Written by: Neal Shusterman
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian
Connor, Risa, and Lev are running for their lives.
The Second Civil War was fought over reproductive rights. The chilling resolution: Life is inviolable from the moment of conception until age thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, however, parents can have their child “unwound,” whereby all of the child’s organs are transplanted into different donors, so life doesn’t technically end. Connor is too difficult for his parents to control. Risa, a ward of the state is not enough to be kept alive. And Lev is a tithe, a child conceived and raised to be unwound. Together, they may have a chance to escape and to survive.
In the effort to disclose information, here’s my confessions. I hate the term “Pro-Life”. Like those who are “Pro-Choice” are somehow against life in some way? After two very high risk, life-threatening pregnancies, I’m also a fan of “My uterus, my rules.” I choose what to do with it and I don’t want other people deciding this. That does not necessarily mean I am “Pro-Choice”, just that I don’t like the idea of someone else telling me what to do with my body. Finally, I really wasn’t sure I could even read this book without gagging or going into some sort of thermonuclear meltdown at the thought of having babies just to farm them for spare parts which I partly attribute to having a cancer-survivor for a son.
Why did I read this book? I read it because I had far too many people tell me that it was just that good. Much like “The Hunger Games”, Shusterman’s “Unwind” tells a thought-provoking story with a terrible backdrop. The backdrop is merely a setting, one that while horrifies you. The story, however, takes you on adventure of human nature while exploring the role society plays in people’s lives.
The book touches on the wanted and unwanted in society as well as what depths people will go to survive. It makes you consider organ donation. The look into a future where people claim life “sacred” and yet treat it as a “disposable” commodity offers you the ability to truly ponder what life means to you. The book even touches on what could happen to the adoption/foster care system in a future world more gritty than our own. Legalized abandonment on a doorstep known as “storking” is a way of life in this future, and the instances seen in Shusterman’s novel is heartbreaking.
I think the most chilling topic covered is the “tithe-child”. A child born for the sole purpose to one day be “unwound”. A child whose very existence puts all new meaning to “an heir and a spare”. It made me sick to think about, but maybe that’s because I actually had people bring up this idea when my oldest son had cancer.
As with most dystopian tales, this book is not for the faint of heart. I promise, the story is worth reading. It’s just that good, but it will leave you thinking.