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BOOK REVIEW: Unwind by Neal Shusterman

| 13 January 2015 | 2 Replies

BOOK REVIEW: Unwind by Neal Shusterman

Simon and Schuster
December 2012
Paperback, $17.99
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell



UnWind is book 1 in the UnWind series.
BOOK REVIEW: UnWholly (Book 2)


You remember what it was like when you and your parents used to spend time together, when you saw eye to eye, really understood each other. But then you hit puberty and wanted to spend less and less time with them. You began to find them condescending, controlling, annoying. And to top it all off, they just didn’t understand you.

To them it was all about good grades, friends who were a positive influence, and your plans for the future. For you it was all about it being, you know, your life.

You guys started fighting more, almost coming to physical blows at times. You were scared of how angry and out of control they made you feel, and you started lashing out in other ways; shoplifting, underage drinking, breaking curfew.

But none of that matters now. They’ve signed the order, and you’re about to be unwound.

Oh, don’t worry. They say you don’t die. Each part of you continues to live on in a divided state. Each tiny piece of your grey matter will go on, attached to someone else’s brain. And all your hassles have come to an end; you’ll never have to think about this again.

You’re going to save so many lives.



Unwind is an unflinching look at what could happen if pro-life and pro-choice went to war and, lacking any other options for compromise, decided to wipe out abortion… so long there was still a way to deal with the population problem that would surely arise.

Introducing a form of retro-active abortion known as “unwinding”.

When a child is between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, their parents or guardians can choose to have them unwound, thus getting rid of their problem child. At the same time, this process creates a whole heap of organs for those in need or want of new ones. And hey, each piece of the kid goes on to live a full life, so it doesn’t really count as killing them anyway, right?

You try telling that to the kid whose parts you’re claiming.




Connor Lassiter found out he was being unwound while searching for a stapler in his dad’s study: 

The Unwind order. It had been signed in old-fashioned triplicate. The White copy was already gone – off with the authorities. The yellow copy would accompany Connor to his end, and the pink would stay with his parents, as evidence of what they’d done. Perhaps they would frame it and hang it alongside his first-grade picture.

Risa Ward is a talented piano player, but not talented enough for the state to want to spend any more money on her upkeep: 

Ms. Something-or-other closes her folder and glances at the headmaster and the man beside him in an expensive suit. The suit nods, and the social worker turns back to Risa with a warm smile. “We feel you’ve reached your potential here,” she says. “Headmaster Thomas and Mr. Paulson are in agreement with me.”

Lev Calder has been raised for this – told every day of his life how special he is, how he’s a gift, and how his unwound bits and pieces will go on to do God’s work: 

As they pull onto the interstate, Lev rolls down the window to feel the wind on his face, and closes his eyes to prepare himself.
This is what I was born for. It’s what I’ve lived my life for. I am chosen. I am blessed. I am happy. 

Each one is on their way to harvest camp, to enter a “divided state”, but then their paths collide and they find themselves on the run.

If they can hide out until their eighteenth birthdays, they will be allowed to live. But that’s years away. And where do you hide when everyone knows the look of desperation in an unwind’s face, not to mention the consequences they will face if caught helping said unwinds?


The third person, present tense style of this novel is a hard one to master, but Mr. Shusterman manages it with ease.
The reader can’t help but be pulled into the fight for survival alongside the main characters, and the world they inhabit is built so seamlessly that you will forget at times that these are just words on a page, and that you’re safe at home.
There are scenes in this novel that will challenge the most hardened of young adult readers, but the payoff is well worth it. This is a book that will stick with you for years.


Category: Book Reviews, Other Reviews

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