Posted by: Ms. Matson | July 13, 2009


Neal Shusterman
New York: Simon & Schuster, 2007
Genres: Young adult dystopian fiction
Interest level: 8th grade and up
AR level: 5.0

Unwind is an excellent young adult dystopian novel.  Teenagers in the US are facing the consequences of the resolution of a war between pro-life and pro-choice armies.  Abortion is no longer legal, but parents can retroactively abort children between 13 and 17.  The children are not “killed” but rather unwound by being dismembered and having each body part grafted into people in need of a new heart, new lungs, an new foot, eye, etc.  Unwind tells the story of three teens trying to escape their fate.  Connor’s parents chose to unwind him because of his delinquent behavior.  Risa has no parents and is the victim of budget cuts at the state orphanage.  And Lev has been raised from birth with the knowledge that he will be an offering by his highly religious parents when he turns 13.

This is the kind of book that leaves you speechless when you finish.  Unwind is haunting, chilling, nauseating, heartbreaking, and incredibly thought-provoking.  People are blind.  There is a way that seems right in man’s eye, but the end is death, or something like that.  We all think we’re right, but there are aspects of our arguments to which we are blind.  Shusterman subtly exposes some of the blind spots of both sides of the abortion debate.   Sherry of Semicolon says it well in her review, that Unwind is a bit ambiguous in its pro-life/pro-choice stance, leaving most of the questions it provokes to be answered by the reader and not the story.  Unwind also raises questions on what it means to be alive and what it means to have a soul.  This is not a book about the abortion debate.  Rather, it is a story of consequences and a story of survival.

Shusterman’s writing is a bit unremarkable.  I didn’t really get the purpose of writing in present tense.  If it was supposed to convey some sort of immediacy, well, it didn’t.  It was kind of jolting and I found myself correcting it and putting sentences into past tense.  Unwind is definitely driven by plot and is not a literary masterpiece, but it’s still a good read.  Highly recommended.

I’ll end with a quote.  One of the characters is getting unwound, but I won’t say who.

“ ‘This is it, then,’ [Character] says.  ‘You’re putting me under?’

Although [s/he] can’t see her mouth beneath her surgical mask, [s/he] can see the smile in her eyes.

‘Not at all,’ she says.  ‘By law, we’re required to keep you conscious through the entire procedure.’  The nurse takes [his/her] hand. ‘You have a right to know everything that’s happening to you, every step of the way.’

Surgeons leave, new ones arrive.  The new ones take an intense interest in [his/her] abdomen.  [S/he] looks toward [his/her] toes but can’t see them.  Instead [s/he] sees a surgical assistant cleaning the lower half of the table.” (p 288, 290)



  1. […] Reading)69. Sandra (The Jewel Trader of Pegu)70. Sandra (No Such Creature)71. Sandra (A Mercy)72. teachergirl (Unwind)73. Bonnie (Prince Caspian)74. Bonnie (The Voyage of the Dawn Treader)75. Memory (Kushiel’s […]

  2. […] Unwind by Neal Shusterman. This dystopian stand-alone novel is one of Karate Kid’s favorites. Reviewed by TeacherGirl. Semicolon review here. The Shadow Children series by Margaret Peterson Haddix. This series might be […]

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