension of disbelief beyond the credible, that parents would never do such a thing to a child. But the world is full of people who do terrible things to children when those acts are against the law, what if they were not only legal but actively encouraged? The allegory with Nazi Germany is glaring, there is even a Schindler type figure who appears halfway through the book. In Hitler's reich good people did bad things because it was legal and expected - this book presents another vision of how easily a wolfish evil can be cloaked in the garb of sheepish civilisation. The parallel becomes more explicit with the band that plays at the "harvest camps" condemned unwinds who earn a stay of "execution" by playing soothing music on the roof of the chop house.
The book has a host of points of view but follows three main ones, the rebellious teenage runaway Connor, the state orphan come budget saving Risa and the willing religious sacrifice Lev. Their fates mix and mingle like the recycled parts of an unwind.
Behind that strong central premise there is a style and writing that sometimes clunks a little, like a car missing a gear change. The inner monologues of the characters feel more like tell than show, as they reflect dispassionately on their emotional development and growth. I will be honest, for the second quarter I was thinking this would be three stars rather than four. The backbone of the story remained strong, but it was a plot that seemed in too much of a hurry to be told and with a few rough corners that could have been squared off.
But in the second half it started to come together and flow. The back stories emerged. For example we heard more of the "war" that precipitated this completely messed up interpretation of the sanctity of life. It was a war whose roots lay credibly close to the political and moral arguments of our own time.
There were times I felt my heart strings were being tugged at with too little subtlety to evoke an emotional response, but still I clattered through the last 60% in a single sitting that ended up past midnight. The various threads converged and were tied off in a way that satisfied and I reached the final page with a firm sense of "yes" if not exactly "wow!" so four stars it is.
Though there isn't strictly a main character (as the book is told from various viewpoints) Connor is the child who one connects with first, and so for me, he is the main character. I always enjoyed returning to Connor's sections, though I welcomed seeing events from different point of views. I feel that it helped to move the plot forward and kept me reading for even longer!
So what is being 'unwound'? It means having your body chopped up in a harvest camp and your various body parts get divided up and given to people who need them. Technically it is not dieing, because individual body parts live on. Instead of finding cures, people just simply receive a new body part or organ. Parents can send their children (possibly unknown to them) to be unwound from ages 13-18.
Of course, for most children (including Connor and Risa) this is a terrifying thought. This is why Lev is perhaps the most unusual character in the book. At the start, Lev actually welcomes the thought of being unwound because he has been preparing throughout his life for this very moment. He is a tithe, whose parents had him specifically to be unwound (to give something back to God). It's an interesting, and somewhat believable, idea. I particularly liked comparing Lev's thoughts to the other characters because they were just so different!
Here are some of the main reasons why you should read this book:
> It has a great and let's be honest, HORRIFIC, plot
> Reading from different POVs is interesting
> There's lots of action throughout
> It's extremely well written, especially to give the perspective of such different characters
> There's some romance (though this is more of an underlying theme)
> One of the characters gets unwound and you get to read it from their perspective, step by step!
> It has a dramatic, yet pleasing ending
Defintely worth 4 stars, now for book 2...
Connor is a very well developed male lead, clever, a survivor, considerate, kind. The only comment i would make here is that i wished their romance was threaded out a bit better, its like the author didnt want to devote much time to the romantic sub plot, focusing mainly on the action and ethics. The other comment i would make is that i found the changing per chapter POV a bit frustrating. It would be very interesting to see the same book written by a woman, it would certainly be from Rissa's point and have the romance drawn out much longer. Saying this, we got a great inside into a male lead, which i dont see as often in female novelists' books. I feel like we really got to know Connor and like him, where in the first chapters i was indifferent to him.
Great book, i d strongly recommend it to those who enjoyed books like the Hunger Games, Divergent, the Uglies, Forest of Teeth and Hands, Warm Bodies, Upside Down, Incarceron etc.
Basically unwanted or troublesome kids can be signed up to be unwound. You can almost the the glossies - it's not like dying as you live on in so many other people... basically you will be cut up into donor pieces. No one actually looks for sures anymore - they simply replace parts with unwound bodies.
This story focuses and 3 teenagers who try to escape their unwind order. One is an unwanted kid from and orphange, another is a troubled teenager and the third has always been 'allocated' for unwinding as part of his family's religion.
There are people out there trying to help them and people trying to capture them and deliver them to an unwinding facility. There are also fights and altercations with other teenagers tryign to escape unwinding. Add to that the scare story of a father of boy who wished he hadn't had his son unwound, and you have the basis of a great story.
It certainly is a good story and I found myslef thinking about the characters and the concepts well after I'd finished the book.
Until I started reading this book, I had picked it up because of the amazing cover (I'm a huge Warhammer fan so the cover really connects with me) and because the blurb sounded interesting (though I thought the same for hunger games and Uglies). The book didn't disappoint. The writing is fast and well done, all the story lines wind together perfectly and it was a very intense read.
And, for the first time in this genre, I could connect with the narrators, something I had been very much missing in the genre.
One warning, if you're an imaginative thinker, you might want to skip reading one of the later chapters, you'll realise it when you get there. They write very covertly, but it made me cringe very bad.
Another way that Shusterman shows us his ability, a factor that leaves me in awe and respect of him, is the fact that the entire book is written in present tense. This amazes me, and if any prospect readers go on to buy the book I'm sure they will feel the same if they understand how hard it can be to sustain a written piece in the present tense.
The plotline and overall idea behind the book are both extremely original and well crafted. I'm sure that anyone who goes on to read this book will understand and value this book, and I advise it to anyone who wants to be sat up in bed in the early hours of the morning, blissfully enveloped in the folds of the magnificent story that N.S has created here. - Excuse the pun, but more authors could afford to take a leaf out of Neil's book.