Review: Unwind by Neal Shusterman

Unwind (Unwind, #1)Unwind by Neal Shusterman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the future, a war is fought over reproductive rights and a compromise is reached: abortion is illegal, but a child can be “unwound,” that is harvested for parts, when they turn thirteen. The is sophisticated enough to use every single cell (or at least ~99%). Old medical treatments fall into disuse because it is easier to replace than repair. And the person is not technically believed to be dead because he or she lives on in the person who receives their donated bits.

A lot of negative, or at least less positive reviews complain that this dystopia is far-fetched, and that is true, but so is The Handmaid’s Tale (despite all the people saying we’ll be there soon enough with the way arguments are going over women’s reproductive rights) and I loved that book. Honestly once I got into the story and suspended my disbelief, I stopped worrying about it. It is difficult to imagine that any parent would willingly “unwind” their child, no matter how much of a delinquent they are, because to us it’s tantamount to killing them. In the setting of this book, people have been convinced that it’s not murder because the person lives on in their body parts, which are grafted to patients much like donor organs are today.

Both sides of the abortion debate are looked at here, and questions raised without really forcing an answer. One character wonders if the practice of “storking” – leaving a baby on a doorstep with the understanding that if the mother isn’t caught doing it, whoever’s doorstep it is is required to take the child in – is better or worse than abortion. One could argue that at least the child has more of a chance that way. Risa, the character who brings this up, is a ward of the state who is sentenced to unwinding because the government has too many kids in the system to afford to take care of them unless they are particularly talented. Another character, Connor, tells of a baby who was surreptitiously passed from doorstep to doorstep for two weeks before his family realized the baby was dying and took it to the hospital.

Is it better to end the life before it’s born and has a chance to suffer, or give it a chance to either make it or suffer terribly? There is no right answer but plenty of opinions.

Whether or not a person’s consciousness lives on seemed to be questioned by most of the characters, but there are incidents in the story that seem to say that’s a definite yes, though perhaps not as advertised. There is a scene near the end that actually depicts an “unwinding,” and it is not for the faint of heart. It isn’t gory, but deeply unsettling, and while it happens to one of the least sympathetic characters in the novel, I ended up feeling sorrier for him than I expected. Don’t read it right before bed; it will haunt you.

Overall I enjoyed this book. It was thought-provoking, the world was well-built (no matter how far-fetched) and I cared about the characters. There was good character growth and development, and worry not, it ended on a somewhat positive note. I’d recommend it to anyone who likes novels about sci-fi dystopian “near futures.”

View all my reviews

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Published in: on May 25, 2011 at 1:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

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