Sunday, March 29, 2009

Unwind by Neal Shusterman (27/81)

category: Children / YA
C2007 335pages 3.5 stars
read in tandem with avatiakh

The Bill of Life, written after the Second Civil War, changed how Americans dealt with their offspring. When the pro-life and pro-choice factions finished drafting the amendments, several things were put down in black and white. Like the rules involving Storking and the timeframe when a child can be Unwound. Even with the agreement, life continued to be very gray. One thing was for certain, whether you're a Tithe like Levi, or just a castoff, like Conner and Risa, Happy Jack Harvest Camp is the end of the line. A place where you enter as an individual and leave as a score of individual pieces, fodder for the organ and tissue market. When these three make a desperate bid for freedom they find that there is a place for Unwinds to go. But is it really any safer?

This may be a YA novel but it centered around some very heavy themes. Does every person have the right to live? How exactly do you define living? Is there more to a person than just their physical self? Do our tissues retain our memories once they're no longer part of our body? Can we increase the amount of organs and tissue available for those in need?
As I expected, Shusterman very creatively worked these ideas into the plot. I think it's a difficult task to work serious themes into a story without weighing it down, making it so black that the reader feels too much pathos and tunes out. He did a good job there. I kept reading, in fact, I read the book all in one sitting. That said, I did not enjoy this one as much as the previous two Shusterman novels I read, Everlost and Downsiders. Maybe I didn't fully swallow the Unwind process as something a pro-life faction would ever agree to. Or a society where parents would willingly put their child through that, no matter how badly they got along or how strongly they felt the pull of societal pressure. To the positive, I did really enjoy the way he handled tissue memory. That is something that has always intrigued me and I thought it was the bright spot in the story. So, all in all, not the cream of the crop for Shusterman but not the worst either. Worth a read and definitely worth pondering the issues raised.

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