Saturday, 22 February 2014

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

This book is one of those that keeps playing back in your mind. I really didn't know whether to review this book here, or even to recommend it, because on one level this book is terrible. It really upset me. But on another level it is absolutely brilliant, perhaps because it had the power to really upset me!

Unwind by Neal Shusterman is really popular in the U.S. It was published back in 2007 and is still talked about in YA circles today, so I thought I should have a read of it.

A 'Bill of Life' precedes the novel, describing how a war was eventually fought in America over the issue of abortion. An agreement was reached whereby a child cannot be touched from the moment of conception to the age of 13, but that between the ages of 13 and 18, parents can choose to retroactively 'abort' their child - on the condition that the life of that child does not technically end. At this point I was confused. What did that mean? The process by which this retroactive abortion happens is called 'unwinding'.

Putting my confusion aside, I started the novel. It begins like any of the increasingly popular dystopian fiction around at the moment, with an outsider character who likes to rebel (could be The Hunger Games at this point). The action revs up and as a reader you get carried away by the story line. Connor, Risa and Lev have just turned 13 and for various reasons they are in danger of being unwound. They run away together (Lev somewhat unwillingly). But how do you hide from the authorities when you are only 13? And if one of you is convinced that unwinding is your destiny? Connor also manages to pick up a newborn baby on the way that hardly makes things easier. Through their journey we get little hints of what exactly unwinding means, and what it has done to society. 

Unwinding, we discover eventually, is the process of harvesting parts of the human body for transplants. The scene in which one character is unwound made me feel physically ill, so I warn you that you may feel likewise reading it. 

Tackling issues of abortion, human transplants, ethics, children's rights and society 'norms' makes this a hugely interesting read. Shusterman is an incredibly talented writer, but I am a little scared of whatever he writes next...

Read it if you dare. 

- Celia


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