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Review: Unwind by Neal Shusterman

9 Oct

Series: Unwind, book #1

Published: November 6th 2007 by Simon & Schuster

Details: Hardcover, 335 pages

My Rating: 4.5/5

My Summary:

In a world where teenagers can be unwound, essentially scavenged for their body parts, the  teens Connor, Risa and Lev escape and make an attempt to survive until the safe age of 18. This is an action-packed adventure, with fully realized characters I truly cared about and a frighteningly well crafted world-building. My only minor criticism was the too-fitting ending.



The Second Civil War was fought over reproductive rights. The chilling resolution: Life is inviolable from the moment of conception until age thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, however, parents can have their child “unwound,” whereby all of the child’s organs are transplanted into different donors, so life doesn’t technically end. Connor is too difficult for his parents to control. Risa, a ward of the state is not enough to be kept alive. And Lev is a tithe, a child conceived and raised to be unwound. Together, they may have a chance to escape and to survive.


My thoughts:

Unwind should come with a warning tag: Be aware, once you start you will not be able to stop.

It sucks you in pretty much straight away and keeps an extremely high-paced tempo throughout the book. Plenty of action, lots of twists. Every chapter ended with something breath-taking, which forced me to continue just one more page.

It’s told from the point of view of several POV’s, mainly our lead characters Connor, Risa and Lev but other POV’s will occasionally pitch in as well.

I’m not a huge fan of multiple POV’s since the various voices usually blend into each other, thus making it messy to follow. In Unwind however, it worked. More so, it felt like it was necessary in order to understand the various backgrounds of these teens. Especially Lev, the tithe, who has been raised his whole life to become an unwound.

As so many other reviewers commented, the world felt frighteningly real. I had a hard time at first believing in the premise, that is, how such a world came to be. Surely, the Pro-Choice side would never allow for outlawing abortion in exchange for teens getting unwound?

On the other hand, since all the human parts continue “living” in other people,  unwind is not really considered dying. Somehow, in Shusterman’s world, this twisted idea of “life in a divided state” has taken root.

Once the unwinding business established, pure greediness took over. People were getting used to the constant availability of human parts in case of accidents or diseases. And so the world ceased to care for all these unwound teens, many of them unwanted babies to begin with.

The following passage from Unwind explains it further:

“of course, if more people had been organ donors, unwinding never would have happened… but people like to keep what’s theirs, even after their dead. It didn’t take long for ethics to be crushed by greed. Unwinding became big business, and people let it happen”

Wow, terrifying world, to say the least, and somehow, every bit believable, thanks to Shusterman’s writing.

There is a touch of romance as well, to please us softies, but Shusterman keeps it there just barely visible. It never takes over the plot.

The biggest strength with the book were the characters, who were all fully fleshed out, and given realistic personalities. No Mary Sues or Gary Stues in sight. Even the bad guys had a few good traits. No one was perfect, and no one was fully evil, and I could clearly picture them all in my head.

The ending was slightly too neat, that is, everything packed up just a bit too nicely. But that’s me nit-picking on an otherwise great piece of dystopian fiction.

If you’re into dystopian this is simply put a must-read!

The sequel Unwholly is to be released sometime in 2012.