Book Review – Unwind

5 Jun

Last night, I stayed up an extra 30 minutes to finish reading Unwind, by Neil Shusterman. This is a big deal, people. I get up at 4:30 in the morning, so that extra 30 minutes is precious time I could have spent sleeping. However, I regretted doing it, because I had a hard time getting to sleep after reading the ending of this book.

The plot and characters of this book have stuck with me, but so have the ideas it raises. I wonder how many people, aside from Shusterman, have stopped to think about what might happen if the abortion debate escalates any further. In my lifetime, I have found myself on both sides of the debate, and I can see that there are too many gray areas all the way around. But I never envisioned a future like Shusterman has seen; now that he has shown it to me, I’m completely freaked out.

In Unwind, abortion of fetuses is illegal. However, parents can choose to retroactively abort their children between the ages of 13 and 18. Yep, you read that correctly. No typos here. The plot revolves around a group of “unwinds” whose parents have signed the orders for their abortions for various reasons, such as:

  • Connor – he’s a bit of a troublemaker, kind of a delinquent. Mom and Dad are fed up, so they decide to just eliminate him from their lives. Whatever happened to military school, huh?
  • Risa – she’s a ward of the state. Unfortunately for her, her classical piano playing is only really good, not superb. They just don’t have room for less-than-spectacular kids at the state home any more, so out she goes.
  • Hayden – his parents got into such a bitter custody battle that they decided they’d rather have him unwound than see him wind up with only one of them. Calling King Solomon!
  • Lev – perhaps the most disturbing of all, Lev’s parents are going to tithe him. Yep, that’s right – he was their 10th child, and they’re giving him back to God by donating all of his body parts to other people. While he’s still alive.

You may think that such a future would never happen. Sure, it’s the stuff of interesting science fiction, but that’s all it is, right? I’m not so sure. The thing is, the government did some creative marketing when they came up with this unwinding brainstorm. First, they used it as a means to end the war between the Pro-Lifers and Pro-Choicers (quite literally war here, people). Second, they convinced the public that an unwind isn’t really dying – their body parts live on in the people who get them. Since a doctor in the novel has perfected the art of body part harvesting so the WHOLE body can be used, they feel justified in not wasting human life. They’re just redistributing it. Creepy. Yet, if you’re sufficiently cynical about human nature, it’s not too far of a stretch.

I won’t tell you what happens to the unwinds in the story, because I think you should read it for yourself. But suffice it to say you will hold your breath for them the whole way, and find yourself delving into the depths of this plot the same way you can’t tear yourself away from staring at an accident on the side of the road. And the mental images will haunt you in exactly the same way.



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