**A little note, I plucked this right from the pages of my Goodreads, I’m doing a YA Lit class and read this little gem. You might notice this is more formal than my usual posts. Don’t be alarmed. It’s supposed to be professional! I present, Unwind by Neal Shusterman.
Unwind, the first of a series by Neal Shusterman, was a page-turner. Dystopians, in general, are made to show us the traits of the characters through their actions over the span of the novel, we’re not given everything we need to know about them from the first page. This allows the characters to grow and change throughout the book. Unwind stuck with this convention, which meant a lot of action and a lot of suspense. You never really knew what situation the main characters, Risa and Connor, would end up in, and that great mystery kept me reading as fast as possible.
When we first meet Risa she feels unloved and under-appreciated. 17, in a state home, and being “unwound”. A medical procedure similar to abortion, beside the fact that the children have to be 13-18 to be Unwound, and they are said to remain “alive”.
Our leading man is Connor. Connor is violent and impulsive. His parents don’t want him anymore because of his problem child status. His parents decide to Unwind him and take a vacation the same day. Somehow, these two characters find themselves away imminent death and on an adventure to keep alive.
The situations the characters find themselves in are the biggest lessons in life they have faced. Do they decide to give up and act like they are worthless members of society, like those who wanted them Unwound believed them to be? Do they agree that their parts would better suit someone who can use them for good? Do they rise above their upbringing and become heroes?
Beyond the theme of an underdog hero and what it even means to be a hero, so many real and complex themes are introduced in this novel. Real things that teens will have to make a decision about in their lifetime. Is abortion unethical? Is it more ethical to give a child a chance to prove themselves before they die? How much of a hand will you allow to have government to have in your life? Is the technology behind harvesting body parts a good investment for the sick or will it just mess things up more? Is what taught to you in church and by your parents the only thing you should believe? Should you give up on a problem child? What is the point to war? And most importantly, what comes after? What is death? Are we ever truly gone or does a soul soldier on?
This novel addresses all of those concerns elegantly and with an unbiased view. If you want to read a novel that will make you put it down and think really hard about your own personal values, beliefs, and concerns, this is a novel that will do so. It had me contemplating what it really means to be alive and conscious and what it will mean to die from the very first chapters. And the characters undergo the same sort of personal questioning right along with you.
As stated before, the characters are well-rounded and dynamic, the themes are hard-hitting and cutting, and the story moves smoothly. The only real negative I found in the pages were some of the writing conventions. I’ve read many dystopians before and while this novel asks more of the important questions up front, its writing is not as eloquent as say, The Hunger Games or Divergent. At some points I found myself distracted from the story-world by the metaphors used in the text. On page 182 we see Risa comparing a first encounter as “feel(ing) as though they have been scanned like groceries at a checkout counter.” These poetic devices were used on a lot of pages and made the story feel forced in an unnatural way. In the end, I still enjoyed the experience and loved the book, but didn’t enjoy the world as much as other dystopians. But, still a great book to ponder serious questions and a great read for teens. I’d definitely recommend it!