Monday, November 17, 2014

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

Unwind (Unwind, #1)
5 Stars

“What does it take to unwind the unwanted? It takes twelve surgeons, in teams of two, rotating in and out as their medical specialty is needed. It takes nine surgical assistants and four nurses. It takes three hours.”

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If you are at all familiar with my reviews, you’re probably well aware that I’m a “big meany” when it comes to doling out 1 Stars and super stingy when it comes to granting 5s. I’m here to tell you that Unwind knocked my damn socks so clean off my feet and I would easily grant it a 6th Star if it were allowed. You’re probably wondering what made this story so different from the other gazillion YA dystopian stories out there, huh? In a nutshell???? EVERYTHING.

Connor has always been a troubled-child and his parents just can’t deal with him any longer. Risa is a ward of the state who no longer has a place in the system. And Lev is a “tithe” – the 1/10th that his family must give to their church. The fate of the three is to be “unwound” – a compromise the Pro-Life and Right-to-Lifers made into law wherein parents (or the state, as the case may be) can choose to have 99.44% of a child between the ages of 13 and 18 transplanted into the most deserving (and highest paying) recipients. Unwind is the story of how unfortunate coincidence leads to Connor, Risa and Lev meeting and their attempt to save themselves from certain fate.

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So not only is the “dystopian” subject matter fresh, but there is no awful “world building” to muck things up either. The “world” is the United States – the only difference is that the Second Civil War has been fought that created the “unwinding” law to begin with . . .

“A conflict always begins with an issue – a difference of opinion, an argument. But by the time it turns into a war, the issue doesn’t matter anymore, because now it’s about one thing and one thing only: how much each side hates the other.”

Another bonus? The characters aren’t sparkly sissies. They kick SERIOUS ass. Connor is a “bad boy” (not in an annoying stereotypical way – just in the way that it doesn’t need to be explained that if the poo hits the fan he will jump right in to the mix). Rissa is definitely no shrinking violet. In fact, “she’s a bit annoyed that she’s not included . . . It ought to be a Bonnie-and-Clyde kind of thing. The rumor mill is definitely sexist.” Lev goes through a total transformation. And, let’s just say there are plenty of other characters and surprising twists and turns along the way too . . .

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The best part of all about the characters? NO INSTALOVE!!!!! In fact, there are only THREE PARAGRAPHS – that’s right PARAGRAPHS – that are “romantic” at all. Unwind is all about surviving . . . these kids could give a flying fart about getting laid.

As for the unwinding itself?

“No one knows how it happens. No one knows how it’s done. The harvesting of Unwinds is a secret medical ritual that stays within the walls of each harvesting clinic in the nation. In this way it is not unlike death itself, for no one knows what mysteries lie beyond those secret doors, either.”

Have no fear – you’ll find out everything you never wanted to know about unwinding.

And the best part of it all (well, for me at least) – YOU DON’T HAVE TO READ THE OTHER BOOKS IN THE SERIES!!!! Obviously you can if you want, but I hate when books are in a series and I was 100% A-Okay with the ending of Unwind and just pretending that it’s a stand-alone novel.

Like I said, Unwind blew me away and gets all the stars. It gets the first 5 for the alllll of the aforementioned items and I’d give it another if I could because I can’t remember the last time I read a YA book that could spark actual conversation between kids and parents about some serious grown-up topics like when life begins and abortion and organ donation and stem cell research and on and on and on.

“You can’t change laws without first changing human nature.”


  1. I COMPLETELY (in caps, too!) agree with you and love this book (and Shusterman!) so much that I've clearly gone overboard with both caps and exclamation marks :)
    I actually originally read this before there was even supposed to be any sequels and like you, I was so happy to find such an amazing story standing on its own two feet :)

    And then I have to get you to read Shusterman's "Skinjacker" trilogy (starting with Everlost) - one of the most innovative and completely different stories I've ever read! Just like Unwind, I struggle to classify it even if the main characters are young adults, because it is just to awesome and thought-provoking and unique :)

  2. There is no such thing as too many exclamation marks!!!!!

    Okay, serious question - can I read the first book in the Skinjacker series and pretend it's a standalone story???? I just can't read another series at this point in my life (which is why I'm the only person in the universe who still hasn't read the Chaos Walking trilogy).

  3. OK, serious (and very late!) answer: No, that particular series is actually kind of a whole story that someone decided to chop up in pieces. It's relatively short, and I read it on the Kindle where it was a whole book in one (at about 700-800 pages), so maybe if you don't think of it as a series? Otherwise, just put it on the list for when you suddenly have a craving for a well-written and completely unique series :)

    Oh, and actually, for Chaos Walking, I left about 2 years between the first and 2+3 books and really liked just "Knife..." on its own although it's not actually a standalone. It has a very conclusive ending to the storyline and then teases about 1 chapter for the next books.