Review: Unwind – Neal Shusterman

Synopsis from Goodreads.
Connor, Risa, and Lev are running for their lives.
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



I don’t normally get creeped out by dystopian books. Yeah, sometimes they’re a bit..eeeehhh… but, usually, the ideas are so far-fetched and impossible that I’m quite happy to shrug and think ‘Hey! Good fiction, author!”. I don’t know what it is about this book, where children can be ‘unwound’ and retroactively aborted when they reach a certain age, but it really haunted me.
Just the idea of it was so unsettling and absolutely horrid. The way the story is told (third person, present tense) has this almost clinical style to it. Normally in dystopians, it’s all about the characters. It’s about their feeling and that’s where the drama comes into it. But in Unwind, there are no dramatic scenes where the characters throw themselves against a wall and cry and how in just it is… everyone kind of just accepts things. It is how it is.
And that was the most unsettling part of this book*.
I sometimes find that dystopian authors get so tangled up in a ridiculous plot and forget about the world building or get so giddy over the world building there is no plot. Of course, there are some authors that can juggle the two of them and find the right balance. But this idea got me thinking. What do you think is more important; the story or the world? I guess the world in Unwind isn’t overly different than ours, I mean there are hints that things are a bit futuristic but there certainly aren’t Districts or Factions or hover-boards. Maybe this was because Mr Shusterman didn’t think that the world was too important in the grand scale of things or maybe it was because Mr Shusterman wanted to create a world that was eerily similar to ours, to make it all the more frightening. Either way, I think Unwind is proof that if you’ve got a stellar, unique idea… you don’t need a convoluted world with complicated politics that show how clever you are to have a good story on your hands. The world he creates may be “basic”, but with the idea of unwinding embedded in my mind, I never once doubted Mr Shusterman’s imagination.
Though, I think hover boards would have made this book just a little bit better.

I’m not going to go into the higher ideas and morals of this book because I don’t think this review is the place to go into my views and opinions. But I do have my views and opinions on this matter and I’m sure you do too. I think no matter which side you’re on and what you believe in, this book will still be hard-hitting and fascinating. I think it’s the evidence of a real writer when you finish a book and you have absolutely no idea where the author stands on a matter. This book feels very removed, possibly by the style it’s been written it, and it doesn’t feel preachy or has some kind of sly agenda to make you change your mind.
I like that it challenges you but, ultimately, it lets you make up your own mind.

Anyway, let’s talk about the characters. I liked Connor, I loved Risa (Hurrah for a heroine is both feminine and strong!) but I absolutely adored Lev.
And that’s who I’m going to talk about.
Don’t get me wrong, I really liked Connor and I really liked Risa. I think dystopian books need characters like them. They’re strong, they’re leaders and they take charge. But they’re not completely original, are they? Sure these two stand out among all the other faceless Children of the Dystopian Revolution (CDR), but they’re still a CDR. Again, don’t get me wrong, this book wouldn’t have been the same without these two and I think dystopian books need characters like them.
But Lev? He was the heart and the brains and the soul of this book. He really is a one of a kind character and I just loved what he brought to this story. He added so much more depth to it than any other character and the issues that he faced were the ones that affected me the most. I love characters that develop within the pages and seeing Lev’s journey was absolutely fantastic. For the first third of this book I thought I had him pegged. I didn’t like him because he annoyed me. I just wanted to get back to Connor and Risa. Next, OK, you have my attention Lev. I’m intrigued. And then at the end? BOOM. Consider my gob smacked.

Also, I feel like I have to give a shout out to my new best-friend Cyfi. What an absolute treasure. But that’s all I’m saying.

And before I read this book, I didn’t think anyone could make a character named Roland be sinister. HA. HA. HA. *nervous twitch*
And that’s just what I think about the kids. Don’t get me started on the adults! Although I will say this- I enjoyed the nice, twisty surprise re: The Admiral. I didn’t expect that one coming at all.
This book isn’t for the faint-hearted. Towards the end of the book there is one of the most horrifying scenes I’ve ever read in a YA book and just thinking about it gives me the chivvers. I know without a doubt that that will stay with me for a long time.
But if you love dystopian books with brilliant characters with a unique and completely terrifying plot and one that makes you think… and, of course, if you think you’re up for the challenge… go on.
*I know there are some characters who want to change things, but this ain’t no Mockingjay**. The majority of the people in this book are quite happy with the way things are. So I’m sticking with that thought.

**Mockingjaaaaaaay. *shakes fist*

7 thoughts on “Review: Unwind – Neal Shusterman

  1. LOL at the Mockingjay annoyance. That’s every day of my life. I listened to this book and it was fabulous. You’re right that it isn’t abundantly clear where Shusterman falls on the issue and I like that about the book–it’s hard to find one where so much is brought up yet it isn’t preachy. I can’t wait to read the second one. Good thing you waited so long to read this one so you don’t have long to wait!

    • I know! When does it come out again? It’s soon, isn’t it?
      Thanks Flann, it really surprised me this one. I didn’t think I’d be too fussed about it but it really blew me away.

      *scowls* Mockingjay.

    • Thanks Jess! Yes, that’s one of my least favourite things about dystopias in general. I just lose patience with it quickly. :)
      I hope you get to read it soon! Let me know what you think of it!

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