summer books: Unwind

29/11/2012 § 3 Comments

Author: Neal Shusterman
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopia
General Review: Shusterman does it again; he stole my undivided attention and had me going for this book – hook, line, and sinker.
Summary: The Second Civil War was fought over reproductive rights. The chilling resolution: Life is inviolable from the moment of conception until age thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, however, parents can have their child “unwound,” whereby all of the child’s organs are transplanted into different donors, so life doesn’t technically end. Connor is too difficult for his parents to control. Risa, a ward of the state is not enough to be kept alive. And Lev is a tithe, a child conceived and raised to be unwound. Together, they may have a chance to escape and to survive.

What I love most about this story is the character development. I love how Shusterman creates all these characters with a handful of flaws (or a trunkful, depending on who we’re talking about) and uses these flaws to develop them. Sure, Connor, one of our main characters, may seem rude and a bit of a jerk at the beginning and maybe you might not have really liked him most of the time because of how impulsive he kept on acting. Risa might have been a bit of a Mary Sue, too, considering the fact that she’s a natural beauty, can play the piano, thinks things through and gets the guy at the end (oh, whoops. Spoilers). Lev was that annoying kid who thought he knew everything and anything and felt that he could make it in the world on his own but really, he couldn’t and he was just being stupid and you know how much we hate stupid people.

But whatever. Those were their flaws. Firstly, Connor’s impulsiveness and his rage (kinda reminds me of someone I know…) was the first thing that drew me to him. He’s just a teenager with a bit of an anger-management problem, and it’s the journey he takes to reigning in all that fury and learning how to control it. Look at the man he becomes at the end of the story! And look at all of the inner battles he had to deal with to become that man!

Secondly, Risa is no Mary Sue. Putting aside the fact that she’s beautiful, an exceptionally talented musician (insert jealous thoughts here), and one of the more intelligent characters, hey, she had no parents. She wasn’t good enough to be chosen to keep living. And she’s still just a kid, too. Plus, give her a break. She lost her legs at the end of the story. Whoops, more spoilers.

And don’t get me started on Lev. Of all three kids, he is by far the most interesting because, at such a young age, Lev has to deal with a helluva lot of soul-searching after all of his beliefs are thrown out the window. Poor kid. And he has to do most of his soul-searching alone. But despite his isolation from the rest of the Unwinds (that’s what they’re called in the book), he’s a survivor and he makes it out of everything. I’ll admit, it was scary seeing his transformation from the eager and innocent little church boy to the conniving, tough, yet wholly empty shell towards the end of the book. And even at the very end of the story, he finds himself again.

“You think maybe I can believe in that God, too?”

Good god, I think that line got to me the most. It was the last line of Lev’s point of view in the whole story and it was his last line in the entire book. But it alone let all the readers know that he was going to be okay, and he was going to find himself, and after he got out of that little straitjacket he’d gotten himself into, maybe he’d find Connor and Risa again and maybe he’d think before putting his faith in God. This kid grew in strength so much that I’m totally intimidated by him but at the same time, I want to be his best friend.

I also want to be CyFi’s and Risa’s and Connor’s and Hayden’s best friend, too, so maybe my judgement isn’t the best to run by.

Finally, throughout the whole novel, I felt that Shusterman was able to constantly ask the readers what it really meant to live, to be alive, and to have a soul. Don’t look at me – I don’t have even the beginnings of an answer, but now he’s got you thinking. And after watching Roland get unwound (one word: ew), the story of Unwind is a little bit bigger and more important than it used to seem.

And the plot was just ridiculous. Usually there’s a timeline moving in one direction with a few other lines branching out. Those are all the events, right? This story was like a grapevine of occurrences and events and they kept overlapping and interlocking with each other, too! There were tons of twists and unexpected connections. As I was reading the book, the one constant phrase I kept thinking was, “What a small world,” because the same characters kept finding each other (but in realistic situations), and things mentioned earlier in the story were brought up again in physical, visible form, and just there were so many connections, okay?

Like that Humphrey Dunfee story? Jeez, I freaked out a little when all that Dunfee stuff was revealed because um, gosh, a horror story comes to life!

The thing I like about Young Adult novels is that you watch the change in that Young Adult. Personally, I’m a little terrified of change, especially when that change is happening to me. But when I’m watching the change in someone else, and I know that it’s for the better and it’ll make that person a much smarter, kinder, and a generally better person, then it’s a good thing. Aren’t your Young Adult years supposed to be the time when you find out who you really are? When you discover that there’s more to school and the opposite sex and the Internet than you thought? That there’s a humongous world out there, waiting to grab you with its claws and it’s up to you to make your own little home somewhere in that world? Yeah, yeah, they are. The good part is seeing how a person decides to react to all of that.

The concept of Unwind was kind of creepy. But the “living-on-the-edge” feeling as well as the constant running and being in danger is the kind of atmosphere I’m into. So, yes, I liked this book. But more importantly, I liked Shusterman’s characters in this novel and what he did to play with them and change them for the better.

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§ 3 Responses to summer books: Unwind

  • ellisnelson says:

    I really liked the premise of Unwind. Shusterman asks us to consider some important questions. A lot of YA is light fluff, not here.

    • Kari says:

      I completely agree that YA is mostly light fluff and you shouldn’t really expect too much deep thinking but here, the depth is overwhelming but another reason I was so enraptured by the book. And none of it was pretentious either. Have you heard about the sequel?

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