Book Review: Unwind by Neal Shusterman

In a society where unwanted teens are salvaged for their body parts, three runaways fight the system that would "unwind" them.

Connor's parents want to be rid of him because he's a troublemaker. Risa has no parents and is being unwound to cut orphanage costs. Lev's unwinding has been planned since his birth, as part of his family's strict religion. Brought together by chance, and kept together by desperation, these three unlikely companions make a harrowing cross-country journey, knowing their lives hang in the balance. If they can survive until their eighteenth birthday, they can't be harmed -- but when every piece of them, from their hands to their hearts, are wanted by a world gone mad, eighteen seems far, far away.
In Unwind, Boston Globe/Horn Book Award winner Neal Shusterman challenges readers' ideas about life -- not just where life begins, and where it ends, but what it truly means to be alive.
I was totally blown away by this book.  Simply blown away.  It put me into the 'ugly cry,' something very few books are able to do.  Sure, I may tear up during moving scenes or feel my throat tighten, but it's rare that a book moves me to outright crying.  That's not to say that this is a sad book, it's just extremely powerful.

Unwind is set in futuristic America, an unspecified year, after the Heartland War, which was a second civil war between the Pro-Choice and Pro-Life factions.  The Heartland War culminated in The Bill of Life, which outlaws abortion but leaves parents with the option of "unwinding" their children once they reach the age of reason--13 years old.  Parents  can choose to unwind their problem children at any time between the ages of 13 and 18.  Children chosen to be unwound are called "unwinds."  Not all unwinds are problem children, though.  Some are "tithes"---children conceived for the purpose of unwinding and giving back to the community.  These tithes know that their purpose in life is to be unwound and are strangely accepting of their fate.

Unwinding refers to the surgery that dismantles a child, taking them apart piece by piece, 99.44 % of their bodies to be used later as transplants for multiple recipients (the remaining unwanted portions such as an appendix, are discarded).  The rationale behind unwinding is that the unwind does not die, but exists in a divided state.

In this new America, there are more surgeons than doctors, and the focus is on transplants, not actually curing diseases.  Because who would choose to live with heart failure when you could easily receive a new heart?  The same reasoning applies to prosthetic limbs, hair, and even brain segments.

Unwind is told in the third person and the chapters alternate between Connor, Risa, and Lev.  Connor is a troublemaker whose parents decided to unwind him.  Risa is a ward of the state who gets slated for unwinding due to space limitations in the state home and budget cuts.  Lev is a tithe, one of ten children born to parents who always tithe 10% of their earnings, and now, they are tithing 10% of their children.  The three unwinds meet and Unwind focuses on their lives after discovering their unwind status. 

I'm going to stop my review here, because I don't want to give any part of the story away.  I will say; however, that the way Shusterman weaves the interrelating parts of the story together was both heartbreaking and awe-inspiring.  Unwind was one of the best books I've read this year; in fact, it's one of my all-time favorites.
Just One Gripe: 
There's not one complaint I can make about this book.  The only thing I can say is that I see on Goodreads that there will be a sequel: Unwholly, due out in 2012.  My one hope is that the sequel matches Unwind in action, emotion, plot, and suspense.

The Best Thing About This Book: 
The emotion, the suspense, the way it made me feel: it was all stunning.  There are two parts in particular that literally took my breath away.  If you've read the book, and want to know what parts those were, leave me a comment and I'll email you privately.  I don't want to give anything away. 

Appropriate for a younger audience: 
Yes, although if I were a parent, I would read this one first before letting my child read it.  You need to be able to discuss it with your children.

Characters: 5/5
Plot: 5/5
Setting/Imagery: 5/5
Originality: 5/5
Ending: 5/5
Total Score:  25/25

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  1. Wow, this sounds like an intense book. It has a very similar theme to an adult book that I read earlier in the year, The Unit. I definitely want to give this book a try. Thanks for the review!

  2. That sure is a unique cover!

  3. This doesn't seem like my type of book but I love how thorough your review is!


  4. I've got this one on my TBR. I need to read it already.

  5. Ohhh! Thanks for the heads up on this one! Sounds like a wicked cool concept.

  6. I've been very curious about this one...and you've sold me. I'll pick it up next time I come across it. Fantastic review :)

  7. Sounds awesome! Fantastic review :) You've left me quite curious about this one.

  8. Ooh, I love the creepy cover. And I am a huge sucker for anything that can make me cry! I will be putting this on the TBR list. Thanks for the review!

  9. Wow! I've never heard of this one! It sounds fascinating. I love reading about crazy societies like this. Great review. I'm honestly adding this to my Goodreads TBR list.

  10. I'm a bit surprised there is a sequel coming out to this title. I thought it was fine as a standalone. I agree, really good, however un-nerving some parts are!

  11. Nice! I won this book and haven't had a chance to get to it yet. My son saw it sitting there and may be reading it soon. Now, I can't wait to delve into it myself. Thanks! :)
    Lisa ~ YA Literature Lover

  12. This sounds AWESOME! I added it to my TBR list, thanks for posting and great review!

  13. Absolutely FANTASTIC review. I have never heard of this one and I don't generally read YA but this book is being added to my TBR list pronto.

    Thanks for the review and heads up. Happy Monday!

  14. I have only heard *AMAZING* things about this book!! SOOOOOOO GONNA READ IT SOON!! =D =D

  15. This story gripped me immediately, and it had been a while since I had reacted so strongly to a book as I did to that one. Parts of it make me feel physically sick they were so ... unimaginable. I think it raises a lot of interesting questions about the value of life and decisions that we make. I agree - I am a little worried about sequels sometimes.

  16. Holy crud, that sounds super intense. I'm surprised that you find it appropriate for children (I believe you; you have no reason to lie about it- it's just surprising given the description).

  17. I absolutely loved this book and I'm so glad that you did too. I had no clue about a sequel in works. SO looking forward to that! Thanks for the info!

  18. This book sounds like one that I'd love. I love reading a good dystopia--And this one seems to fit that category. Thanks for your recommendation. I might have skipped it otherwise!

    Here from the CEP.

  19. Kelli, I loved and appreciated your review so much, I have highlighted it on my blog here:

    Thanks again for the fantastic review!!

  20. Wow, you have me sold, it sounds great and frightening!

  21. I've had this book one my 2 read list 4 ever! i guess i should bump it up on my list :D

  22. I am so getting this book next!


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