Unwind by Neal Shusterman

Just finished reading Unwind by Neal Shusterman and before I say anything further – Wow!  Totally brilliant, fast paced, unputdownable, gripping, compelling, horrible, terrible, unthinkable and quite possibly my favourite book so far this year.

Unwind is set in a future where unwanted teens can be unwound and quite literally all their body parts used by other people.  Sounds horrifying doesn’t it?  Basically a war has taken place between pro-life and pro-choice groups and the conflict was finally resolved by the suggestion of ‘The Bill of Life’.  The Bill of Life gives parents the chance to retroactively ‘abort’ their child’s life between any point during their thirteenth and eighteenth year.  The child’s life is not, technically speaking, ended because all the body parts are kept alive and reused.  Imagine what your life must be like during that five year period – it would be like having the Sword of Damocles constantly hanging over your head!  Not to mention for those children being taken to unwind – you’ve experienced life for 13+ years and now it’s about to end.  Okay, your body parts will be alive but you won’t exactly be conscious anymore or taking part in life yourself.  You’ll just be an ‘add on’ to somebody else’s life *shivers*.

The story is told by three children who are scheduled to be unwound.

Connor, who is a troubled teenager and a constant source of aggravation to his parents who have finally taken the step to sign him over to the state.  Risa, who is a ward of the state and has been put forward for rewind because of cuts in the public purse and Lev who has been put forward as the tenth son of a religious family by way of a ‘tithe’.

This book covers so many highly topical issues.  Unwanted pregnancies, abortion, terrorism being just a few and it would have been so easy for this novel to go disastrously wrong as a result but the author makes such an excellent job of writing this story that it succeeds in telling a story that is fascinating and chilling.  I went through so many emotions whilst reading this book.  At first I simply couldn’t imagine a future where this type of world was a possibility but NS has written this so well that it practically becomes believable.  The world described is very similar to ours in so many ways but people have changed.  Greed for body parts that can now be much more easily obtained has obliterated to a large extent people’s morality and compassion.  In a world where every body part can be bought people are more content to look the other way and not look too hard at what is taking place around them.  Also, society has become lazy, there is no longer a need to research and find cures – simply cut off the offending body part and replace it with a new, younger one.  It really does sound horrifying and I will admit that the ‘illuminating’ scene towards the end of the book (and I won’t say more because of spoilers) is one of the creepiest things I have read and quite literally made me feel a bit ill – but, that being said, I probably would have been unsatisfied if that part had not been included and, to be fair, it’s not a gore fest, it just made me feel a bit wobbily!

The main characters in the story are really well told.  You genuinely feel for them and you want them to escape.  They all have different backgrounds and histories and the introduction of more unwinds along the way just adds to this – some likable, some not!

The story is fast paced and compelling.  I practically carried it around with me for a full day reading and ignoring everyone and everything else.  And, although this is a bit of a horrifying story there are some lighter moments and also a sort of ‘on the side’ romance – one which isn’t rushed into with a love at first sight type of feel but more a slow building of frienship and care that develops into something more.  I liked it and thought it was told in a lovely and refreshing way that doesn’t take over the main story.

There are also, thankfully, still some people who are not prepared to sit on the sidelines watching while things continue in this way.  People who put their lives at risk to help runaways.  A sort of underground resistance if you will.  I particularly liked Sonia, she’s tough and uncompromising but her bark is worse than her bite.  I also liked CyFy and thought his part of the tale was really intriguing and added yet another element to the whole unwinding issue that needed a lot more thought.

On the whole I thought this was an excellent read and would definitely recommend it.  I realise that there may be parts that people may find difficult to read but I think that every part of this story is well told and necessary.

In terms of criticism, mmm, none.  Just read it.  I will definitely pick up Neal Shusterman’s other novels.

Rating A+




7 Responses to “Unwind by Neal Shusterman”

  1. Jenny (Wondrous Reads)

    I agree with everything you said. This book is amazing and deserves so much more recognition!

  2. Beth

    Great review! I enjoyed reading it and will definitely check out the book.

    • lynnsbooks

      Thanks. Just checked out your site. Like the look of your peanut brownies. Very nice. Tried to leave a comment but it wouldn’t register for some reason.

      I’ll give these a try.
      Lynn 😀

  3. Amused

    Wow, this is high praise indeed. I need to look into getting a copy!

    • lynnsbooks

      Yes, I would love to know what you think. I’ve checked out some of your other reviews – you have a very impressive range of books there! Currently reading The Jewel of St Petersburg which I see you’ve already read. I’ll have to let you know how I get on.

  4. Julie

    Wow, great review, Lynn. I’ve put this book on my list of books I’d like to read. Thanks!

  5. I love you, I love you not. | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] Unwind, Neal Shusterman – I simply didn’t like the sound of this but then it just really grabbed me. […]

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