Unwind

by Neal Shusterman
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

I first heard of this book in my young adult book club (for adults who read young adult books – librarians, teachers, parents – not young adults themselves).  Our fearless leader, public children’s librarian extraordinaire, had just fought the Unwind battle at the local high school – getting it on the summer reading list.  She said she faced much opposition from conservative people who disagree with the book’s message about abortion.

The book takes place after the second world war, which was fought over abortion.  The premise is that in this futuristic society, one’s parents can send their child to be “unwound” anywhere from ages 13 to 18.  Once they have signed the order, it’s final – no changing your mind.  The child is sent to a Harvest Camp where every square inch of them must be used in someone else; naturally, this leads to a society of a lot of elective surgery.  Of course, that’s only if they get you, and so our heroes spend the book running from the “juvie cops” and finally stumble upon a network of safehouses in their fight to stay alive until they’re 18.

In reading books that deal with social issues, I am always interested to see how the author deals with the “what about…” questions that arise.  Shusterman did a good job with the contingencies of people who break the rules and want to get rid of their baby after it’s born, and with different kinds of kids who would be chosen for unwinding.  There was very little suspension of belief, which I always appreciate (and which sometimes bugs me in books for younger kids).  It raises good questions about what happens to our souls when we die, and whether we are more than the sum of our parts.  I doubt any book will knock The Giver off its pedestal as #1 dystopian book, but this one might be a good second.

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