Author: Neal Shusterman
Reading Range: 5.0 (AR Bookfinder)
Interest Range: 7th grade and up (Amazon.com)
Plot: This is set in the future where abortion is illegal. Instead, what happens is between the ages of 13 to 18 parents are allowed to unwind their children. This means their bodies are harvested of everything that is useful and stored for later use by those who need transplants. This decision was made to stop a war between pro-choice and pro-life groups. The story focuses on three children who were chosen to be unwound. Connor is a troubled sixteen year old who has become too much for his parents to handle. Risa is a ward of the state but because of budget cuts she is chosen to be unwound. Lev is a tithe which means from birth he was raised to be unwound by his religious family. They met when Conor tries to escape from being taken to an unwind camp. Conor and Risa band together but Lev is kidnapped by Conor and Risa. Eventually, Lev betrays them because he believes that it is the will of God they should be unwound. They are able to escape from the police with Conor and Risa discovering a safe haven for the unwind. It is run by the Admiral. Meanwhile, Lev begins to question the beliefs he grew up with when he meets CyFi. Eventually, he come to the camp. At the camp, it is discovered the Admiral has people who are trying to take him down and destroy what he has made. Conor is given the task to found out who they are to protect his new life.
Review: This book does not shy away from discussing heavy issues which include abortion, child suicide bombing, religion, the value of life, and the responsible of parents toward their children. The author does not take sides in the abortion issue instead presenting all sides and allowing the reader to make up their own mind. This book is not preachy instead it does say it is okay to feel ambivalent about important issues. When unwinding was created it was created to make both sides of the war step back and see what they were doing. The Admiral was a member of the neutral army that was trying to bring peace between the two groups. They hoped they would blink and break down. Only they accepted it. To me, it shows how extreme people can get about an issue. The character I felt the strongest about was Conor. He is not a bad kid but he is a difficult kid whose parents cannot control him. I remember reading an article where a state allowed parents to surrender their children without question. They did not put an age limit on it. People from different states were coming to surrender anywhere from babies to teenagers. They put an age cap on it after they had parents surrending all their kids. I feel for him because he reminds of those children who were abandoned in that state. I would recommend this book for older tween readers.
Additional Info:
This book does contain a scene where a character is unwound and the things they experience as it is happening. It is not graphic but it is disturbing reading as the character loses himself.
Main Characters:
Connor Michael LassiterConor is a sixteen year old boy who lives with his parents. His parents sign the unwind order because of his fighting and getting expelled from schools. Conor questions authority and those in power. He discovers that he can trust the Admiral. He learns to control his temper.
Risa Megan Ward-Risa is fifteen years old and a ward of the state. She was abandoned, or stroked, at birth by her parents. She is very skilled at playing the piano but is not talented enough to be kept from being unwound. Her orphanage has to cull ten percent of their teenage population due to budget cuts. In the Unwind camp, she becomes a medic.
Levi “Lev” Jedediah CalderLev is the youngest of ten children in his family. He just turned thirteen. He was raised from birth to be a tithe which means he is going to be unwound as a religious sacrifice. His family is very religious. Lev believes that is his fate and does not question until Conor and Risa kidnap him. He starts to question his life especially after his experiences with CyFy.
Cyrus “CyFi” Finch-He is fifteen years old and he meets up with Lev after Lev is separated from Risa and Conor. He teachers Lev how to find food. He is not an unwind and he is a stroked raised by two fathers. It is discovered that part of CyFi’s brain was replaced due to an accident. He has memories and feelings from the boy whose brain he has that are starting to affect him. The boy does not realize he is dead and what has happened to him.
The Admiral-He used to work for the military but now he provides a safe haven for unwinds. In the war, he fought for the side that wanted peace and he was one of those who created the accord. He regrets that action especially since it led to this son getting unwound.
Roland-He is another unwind whose mother signed the order after the beat up his father protecting her. At first, Conor and Risa do not think he is very smart but they discover he is manipulative. He comes to the Unwind camp with them. He starts to turn some of the kids against the Admiral.
Theme: Circle of life, Death, Faith versus doubt, Immortality, Will to survive

Bibliographic Info:

Shusterman, N. (2009). Unwind. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers



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