Unwind by Neal Shusterman

It’s been a long time since a book has made me physically cringe and has truly horrified me. I don’t get disturbed easily, I don’t get creeped out easily…and it’s not that this book creeped me out, but it was truly horrifying to me. Once scene in particular that will stick with me for a long time. Unwind is a YA dystopian novel written by Neal Shusterman that tackles the subject of abortion and organ harvesting. After a war has been fought over abortion, it’s been decided by the US government that a woman no longer has the freedom to choose whether or not to continue a pregnancy. Abortion is made illegal. In it’s place, three rules are put into action:

1. A child can be left on a doorstep and it is then the person who finds that child’s responsibility to care for it. However, if the mother is caught leaving the child on a doorstep, she must take the child and be responsible for it.

2. At a certain age, a child can be “unwound”. Basically, if a parent does not want there child any longer or if they are a ward of the state, the child is quite literally taken apart while conscious and still alive and all of it’s organs, tissues, blood, etc are used as donor parts.

3. A child may also be unwound as a tithe…think of it as payment to the church or a tax write off.

In the book, we follow three main characters. A young boy raised as a tithe, a young boy who’s family no longer wants him, and a girl who is a ward of the state that can no longer care for her. There’s much more to the plot…much much more, but it’s best left to be discovered by the reader. What I will share with you is that late in the book, there is a scene that shows the unwinding process and I literally caught myself holding my breath, tears forming at my eyes.

This book asks questions that are important and need to be asked now. I don’t mean to get overly political on my blog, but there are things that need to be talked about…when the government takes away the right of a woman to choose what happens to her body and whether or not she chooses to continue a pregnancy, what is put in it’s place? I’m not suggesting that the government would actually turn to harvesting teenagers in farms to deal with overpopulation, but where does that leave us? And what kind of life does that leave for children that are brought into the world who are never wanted? I’m crossing dangerous territory here, I understand that…I’m not by any means excusing irresponsible actions of adults, but when the choice is taken away from a woman it leads to a child that also never has any choices available to them so often.

I don’t know what Neal Shusterman’s intentions were in writing this book…..but he brings up some very interesting topics. Topics of responsibility, topics of governmental control, topics of organ and tissue harvesting, abortion, parental responsibility, our moral responsibility as a society. And he does it all in a book that is so wonderfully written. I really enjoyed this first read by Shusterman and can’t wait to read more of his stuff.

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18 Responses

  1. This book was very intense! I read it a few years ago and I haven’t been able to forget it!

  2. I just bought this book at Comic-Con. I really enjoyed what Shusterman had to say on his panel. Looking forward to a disturbing read! πŸ˜›

  3. Whoa. I was already convinced I needed to read this one–it affected Annie so much that I knew I had to–but now I’m even more anxious to get to it!!! I so hope I can get to it before our book club meeting so I can join in on the conversation. And you know what–I asked Annie if she was going to read the sequels, and she didn’t even realize there were any, so you made her a very happy girl!

  4. It sounds really intense. Something like Never Let Me Go? only this one takes the concept a lot further, just going by what you’ve said. I’m not sure if I want to read it or not, but its stewing in the back of my head now.

  5. My book club is reading this in the next few months, I think. I admit, it scares me, especially as you say they describe the unwinding process? I’m really hoping it’s not too much for me! But it does sound like a really interesting book!

  6. Eek! Since I can’t handle even light dystopian fic, I don’t think this is the one for me, but good on for talking about it on your blog. πŸ™‚ My sister and I recently went to a Body Works exhibit, and one section there were fetuses (it was walled off from the rest of the stuff and warned). I might have skipped it myself, but my sister really wanted to see it (she’s at school to become a physician’s assistant), so I went in with her. The displays of fetuses at different weeks was really eye opening for me…especially at the 8/12 week mark, when I think a lot of abortions take place (although I could be wrong on that), it looked more like a clump of cells than anything remotely human. And I couldn’t help but wonder “Seriously?! This is what protestors have bombed clinics and murdered doctors over?! This is what’s more important than an adult woman?!” It’s all so tremendously sad.

  7. Thanks for the review! I read this book a couple of years ago and loved it. I know which scene you’re talking about. I remember it well. I also read this book from a writer/author’s point of view and was really impressed. I have a reviews of two of his books, EVERLOST and UNWIND, on my blog: http://anjalibanerjee.blogspot.com/2008_07_01_archive.html

  8. Becky, I definitely see this one as one that’s going to be sticking with me for a long time!!

    Amy, Awesome!! I think you’re really going to enjoy this one. Very cool that you got to hear him talk πŸ˜€ Can’t wait to hear all about Comic-con πŸ˜€

    Debi, Oh yea, you’re going to enjoy this one!! Guarantee you! Please apologize to Annie for me 😦 There are no sequels to this book…I had just assumed there were because the publishers make all of his books look the same and he has another series out that I thought was a continuation of these. So now I have to unmake her day by telling her this is indeed a standalone 😦

    Jeane, Exactly, it’s a bit like Never Let Me Go but takes it even further…but very different from Never Let Me Go at the same time. I think you’d actually like this one!

    Amanda, They do describe the unwinding process in one chapter. What I can tell you is that there is no blood or anything involved….you mostly experience it through the person’s mind, but it’s just so disturbing. *shiver* It’s more disturbing in a fundamental way, not in a physical way…I definitely think you could handle it πŸ˜‰ I love how you have people screening books for you, lol. We’re here to take care of you πŸ˜‰

    Eva, Yeah, Maybe this one wouldn’t be for you…I don’t know. It’s a good one though. A really good one. That museum exhibit sounds REALLY interesting! A bit disturbing but interesting! I get so upset when I think of people bombing clinics and murdering doctors 😦 So sick…I can certainly respect both sides of the abortion argument regardless of where I stand. But it disgusts me that people will take their intolerance of other’s views to that level. You know?

    Anjali, Wasn’t it great? That scene will I think always stick with me! I agree with you…this book was written really well..thanks for sharing the links πŸ™‚ Looking forward to reading your reviews!

  9. *gulps* As has been mentioned by others, this sounds intense! I’ve been looking at some Shusterman for a while, this one is definitely going on the wishlist!

  10. Ooh I don’t think I would be able to read this one. I think its content would upset me too much.

  11. Wow! I haven’t heard of this one, but it sounds stunning (and that could go either way). Will be keeping my eye out.

  12. Wow, that sounds intense — especially for a YA. I think I’ll avoid it, but it does sound like it raises some interesting questions.

  13. I loved this book. You are so right about the “creepy” factor. And being unwound as a tithe … shiver.

  14. Just reading your description of it made my skin crawl, so I think this may not be a good book for me. I love dystopian YA but I am very very squeamish. Good for Shusterman, though, for writing a book that deals well with such tricky issues.

  15. Darren, It is quite the intense book! I think you’d like it though. I’ll be looking for more of his stuff to read myself.

    Vivienne, Surprisingly, it’s not overly upsetting except for that *one* scene..which is quite upsetting :/

    Andi, I hadn’t heard of it either!! But I’m really glad I read it now…it’s a good one!

    Nancy, Yep, intense is the word for this one :p And it raises a lot of questions!! I could’ve made this review even longer if I wanted to :p

    Terri, Wasn’t it creepy?! Gah, that unwinding scene!! Yeah, the whole tithe thing was very disturbing as well :/

    Jenny, It’s pretty darn disturbing, lol. It actually doesn’t have that creep you out factor though. I don’t think it would make you squeamish. It’s just disturbing in theory.

  16. OMG # 2 freaks me out! I mean, not like the others don’t, but still!

  17. […] wanted to read one of Shusterman’s books for ages, however it was this review that pushed me into finally buying a copy, so the first of Chris’ Bad Blogger’s points […]

  18. fabuloso troslalim de austro y camΓ³stra con tamado agnimado. raria a arcincia y dolva camos con cotos rassento!

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