A boy marked for termination and organ harvesting escapes into a world where he has no legal right to live.
I heard about Unwind from the Queens Library, in an email newsletter talking up good new young adult books. I’m so glad that I did, because it’s a dystopian thrill ride in the same vein as Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies trilogy, only with the same intellectual depth and emotional heart that you find in Lois Lowry’s The Giver.
Here’s the deal with unwinding. Anyone under the age of 18 can be unwound by their legal guardian. It’s like a retroactive abortion, only every last piece of the unwind is harvested for reuse by another person. Organs, limbs, brain cells, even eyelashes–they all get doled out to the needy. Connor’s parents send him for unwinding because they have too many kids, but he’s lucky–and smart–enough to get away. He ends up on the run with Risa, a ward of the state whose unwinding comes when the home runs out of beds, and Lev, a “tithe” whose parents are unwinding him as a sacrifice to God.
I was so impressed with the way that Neal Shusterman engaged with big issues in Unwind. He didn’t shy away from tackling the abortion and bioethics debates head on in all their complexity. He didn’t dumb anything down, and he didn’t moralize or proselytize. The result is a book that offers a lot of food for thought in what also happens to be a page-turning thriller.