Saturday, June 16, 2012

Neal Shusterman. UNWIND.

I've been hearing about UNWIND for several years. But after hearing Neal Shusterman talk about it on a dystopian panel at TLA this year, I told myself that I would finally read it. I now understand what all the hype was about.

UNWIND is set some years in the future after a second civil war, called the Heartland War, has taken place. The war was fought on one single issue. Abortion.

Peace was only negotiated after a compromise called the "Bill of Life" was created. It was designed to satisfy both the pro-choice and pro-life sides of the war.

No one would be allowed to have an abortion at all. But, when a child reaches the age of thirteen, parents have an option to retroactively "abort" their child. This is called unwinding. When a parent decides to have their child unwound, the decision is final. No appeals. No arguments. It's done.

According to the law, when the decision is made, the child goes to a harvest camp where all of their parts must be saved - 100%. These parts are then used to help others when needed for accidents, disease or any other reason. So, the argument is that this is different from abortion because the child isn't really dying. When a person is unwound, they are still living, but in many different forms and helping other people in the process.

Our main characters Connor, Risa and Lev have all been sentenced to be unwound for various reasons. Connor is a smart kid, but has gotten into a lot of trouble. So his parents decided they'd had enough of him. Risa was an orphan living in the state home and due to budget cuts, they decided they couldn't afford her anymore. Lev was his parent's tenth child and is being unwound as a tithe.

They escape on the way to the harvest camp and discover an underground railroad for other Unwinds. If a teen makes it to eighteen, then they can no longer be unwound. So the goal is to stay hidden until that time.

Yes, the premise seems far-fetched at first, simply because the mere suggestion that a parent could ever want to "be rid of" their child is foreign to most of us. (not to mention heartbreaking) But you see how the society in the book got to this point. It's ridiculous, of course, but that's part of why the book is so relevant today. It's a cautionary tale, for sure.

Shusterman is a brilliant author. These characters are fully formed and alive. The story is fleshed out beautifully. I even appreciated how unique the airplane setting is for a major section of the book. I love the smart conversations among the teens. There was a creepy, devastatingly sad part near the end that I don't want to spoil here, but wow! You definitely will feel a huge range of emotions reading this. You certainly won't ever forget it.

This would make a phenomenal movie! Of course, every time I say that, I find out that a movie is in development, already. And...it's true this time too.
However, the trailer below is not from the forthcoming movie. It's a fan-made book trailer. There are  many, but I picked this one because of the creepy feeling it gives you. Enjoy!

***UPDATE*** Yay, this was good timing! I see there's a sequel due out August 28th! I had no idea it's actually going to be a trilogy. Supercool! Book cover below: