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REVIEW: Unwind by Neal Shusterman

(Unwind Trilogy #1)
by Neal Shusterman
Nov 6th, 2007
Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing
Source: Library

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 felt many things throughout reading Unwind: anger, disgust, fear, hope. Any book that illicits these kinds of strong emotions is a good one. And I believe that it is particularly important in a dystopian novel that it make you feel: for the characters, and for the world they live in. And I definitely did feel for the three protagonists, as well as for a lot of the minor characters.

Unwind is told through the perspective of many characters. A lot of times in books told through multiple perspectives, there just isn’t enough time to fully develop each character so, as a result, you don’t connect with anyone. Or sometimes all the protagonists are so similar that they meld into one bland character. Thankfully, this is not the case in Unwind. Each of the three protagonists–Risa, Connor, and Lev–has their own distinct personalities. I liked them all and was able to relate to them. Their fates were so unfair and I felt myself getting angry on their behalf.

The book also makes you think about many difficult questions: What does it mean to be alive? What does it mean to be human? Do we have souls? Should anyone have the right to decide who lives or dies? Obviously, there aren’t any concrete answers to these questions, and Shusterman doesn’t attempt to answer them. Unwind takes a fairly neutral stance on these issues, just laying them out for the reader to decide for themselves.

Ultimately, Unwind is a powerful dystopian novel along to the lines of The Giver and The Hunger Games that really makes you think. There are a couple of quite disturbing scenes in the book, one in particular that kept me awake thinking about it and, I suspect it will stay with me for some time. I’d recommend Unwind to fans of young adult dystopian fiction.
Rating: 4/5


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