Book Review #66: Unwind by Neal Shusterman

There are books that you read for laughs. To turn your brain into mush and forget that the world is a terrible place. To simply enjoy reading.

Then, there is this book.

Unwind by Neal Shusterman is not for the faint of heart. After the Second Civil War, which was fought between the ProLife and ProChoice armies, a new law was passed. Abortion is illegal, but in its place, unwinding exists. By definition, unwinding is a medical procedure where one’s body is dismembered and recycled by use in organ/limb transplants. Each part of the body must be used, up to 99.4%. Children between the ages of 13 and 18 may be sent off for unwinding at any time by their parents or guardians, or in some cases, by the state. The story follows Connor, Risa, and Lev–three Unwinds who were supposed to die on the same day and really just want to survive.

This book is so Ray Bradbury-esque that it makes me tingle all over. My favorite thing about dystopian books is that they’re like a warning. No one wants to read them because the best written ones take the hardest topics to look at and twist them upside down in the most horrific ways. They make you think. No one wants to think when they read.

What we’ve got here is a debate on Life. What is it? When does it begin? What is the soul? What is conciousness? Who decides all this? Shusterman doesn’t even answer these questions; he just has three kids live through this god-awful world where the law has made all the wrong decisions. Some of the scenarios in here–Harvest Camps where bands play for the people being led to unwinding, Clappers who would rather blow themselves up than fall victim to the law, parents who are trying to peice together children they sent to their deaths–are so horribly portrayed and so easily paralleled to events we’ve seen in history.

And it’s terrifying.

My rule of thumb is, if a book makes me cry, it’s a five-star.

So, when did this one do it? Well, at the very, very end, a certain character is being unwound. He’s not anyone’s favorite character; quite frankly, he’s one of the baddies. But, they sit him down on a table and take him apart. WHILE HE’S CONCIOUS. And there was absolutely nothing sadder than listening to the doctors announce what PARTS of him they were taking while he couldn’t speak, move, cry, or fight. The way that Shusterman portrayed his conciousness fading into nothing–


If you want a book that’s going to make you think, going to make you question everything you’ve ever thought about life rights, religion, and conciousness–read this book.

Final Ratings
Overall Rating: 5 / 5
Pacing: Did not stop for one second. Fast from page 1.  
Intended Audience: I’d say high school and up– fans of the genre, really. 
Content Warnings: Just about all of them. This is not a book to be taken lightly.
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