"The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." — Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

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Summary: Teenagers about to be unwound – harvested for their organs – go on the run.

The Bill of Life states that human life may not be touched from the moment of conception until a child reaches the age of thirteen.
However, between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, a parent may choose to retroactively “abort” a child…
on the condition that the child’s life doesn’t “ technically” end.
The process by which a child is both terminated and yet kept alive is called “unwinding.”
Unwinding is now a common and accepted practice in society.

And with that chilling statement, this novel opens. It's a thriller, as three Unwinds are on the run, but also both subtle and obvious social commentary with menace from all corners.

Connor's parents can no longer control him when he acts out, so his parents decide to have him unwound, so at least some good can come from their son. Orphaned Risa is a victim of shrinking budgets since she is not a talented enough musician to be kept alive. Lev, a tithe, was raised by religious parents for the sole purpose of being unwound. Why would he fight or run from the very action he was created for? His relationship with Pastor Dan comforts him, until an accident changes the path set for these young Unwinds. The bus carrying Connor and Risa, a ward of the state, crashes into Lev's parents' car, and Lev is taken hostage by Connor.  During a police shoot-out, Pastor Dan yells at Lev to run, and it isn't until Lev is alone in the woods does he realize Pastor Dan doesn't want him to be unwound.

The three travel together and join an underground rescue organization, but are separated. Risa and Connor join a hidden group of teens, who are just waiting to grow old enough to be safe from unwinding. Lev partners with a young teen who is driven by an urge to visit the parents of the child who provided parts for him. Cellular memory is fascinating to me, as is the ethics of organ donation.

Please note: Nobody ever says "die" they always say "unwound." The scene of one character's unwinding is horrifying and spell-binding. Solid writing.

There’s a funny line about whether or not you’re allowed to sell your soul on eBay. If the soul does not exits, then it can’t be sold. If it does exist, then it’s a body part and eBay does not allow the selling of body parts.

This is listed as a Young Adult novel, but I think the subject matter is more appropriate for adults. Fascinating, dark, enjoyable.

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