U.S. President John F. Kennedy once said that children are the world’s most valuable resource and its brightest hope for the future. I have always believed this to be an uplifting message. It means that the next generation will inherit the burdens of the world, and through innovation, creativity, and intelligence, will someday succeed where the current generation of adults has failed. As long as there are children, there is hope that one day the world will get better.
Neal Shusterman, author of Unwind, offers us a very different—and kind of creepy—interpretation. In the futuristic version of the United States depicted in this novel, children are still the world’s most valuable resource… for their body parts, that is.
In order to settle the second Civil War, which was fought over whether or not to allow abortion, a compromise was made. This compromise meant the end of the war, and the beginning of a chilling new culture which readily accepts the “unwinding” of its children for the common good. Get ready for this, guys, because it’s a pretty out-there concept.
While children are still young, they live normal lives, the same as you and me. They play games, go to school, learn new things, and have interests and hobbies (though theirs are awesome and futuristic). The compromise sets in when those kids reach the magical age of 18. Right when you thought you had survived puberty and were ready to become an adult, BOOM. Your parents send you to the government to be “unwound.”
At the wonderful unwinding facilities, you will be taken apart, piece by piece, in a painful surgical procedure during which you will be fully conscious. (Thanks, Mom and Dad!) You can rest assured, though, that you will be put to good use. Each piece of your body will be donated to a sick person in need. This is the ultimate good, right? Not only were you saved from abortion and allowed to live for 18 great years, but your final act will be giving to others and to science.
The parents of Conner, Risa, and Lev, our most excellent protagonists, are sending them away to be unwound. But Conner, in an act of courage, temporarily saves the three from this fate. They become refugees, traveling the underground railroad of escaped would-be unwinds. Each and every decision they make could either save them or destroy them. The teens have to grow up incredibly fast, and their transformations from innocent children to adults with burdens to bear will leave you breathless.
Is it right to sacrifice one life in order to save another? How old do you have to be in order to make decisions for yourself? Is it better to break the law and survive, or abide by it and come to a righteous death? These questions of morality will continue to haunt you long after you’ve turned the final page. Topped with realistic, unforgettable, and completely kick-butt characters, this book is a fantastic read.
The Redeyed Reader