Yesterday, I began reading Unwind by Neal Shusterman for the second time. This book is truly fascinating and one of my ultimate favorites (along with The School Story by Andrew Clements, The View from Saturday by E. L. Konigsburg, and Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery – but we won’t go into my diverse literary interest right now). In fact, it’s so good that I have to warn you of a SPOILER ALERT right now. I promise not to reveal any part of the story’s plot, but I do want to discuss many of the
elements that Shusterman portrays in his novel and that will take some explaining. So, if you’re like me and you hate reading the inside flap of any new book, you may want to visit your favorite library before you continue reading.
First of all, this novel is largely a satire about organ donors and about abortions. It is set in a time when iPods and plasma screen TVs are considered antiques. Therefore, this is a dystopian novel (generally speaking), and those make me all warm and fuzzy inside (I know, it’s strange, but my English teacher would be proud of me). Shusterman uses this book to solve the problems associated with a lack of organ donors and an overabundance of abortions. The solutions he comes to are largely impossible (which means that this story is not as scary as it could be) and ultimately counterproductive.
The primary solution that the government of Shusterman’s future world discovers is a process known as unwinding (hence the book’s title). Unwinding allows a person to be taken apart in such a way that they are still alive and their pieces can be given to people needing new body parts. This new technology settles the disputes between Pro Life and Pro-Choice parties as new amendments are passed saying that life does begin at conception, but parents may choose to have their child unwound any time between the ages of 13 and 18. Therefore, the parents are able to relieve themselves of unwanted children while allowing the child to stay alive, stay out of trouble, and be of some use to society. This truly is the most impossible aspect of the book, which makes me feel better. The idea of living in a permanently separated state void of any human or natural interaction does not seem preferable to death. Another remarkable thought: the people in the book are not entirely comfortable with unwinding. Adults employ euphemisms to discuss a teen’s unwinding. Teachers say that a student is “no longer enrolled.” However, unwinding is still an acceptable, even desirable, practice. Sometimes it is so desirable that religious parents have even begun “tithing” their children. In this case, a child will be born and raised with the understanding that he will be unwound after his thirteenth birthday as an offering to God and to the world. This could really be a terrifying thought if unwinding were possible. These parent willing end their child’s natural life because they believe that God desires to be used by the world. I can only barely begin to unpeel the flawed logic here, but I have always believed that God wants each of His children dedicated to His Kingdom, not the worldly kingdom.
There is so much more for me to say on this subject, and I promise that I will say it, but I want to leave you with this for now. I sincerely believe that this book is one of the most important books of our generation, and I want you to consider everything it has to say. In fact, I double – no – TRIPLE-DOG dare you to find this book and read it. Then, come back and let me know what you have discovered.