Review Unwind

Sabtu, 24 November 2012

by Neal Shusterman (Goodreads Author)

Connor, Risa, and Lev are running for their lives.
The Second Civil War was fought over reproductive rights. The chilling resolution: Life is inviolable from the moment of conception until age thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, however, parents can have their child "unwound," whereby all of the child's organs are transplanted into different donors, so life doesn't technically end. Connor is too difficult for his parents to control. Risa, a ward of the state is not enough to be kept alive. And Lev is a tithe, a child conceived and raised to be unwound. Together, they may have a chance to escape and to survive.

Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers 2007

Karen: this is a great book to use as a springboard for discussions about reproductive rights and governmental responsibility and what kind of world we are creating and leaving to the next generation.
but i'm just going to talk about me. cuz i am a very laissez-faire individual, and i live my life like i am reading a book someone else is writing, and i am just tuning in to see where it all goes, and any discussion of this sort always leads to conflicts, and i think goodreads has enough of those, yeah?
i am of two minds on this book. on the one hand, i got completely sucked into the story, and i love the characters (especially lev), and i thought it was one of the rare dystopian YA books that actually took the time to world-build enough so that its characters made sense in the world they were given. but even at the beginning, i was picking it apart, and finding flaws in the construction; ways that the system could be abused and that just would not work, even as a dystopia. catie's review goes into a lot of concerns i had, and even though i liked the book a lot more than she did, i agree with a lot of her observations.
i am late to this book's party, and most of you have already read it, but for the newborns out there who can't even read yet, i will lay out some of the plot points, so your folks can read them to you.
in this book, abortion is no more. there was a war between the pro-lifers and the pro-choicers which resulted in legislation (apparently only half-seriously proposed) that satisfied both sides: no more fetus-abortion, but parents had the right to "unwind" their unwanted kids once they reached the age of thirteen, but once they turned eighteen, they were there for good. unwinding is a process whereby the kids are used for parts, and nearly every single piece of them is transplanted into a needy recipient, ensuring the donors would "live on", but in a different state. and all these parts retain the muscle-memory of their previous owners, which seems medically implausible, but who am i to judge? this results in "more surgeons, fewer doctors" because no one needs to be cured anymore, they can just get some spare parts and fix themselves up that way.

for people who are unable to raise their children until the age of thirteen, there is another feature of the legislation that is called "storking," where unwanted babies are left on the doorsteps of strangers, and THEY HAVE TO RAISE THEM. i mean, it is better than a dumpster, by far, but what a drag. this is the part i had the most problems with. i mean, how easy is it to abuse that law? and i was grateful that he included an anecdote about one such incident that was horrifying, but i can't see how this was a law that ever got accepted. assuming that financial responsibility for thirteen years at least? no thank you.
but whatever, if i can accept the chinks in divergent's armor, i can accept this. it is a teen fiction book; it's not flawless, but this is the world we are given. and it is admirable that he took the time to a) construct such a fully-developed world and b) point out its flaws, occasionally.
and its strengths are numerous. there is great detail-work here, even when it is just given briefly, in the anecdotes of the various unwinds. the variety of reasons a kid can be unwound are numerous and heartbreaking. and just the number of wonderful moments of revelation - (view spoiler)
but overall, i was completely engaged in the story, and i do think the characters grew and became different people, (view spoiler)
overall, i thought it was a great read, and i appreciated the care that went into writing it, even though it is one of those books you have to accept as-is, without going over it with a hyper-critical eye.(

Janina: An astonishing and at the same time disturbing read. Took me some time to get into, but from then on I was hooked. The world Shusterman created feels so vivid and real, it almost scared me. Thought-provoking and highly original. I haven't read anything like this ever before.
Also, it contained one of the most disturbing scenes I have ever read - not on a graphic level, but more due to the fact that what exactly is happening is left almost completely to the reader's imagination (if you've read the book, you will most likely know what I'm referring to).
Set in the near future, the novel follows three teens about to be unwound – which is the thing to do with unwanted teens and basically means that they are to be scavenged for body parts to be transplanted to those in need of them (though the signification of 'need' can be stretched here: someone can also 'need' new eyes because his girlfriend doesn't like the old ones' colour)
Connor has always been trouble, sometimes unable to control his temper. When he finds out that his parents are about to have him unwound, he runs away and crosses paths with Risa and Lev. Risa is a state ward being sent away due to shortage of money and Lev is a tithe, sacrificed by his religious parents for a greater good
Connor and Risa have only one goal: to be able to make it until their eighteenth birthday, when the law will protect them from being unwound after all. Lev, who has always believed in his special purpose, is deeply conflicted. Should he run with his two 'rescuers' or should he turn them in?
I not only found the three main characters, but also the friends and enemies they make on their journey drawn realistically and very relatable. Everyone has his own way of dealing with their situation and nothing is painted in black or white. Those characters have their faults – some more than the others – but in the end there was no one who deserved to be treated like he was nothing but human spare parts for those who could afford it.
The only thing that felt a bit off at times was the writing style. Sometimes the present tense sounded awkward to me, and the frequent switching between the different points of view made it hard for me to become fully attached to all the characters, but I loved Connor, Risa and Lev.
I will definitely be looking out for more of Shusterman's work.
Edit: I originally rated this book four stars, but I've decided to up my rating ;). I would recommend Unwind to everyone looking for a good YA book, I would label it a favourite, and I don't think I'll ever forget it. If a book makes me think about it even months after reading it, it definitely deserves five stars!

Kat: I was walking back from my playgroup with my son on Monday, I came out of an elevator to find a teenage boy waiting for me. Fear and an urge to protect my son came over me as he looked a little "rough" around the edges.
Instead of pulling a knife or picking a fight though, the teenager turned on me with big, embarrassed, doe-eyes to ask in a quivering voice, "Excuse me, can I please have fifty cents to call my mum?" I fished out fifty cents worth of coins and left as soon as I saw him head towards the telephone, not waiting around to see if he got through to her. True story.
Unwind by Neal Shusterman is a novel about a world gone mad in which children between the ages of thirteen and eighteen can be legally signed over by their parents or guardians to be put through a harvest camp so that others can take their organs, tissue and blood.
Abortion is also illegal but people can leave infants on other people's doorstep as a method of "storking" and thus legally handing over their responsibilities of the child.
A common phrase used throughout this book is, "Someone else's problem." This encompasses the spirit of the book and is said often by adults who have had children fall temporarily into their hemisphere and require dealing with. There are very few adults in this book who do more than the bare minimum of what they have to do to sit right in their conscience and there's a whole bevy of others who don't do that much.
Connor, one of the trio of main protagonists and an indisputable Christ metaphor, is a "problem" child. His parents are at a loss as to how to handle his behavioral problems and his poor grades so they consign him to being unwound. Risa, a ward of the state, is a bed that the government can free up for a child that they can't legally unwind yet and so is also handed over to the harvesting camp. Levi, the last of the trio is a religious tithe by his parents - born and raised to serve God by handing him over to be tithed as part of their duty to the community and God.
There are many other such stories in this book from a boy whose loving parents died, leaving him an inheritance that his aunt feels would be better off putting her kids through college once he's been unwound and a boy whose divorcing parents couldn't agree on any custody solution and would rather, literally, divide him.
This whole book is about the powerlessness of children in the hands of those who should be responsible for them. It is at times nerve-wracking, heartbreaking, devastating and a complete adrenaline rush.
What it is most of all, though, is sad. Sad because the truth is that children are not the problem and they shouldn't be treated like a problem. They are a symptom at worst and a blessing always. They are a gift that requires attention. They are an innocent package and in the case of 99% of them - if they are running around the street as twelve year olds being a menace to society then they have not let us down - we have let them down.
I love this book because it is well written, I love this book because it is compelling. I love this book because sometimes it is a hard and challenging read on a personal level. I love this book because it asks you to think. I love this book for the many things it has revealed about me - most of them not positive. I love this book because it is well-written with absorbing characters and a great plot.
Most of all, I love this book because next time I come across a kid of the street asking for fifty cents to call his mum, I'll let him borrow my phone and make sure she's coming to get him.