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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)

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2,9942861,907 (4.27)207
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» See also 207 mentions

English (285)  Italian (1)  All languages (286)
Showing 1-5 of 285 (next | show all)
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 |
For future prosperity, i.e. to remind myself why I shouldn't ever read these books.

Stop. Trying. To. Like. YA.

You never will.

Teenagers are self-absorbed, fuck-obsessed, mindless little drones, or so these adult YA authors are leading us to believe. Unrequited love, bullies, no big worries because what do they know of The Real World? Were these authors ever even children? Did I miss these days? Why hasn't anyone told me about this. Where was my invitation.

Stop trying to be so hipster, and cool, and popular. ( )
  Xleptodactylous | Apr 7, 2015 |
After the war against abortion, an agreement is made that kids ages thirteen through eighteen can be sent to be unwound. Unwinding is where teens from 13 to 18 have their organs, limbs and bones physically taken from their bodies and donated to people who need them. Once you are unwound, you live in the divided state. Connor, Lev and Risa have been sent to be unwound and meet by chance in a car crash. Connor and Risa, who are against unwinding (like many other teenagers and very, VERY few adults) take Lev and go AWOL. Connor and Risa get separated from Lev later in the book. Connor and Risa eventually find themselves in a place called the Graveyard. The Graveyard is a safe haven for all AWOL unwinds until they turn 18. One day the man in charge of the Graveyard has a heart attack, so Connor, Risa and a threatening AWOL named Roland (who has a shark tatoo on his arm) take him to a hospital. At the hospital, a nurse recognizes the three teens as AWOL unwinds and has them sent to harvest camps. Roland gets unwound and shortly after the harvest camp gets blown up leaving Connor with a crushed arm and a destroyed eye and Risa with a severed spine. Connor wakes up with a new arm and eye from an unwound teen, the arm comes from the much hated Roland with the stupid shark tattoo.

I really liked this book. The only reason I read it was because i was told that the book was scary, but the book wasn't very scary though. There were a few slow parts where i found myself rereading pages or just not wanting to read the book anymore, so that's why i gave it four stars. I really like the characters personalities, except for Roland, there were also a few characters who i thought weren't necessary. There were sevral moment where i did not want to put the book down so if you like fast paced stories i would recomend unwind. I would definitely suggest this book to people who want a fast paced quick read. ( )
  AnatoliaR.B1 | Feb 28, 2015 |
I got up to page 138 with this. The first chapter was compelling enough to keep me interested; the author presents three viewpoints here, all with their own backstories.
Quickly, however, I found two things very annoying. First, the author talks down to the YA reader. Second, although this is set in some future time, the cultural references were all of today's moment...and actually even outdated for today. So, even though the characters admitted using old cultural references, it didn't come off well. Because of these two issues, it really sounded like an adult author trying too hard to reach the teen reader...and that's a big turnoff.
Finally, as the pages turned, the author intruded more and more into the narrative and dialog. By the time I stopped reading, it felt like he was preparing to deliver a "big message," which is also a turnoff. Not that fiction can't deliver messages; they just need to be handled with a lighter touch. ( )
  Laine-Cunningham | Feb 22, 2015 |
Unwind doesn’t ask its readers to imagine a dystopian future. It imagines it for them, so quickly and convincingly that it’s hard to question whether it could really happen. It surely couldn’t, on later thought, but it’s a very real, very scary world, inviting very real and absorbing questions, even as it introduces readers to a wealth of fascinating characters.

Unwinding is what happens if your parents or guardians decide to share you with everyone else for the common good. Your body is divided into spare parts, to feed the needs of a population lacking enough organ (and arm and leg and more...) donors. But what happens to your soul, or your self? And who will get unwound.

Risa is an orphan subject to budget cuts. Connor is an out-of-control teenager. And Lev is the tenth, the tithe, of a super-religious family. Each of them becomes vividly real in the space of just a few pages. Dialog is convincing, between teens and adults. Concepts are deep and absorbing – when is terrorism okay, when should finances trump need, and when does the soul enter or leave the body – oh, and how do we know? Faith is presented as more than just following rules, and rebellion as more than just refusing to obey. “Unwinding” the authorities proclaim, is not “death.” But it feels that way to these kids who struggle to find help in a world that rejects them.

Truly absorbing, thought-provoking, and filled with allusions to history, religion and more, Unwind is as much a classic as 1984, and a well-completed tale for all that it’s the first in a series. I’m eager to find if the rest of the books can live up to its promise.

Disclosure: I was hooked by the premise, for all that it didn’t convince me, so I asked for this book for Christmas. I’m really glad I did. ( )
  SheilaDeeth | Feb 18, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 285 (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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