Unwind by Neal Shusterman

Book Info
Unwind by Neal Shusterman
© 2007 Simon & Schuster, New York, NY
ISBN 978-1416912040

Plot Summary
America’s second Civil War, the Heartland War, was fought over the issue of abortion between the pro-choice and pro-life. The war finally ended with the implementation of the Bill of Life, serving to appease both factions. This bill stated that all humans are guaranteed life from the moment of conception until the age of 13, at which point a parent may choose to abort the child through the process of “unwinding.” Unwinding is similar to organ donation, but scientific advancements allow every part of the body to be donated so that the unwound child lives on in a “divided state.” Connor discovers his parent’s secret plan to have him unwound due to his anger problems. Risa is an orphan and ward of the state who is scheduled to be unwound due to budget cuts. Lev’s unwinding has been planned since his conception as a religious offering called a tithe. If they can evade capture until their eighteenth birthday, they can no longer be unwound. Their chances for escaping their fates may be minimal, but they have to try.

Reader’s Annotation
Whether they want to or not, Risa, Conner and Lev are all on track to be unwound, a process where their body parts are donated to other living humans who are in need. Can they make it to their eighteenth birthdays to avoid this fate?

Critical Evaluation
I highly enjoyed this book. I found it to be well written and to tackle some rather complex and tough issues such as abortion and suicide bomber terrorists in a unique and intriguing way. I literally couldn’t put it down once I started. The chapters rotate the telling of the story from the different first person viewpoints of the three main characters with events occasionally overlapping so you can see the same situation from another character’s point of view. This was not something I had encountered in literature before, but I found it to be something I really liked since it added complexity to the overall story. The book is action-packed, suspenseful, and extraordinarily thought provoking all at the same time.

Information about the Author
Award-winning author Neal Shusterman grew up in Brooklyn, New York, where he began writing at an early age. After spending his junior and senior years of high school at the American School of Mexico City, Neal went on to UC Irvine, where he made his mark on the UCI swim team, and wrote a successful humor column. Within a year of graduating, he had his first book deal, and was hired to write a movie script.

In the years since, Neal has made his mark as a successful novelist, screenwriter, and television writer. As a full-time writer, he claims to be his own hardest task-master, always at work creating new stories to tell. His books have received many awards from organizations such as the International Reading Association, and the American Library Association, as well as garnering a myriad of state and local awards across the country. Neal’s talents range from film directing (two short films he directed won him the coveted CINE Golden Eagle Awards) to writing music and stage plays.

Wherever Neal goes, he quickly earns a reputation as a storyteller and dynamic speaker. Much of his fiction is traceable back to stories he tells to large audiences of children and teenagers. As a speaker, Neal is in constant demand at schools and conferences. Degrees in both psychology and drama give Neal a unique approach to writing. Neal’s novels always deal with topics that appeal to adults as well as teens, weaving true-to-life characters into sensitive and riveting issues, and binding it all together with a unique and entertaining sense of humor.

Neal Shusterman lives in Southern California with his four children, who are a constant source of inspiration!

From the author’s website.

Science Fiction, Fantasy, Dystopian

Curriculum Ties
Issues such as abortion rights and euthanasia.

Booktalking Ideas
How would you feel if you were in Connor or Risa’s position – knowing you were going to be unwound? Would you run?

Unwinding was deemed acceptable by the government and people because every part of the body lives on in a divided state. What are your thoughts on this issue?

Reading Level/ Interest Age

Challenge Issues

  • Abortion

Defense options

  • Be aware of your library’s collection development policy.
  • Be familiar with the material in question, and the context of the questionable content.
  • Assert the principles of the ALA Library Bill of Rights, and standards of intellectual freedom.
  • Consult online book reviews, and others who have read the book.
    • Can the book be interpreted to appeal to both sides of the issue?

Why Included?
Initially, I picked up the book because saw it at my local library and while giving it a quick thumb-though, noticed that one of the characters was named Risa. This is a rather uncommon name and also the name of one of my best friends, so I had to read it. I was not disappointed, and included it here due to how well it accomplished dealing with complex issues.


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