Rated Reads

Unwind (Unwind, book 1)

by Neal Shusterman

Rated: Mild

In a near future, abortion will be outlawed, but parents will have the option later on to retroactively “unwind” their unwanted teenagers. These Unwinds are taken to centers where every bit of them will be harvested to continue on living as parts in other people (think organ donations on steroids).

Connor, Risa, and Lev each end up being signed over as Unwinds; Connor because he’s been a troublemaker; Risa because she’s a ward of the state, and everyone knows the budget can only sustain so many kids; and Lev because his very religious family has planned from his earliest years to give him as a tithe (he’s the last of 10 children). Connor decides to “kick AWOL” to avoid his fate, and he ends up running into Risa and Lev. The three essentially share a path as rebels, with the goal to stay alive until age 18, when they cannot legally be unwound anymore.

The premise of this book is fascinating, and Neal Shusterman doesn’t disappoint as he takes readers on a generally fast-paced ride that’s not only action-filled but thought-provoking. Along the way, he explains more about the history of this society and how it ended up creating this system of retroactive abortions. Throughout the book, consequences and unintended repercussions from the laws are referenced: Doctors no longer know how to deal with health issues in other ways except to replace sick or defective organs or limbs with “donations” from Unwinds. Women who give birth and don’t want to be mothers can try to get their babies adopted or just “stork” them: leave their infants on doorsteps and run before they’re found out. Many families are large, and a huge population of children live in state homes. The system creates whole new philosophies about parenting and what it means to be alive and have a soul. Unwind is a great book for adults and teens alike to ponder on these issues from a different angle.

Rated: Mild. There is practically no bad language, and little in the way of sexual content. There is some actual violence, along with death and just a moderate level of intensity.

— Reviewed by Cathy Carmode Lim

Cathy Carmode Lim has been reviewing books for newspapers for more than 20 years, two of which she was a book page editor. She founded Rated Reads in January 2008.

3 Responses to Unwind (Unwind, book 1)

  1. […] Shusterman crafted a fascinating story in Unwind, and he said he “never dreamed it would turn into a trilogy,” but he “couldn’t escape the […]

  2. […] started off as a book I thought would be just a really great stand-alone, Unwind, has evolved into four volumes in a fantastic dystopian series. Quick background: in the near […]

  3. […] the conclusion has arrived to a series, starting with Unwind, that has not only addressed all kinds of of-the-moment ethical issues but has had readers on the […]

  • Unwind (Unwind, book 1)
  • by Neal Shusterman
  • Rated: Mild
  • Genre: Young adult
  • Reviewer: