In a not too distant future, the pro-life and pro-choice camps fight each other in the Heartland War. Both sides win, but in an unorthodox way. Parents can’t abort children at conception; instead they have the option to ‘unwind’ children from the age of thirteen to eighteen. All parts of an unwound teenager are reused for other human beings, thus continuing the sanctity of life.
Connor is a big pain to his parents. He doesn’t do well in school and gets into fights. He is being unwound.
Risa is ward of the state. Parentless and hopeless, Rissa can’t achieve anything greater than what she has already achieved at the orphanage. She is being unwound.
Lev is a tithe. He has grown up in a warm and loving family knowing his future. He believes it is God’s plan. He is being unwound.
These three characters meet while on the run from the authorities, and discover that if they can all make it to eighteen, then they can survive. But what they don’t plan on is the relationships they all develop with each other, leaving them with questions of the price of human life and dignity.
Unwind was great. I don’t know what I was expecting, but what I got blew me away. The idea of unwinding was so strange, yet also strangely plausible at the same time, so that I got shivers as I was reading it.
The pro-life/pro-choice debate is obviously one that is of current relevance and Shusterman creates a scary world in which both sides go a bit too far, completely challenging the notion of life and its importance.
Multiple POVs can be irksome, especially if the characters’ voices are well developed, but that was not the case at all with Unwind. Along with Connor, Risa, and Lev, there were multiple other little snippets from other people’s voices that were woven in, but these work to enhance the story and show other people’s motivations, especially when helping our trio.
What I enjoyed a lot about this book was how semi-realistic it was. A lot of dystopias these days take the fantasy elements a bit far sometimes (at least for my taste) and just sort of work on making their futuristic worlds as crazy and impossible as they can. We’re not sure how many years into the future Unwind takes place, but its not difficult to relate to or to imagine.
The three main characters are well developed, and its great to see them grow and mature, especially as they each move forward on a path of their own.
Two things bugged me about this book: one, the romance and two, the world building. If you are a frequent visitor to my blog, you’ll probably know by now that I love romance. Big or small, I’ll take it all. Yet in this book, I felt like it was under-developed and sort happened without us being there. Connor and Risa clearly have a connection from the very beginning (this isn’t a spoiler, don’t worry), and we see the awkward glances and the flirting. A whole bunch of other things happen in the middle which push the romance to the side. I totally get this. But then suddenly there’s flying confessions everywhere and it all felt way too rushed, especially in the midst of what was going on.
Second, the world building. I’ve started noticing this a lot about YA dystopias nowadays, especially after reading Wither, but Unwind also doesn’t explain what the heck the rest of the world is doing. I am not American. I would like to know how the rest of the world is affected by these changes, and how they have coped as well, yet a lot of authors don’t feel the need to include this. The good thing, though, is that at least Shusterman didn’t just wipe off continents for the purpose of his story.
Other than that, this was a highly enjoyable read and I zipped through it quite quickly. I was also pleasantly surprised that it’s part of a trilogy, so I’m excited to see where Shusterman takes the story next.
So for that: 4/5.
‘Thanks for reading.
‘Till next time,