Unwind Book Review

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

Under the new Laws of Life, parents have the option of "unwinding" their children any time before their eighteenth birthday. If your kid is a troublemaker, a hothead, or no discernable talents, they will take him or her and use their parts, all of them, to go to other citizens. Need a new heart, kidney, lung? There is always one available with the unwind program. Some religion even encourage parents to tithe one of their children for the good of others. But not everyone is going along with the program. Connor discovers his parents are going to have him unwound in a week, so he runs away. Risa is a ward of the state and is part of a population reduction in the state houses. When Connor runs out into traffic and her bus stops, Risa decides to make a run for it alone with a Tithe that Connor grabs called Lev. Together this unlikely trio must survive until their eighteenth birthdays.

In the vein of Rash by Pete Hautman and Uglies by Scott Westerfeld, Unwind is a sci-fi mind game that both repulses and inspires. All three children are well flushed-out with stories and histories that make this whole ordeal beyond terrifying. Lev's parents have told him all his life that he will be tithed and he wasn't afraid until that day Connor took him from the car and his Pastor told him to, "Run." Confused, Lev questions everything his parents have taught him and soon anger takes hold. Connor always knew he had anger issues, but he never imagined his loving parents would have him unwound. Risa never had parents and although a good pianist, she couldn't win the competition to save her own life.

On the logistical side of thing (and controversial side), I think the idea of Unwinding is repulsive, which is what Shusterman was aiming for. And it is also completely unrealistic. In the "history" of the book we come to understand that those who are Pro-Life and Pro-Choice agreed to this plan, which just smacks both groups in the face. No way would either think it is okay to dismember a person--a child--in order to have organ donors. That idea that any person would agree to the death of someone because they "believe" the person's soul lives on in others and doesn't die, is stupid. however, this is a fantasy, so we will, for the sake of the story, have to let it go.

The other interesting development in the story is the idea of storking. No longer do women have abortions (because the child can live in a group home and eventually be unwound), but you can also leave your child on the doorstep of whomever you wish and as long as they don't catch you, the baby is theirs for keeps (or until they have the child unwound). Now, just thinking about the state of overpopulation now, I would imagine this would be a very very bad idea. Plus, what if the family who is storked cannot support the child. Or the child is unloved, which is supposedly why this law was created, so that there were no more unloved and unwanted children. In fact, this entire world that Shusterman has created is very Spartan in nature.

As far as sci-fi goes, this is a good book that gets you thinking. The writing is well-done and the characters are believable, but I don't think we have to worry about this ever happening. Despite thousands of years worth of plagues, overpopulation, childhood diseases, and even Spartans...children are still valued and are likely to remain so.