My rating: 4 of 5 stars
So after a long holiday and a fabulous trip to NYC, it’s time to get back to the work at hand…writing!
Today’s Turn the Page comes at the hands of my daughter’s high school Honor’s English teacher. Unwind, by Neal Shusterman – is on her list to read this year, and when we bought it, and I read the jacket, I knew I’d probably finish it before she did.
So Shusterman, as many of you may know (I didn’t) has written a ton of books, and is very well-known for creating stories that appeal to both teenagers and adults. He’s smart. His books get kids thinking about the topics that as adults we struggle to agree on through the decades -things like life after death, abortion, human kindness, power and corruption.
Written in 2007 and the first in a trilogy, Unwind tells the story of how society survives years after the second Civil War. Unable to agree on women’s rights regarding their bodies, and years of fighting between Pro-Life and Pro-Choice citizens, this “Heartland War” was finally settled with a very precarious resolution. A new “Bill of Life” was put in place that upheld the sanctity of life (as we normally think of it) from conception through the age of 13. However, at 13, and before the child turns 18, parents/guardians can invoke a ruling that in essence retroactively aborts the child.
The honorable part of this is that your death helps others…because you aren’t simply killed; you’re dismembered piece by piece, and your parts are distributed to those in need. Cool right? I’m betting parents of teens everywhere would read this and think it’s not a completely out of the question idea (I did). Have an unruly teenager who skips school, talks back? Sign the unwind order, and a van will come pick him up, taking him to the nearest harvest camp and you can carry on with your life.
In the book, we are introduced to Connor, Risa and Lev; an unlikely trio thrown together in a situation that leaves them fighting for their lives. While Connor and Risa are each trying to escape their certain future of harvest camp, Lev, a designated “tithe” (a child who is raised to be unwound, and who is taught that this is an honor), on the other hand struggles throughout the novel to reconcile the truths he’s been raised on with his new desire for survival.
With Connor and Risa, Shusterman has created two protagonists that teens of both genders will identify with. What we normally call teenage angst is truly realized in Unwind. The book moves quickly and with purpose. Are there more unwinds out there? Will our trio save themselves and perhaps others? Chances are, since this is book one, the answer to those questions is yes; but it’s fun to get there.
I’ve just started Unwholly, which is book two, and I also splurged the couple of dollars for the short story Unstrung which fills you in on one of the character’s experience after the end of the first novel.
The book is well-imagined with characters who deal with difficult decisions in a surprisingly thoughtful way.
Final word? Read it already!