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Unwind by Neal Shusterman
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Unwind (2007)

by Neal Shusterman

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Unwind (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,0172901,900 (4.27)207
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    Full Tilt by Neal Shusterman (librarylife59)
    librarylife59: Both of these books by Neal Shusterman depict a different world that should be hard to see as real, but somehow come across incredibly realistically. Fantastic reads!
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    allthesepieces: Authority figures are, at best, disinterested as children are collected and medically altered to serve a hidden agenda.
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Showing 1-5 of 289 (next | show all)
The premise is interesting and I felt, going into this book, it was going to be very thought provoking (and I think the author was trying to accomplish that) - but it wasn't. The philosophical ideas he tries to present fall flat and aren't explored the way they could be. The characters, while showing some depth, really aren't what they could be. Finally, I love YA books, when they don't "write down" to teens - this one does and I didn't enjoy it. (When I say "write down" I mean that while the subject matter might be better for 16-19 age group, the style and vocab put this in the 12-14 range at best). I won't be reading the rest of this series. ( )
  BeckyGraham1016 | May 18, 2015 |
Unwind was fast-paced and, technically, I couldn't put it down once I started. Yet, after I was finished, I wasn't sure how I felt about it. Was the author really comparing the abortion of a fetus to the abortion of a 13-17 year old person? Or was he attempting to explore the ethics of organ transplants? Or, perhaps, neither of those heated political issues. Maybe he just wanted to make young readers think about humanity's tendency to lessen the value of another person based on that person's attributes and/or contributions to society? Is every human life worth the same? Or only the lives of "good" people?

The premise was terrifying: teenagers "unwound" because their parents simply didn't want them anymore. Maybe the kid was too mouthy, not academically talented, disobeyed their rules or rebelled too much. Or maybe he/she was an orphan and the state had to unwind him/her to make room in that facility. The main pitch to sell parents on signing the Unwind order was that their kid wasn't truly dead, only in a "divided state" after being unwound. The Unwound's body was then sold for transplant, and by law they had to use 99.44% of every body. The scene with the step-by-step unwinding from the POV of a character we're supposed to dislike was genius writing but also gruesome and horrific. The whole concept of Storked was mildly amusing, in a dark sort of way. Unwanted babies deposited on the doorstep of unsuspecting people who, by law, were forced to raise that baby as their own. Of course, once that kid hit 13 they could sign an Unwind order...

Part of me thought the book was solid; part of me just wasn't convinced. It's more extreme than The Hunger Games but also way more far-fetched. I border on cynical when it comes to humans, and don't get me started on politics, but even I have a hard time believing the Bill of Life would ever pass, even in a society as divided over reproductive rights as the U.S. and even if it was meant to end a civil war. Unwind would definitely be a book a parent and their teen could read together then discuss for hours.

3 stars ( )
  flying_monkeys | May 15, 2015 |
I love speculative fiction for many reasons: sometimes I just want to escape to a new world and learn about new people. But the ones that stick with me ask a "what if?" question to the world. This book tackles this particular question: What if the pro-life vs. pro-choice battle resulted in a bill that outlaws abortions, but allows parents to "unwind" their children between age 13-17, the idea being that the life of the child is not ended, but continues in a different form...a divided state? Of course there is more going on in the world that resulted in this law, but that's the basic premise....I hope you will read it to figure out the rest.

The best books, in my opinion, make us uncomfortable to a certain extent. They pull at your heart-strings so tightly that you can't help but see yourself in its pages, and wonder what you would do if you were in the characters' shoes...and sometimes, you may not like what you discover about yourself.

This book is terrifying and brilliant. I am currently reading the second one of the series, and I find myself lying awake at night thinking about it, debating on whether I should turn my light back on and read just a couple more pages....

I could go on about this book all day, but I'm hoping you'll pick it up and experience it for yourself. ( )
  reneenmeland | Apr 30, 2015 |
Despite having an utterly unbelievable premise, this book has some of the most effective moments of body horror (and general horror) I have ever read. ( )
  being_b | Apr 30, 2015 |
3.75 stars for the story
6+ stars for the eloquent use of Biblical imagery in a believable dystopian future
8+ stars for the practical feminist reading of power structures designed to get teens and young adults questioning systems of power.

The story is set in a, fairly convincing, 'what-if' scenario: Abortion has been entirely banned, yet human life remains only rhetorically sacred. It seems that banning women's rights to make choices for and about their own bodies has not solved any existential dilemmas. Rather, the banning of women's choices only exacerbates the power structures' ability to control the physicality of its subjects-- and control them quite literally, here.

This story is marketed to teens and the writing style is suited for a teen audience. However, it deals with some pretty adult imagery, and it grapples with questions that not all teens may be ready to have (though they should most definitely be encouraged to attempt.)

Driving the plot is the age old question about the innateness of law's power:

(Nurse 1) “You can’t change laws without first changing human nature”
(Nurse 2) “You can’t change human nature without first changing laws”

Does law have the power to initiate change? From were does law's power come from, and for whom is it designed?

Following the 2nd civil war, the Heartland War, the Bill of Life has deemed all *new* life sacred. No abortions are permissible, but between the ages of 13-18, so long as 94.4% of the body is used for medicinal transplanting, irreversible orders of Unwinding can be issued. Unwinds are immediately sent to Harvesting Centers where they are disassembled and recycled.

Unwinding isn't considered murder or even death. Using the rhetoric of 'greatness' and 'community', unwinds are conditioned to believe that each person should yearn for greatness-- even if s/he cannot achieve greatness within her bodily self, she should yearn that her community be great, and perhaps her role in communal greatness is the giving up of a piece of her so that she can make the communal whole greater.

As the story unfolds, fugitive unwinds fight for safety-- if they can live until they are 18, their bodies are rightfully their own.

I don't believe that Shusterman had an over political agenda; I think he wanted his readers to imagine a future that could convincingly come about should we continue to grant law power over physical bodies. He managed to engage his readers in a story very much founded upon contemporary partisan issue, but his story construction remains relatively nonpartisan.

Using the same rhetoric that is used in contemporary debates about women's rights over their own bodies, Shusterman merely expands upon present ideology that is already structuring arguments which favor the lives of infants and cisgender, heterosexual men over the lives of mothers.

Though Shusterman was extremely careful not to call the Bible out by name, readers with a general understanding of Biblical scriptures will see what he's doing (and doing quite well):

For instance, from the Jewish testament: 1 Kings 3:16-28, tells the story of King Solomon settling a disagreement with two women about who is the mother of a baby. In Solomon's wisdom, he decides the baby will be cut into equal parts so that each woman can have the baby as her own. In so doing, the true mother begs him not to hurt the child- her love for the child is so great that she'd rather not be its mother than to see it feel pain.

The imagery of cutting the child in half because neither side can agree is very clearly used here. After the Heartland Wars, the third party that was meant to bring about agreement, proposed Unwinding. They never thought that either would possibly accept it, but surprisingly, both did. The baby is metaphorically as well as literally cut in Shusterman's story. Literally, the child is taken apart; metaphorically, the law protects the child's life only to the same degree that it threatens it: the law mandates life be made, but it also mandates it be taken away.

Also from the Jewish testament, Exodus 2: This passage tells about the birth of Moses, which occurred during a time when all young male babies were being slaughtered so as to protect the pharoah's right to the throne. But Moses' mom couldn't bare to kill him, so she instead put him in a basket and set him afloat in the river, hoping he would find his way to a new village where he could be safely adopted. Pharoah's wife's maid finds the basket, and Pharoah's wife insists the baby stay and live in the palace. Paradoxically, Moses grows to be the leader of the Israelite resistance to Egyptian rule, and his leadership cripples Pharoah dyansty.

In Shusterman's novel, the Bill or RIghts was followed by an amendment that allowed for "storking" a newborn baby. Mothers were given the right to stork their newborns on anyone else's doorstep. So long as the mother wasn't caught, 'finder's keeper's' law reigned, and the mother could be free of her parental duties. (This amendment was made necessary by the number of newborns found dead in dumpsters soon after abortions were banned.)

Also, Dueteronomy 14:22-27, in which the Israelites are directed to tithe 10% of what they own in order to celebrate God and the community. Likewise, not all unwinds are ordered whimsically or irrationally by their parents-- some are born into 'service' as "Tithes." These youth are intentionally bred to be the 10th child, and therefore the 1/10 celebratory sacrifice to God. One such character, Levi is a Tithe. The rhetoric used by his pastor and family to support the giving of his bodily wholeness (a.k.a., life), exploits the Christian testament in ways that bear striking resemblance to contemporary ideological homophobia (and other forms of hyperreligious phobias.)

For example, 1 Corinthians 15:31 and 2 Corinthians 9:7: Themes of cheerfully giving, loving through self-sacrificial means, and 'dying daily' constitute the ideological basis for human Tithes.

So many different readings are available withint this story that would take entirely too long for me to write about them all here, which is exactly why this book is worth reading.

The symbols, religious references, ways of exhibiting masculinity and femininity, and intersections of class and religious extremism make for salient teaching points and/or talking points with any age or level of reader. This would make an ideal piece for teaching advanced high schoolers or first year college students about how to use various theoretical ideas as lenses for reading different texts. ( )
  jamdwhitt | Apr 11, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 289 (next | show all)
Let me start off by by saying that this is a really good book. I am having a really tough time getting through the first half of this book. Not because it's boring but because of how sickening it is. The idea of taking someone apart (willingly or other) is a really hard thing for me to stomach. That and the fact that the way this story is portrayed, unwinding is an actually feasible possibility in the real world. what's unwinding? Unwinding is when you take someone (they're always a minor), take their bodies apart, and send the parts off so that another person can have them. I bet you just reread that sentence, thinking: "what the hell?" but yeah, that's what it is.See, when they do this, it technically isn't murder, so to them that makes it okay. This is an interesting book that I am actively forcing myself to get through because I enjoy it just about as much as I am nauseated by it.
added by morgan434 | editepub
 

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Neal Shustermanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Daniels, LukeReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dedicated to the memory of Barbara Seranella
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"There are places you can go," Ariana tells him, "and a guy as smart as you has a decent chance of surviving to eighteen."
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What he and Risa have isn't a relationship; it's just two people clinging to the same ledge hoping not to fall.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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In this futuristic society teenagers can be “unwound” for any number of reasons, including being a state ward or juvenile delinquency. When Connor finds out his parents have signed to order to have him unwound, he becomes a fugitive and accidentally frees a busload of other potential unwinds. He and his friend Risa must stay on the run until their 18th birthdays. With the help of some adults they find themselves in a colony of fugitives. But all is not well here, either, and it’s hard to tell who’s friend or foe.
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In a future world where those between the ages of thirteen and eighteen can have their lives "unwound" and their body parts harvested for use by others, three teens go to extreme lengths to survive until they turn eighteen.

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