Wow. I literally just finished this one seconds ago. And I’m still in a post-awesome-book-recovery-phase. Seriously, sometimes really good books just leave me in a completely different state of mind. I have a million books waiting to be read right now (including two sequels I’ve been dying for that just came out), but I am still lost in this scary, scary world that Shusterman has created.
I read Unwind over a year ago and remember feeling the same way after completing it. The premise for book one is that the US had gone through a second civil war where those who were pro-life battled it out against those who were pro-choice. And after years of battle, a compromise was agreed upon. No pregnant woman would ever be allowed to have an abortion; however, if the child were to grow up to be an unworthy teenager, he/she could be unwound. Unwinding involves surgically removing all of a child’s organs (while they are still breathing!) and donating all their parts to people who “need” them.
In the world of Unwind, no one wears glasses any more and no one looses their hair. No one gets into car accidents with life damaging consequences. Spinal chords, eyes, hair, hearts, skin, kidneys, limbs, and everything else can be replaced by unwinds. The first book centers around Connor (a teenage boy too rebellious for his parents to want to keep), Risa (a ward of the state), and Lev (a Tithe, someone who is brought up specifically to be unwound). And the first book ends with an explosion at an unwinding camp, and all three characters escaping with their lives.
This book begins not long after the first finished. Connor is now the head of the Graveyard, a safe zone for AWOL’s (kids escaping unwinding). He also now has the arm of a kid he hated, and lives every day thinking about how he has someone’s limb. And there’s Risa, a girl who had the luxury to decide not to get any parts from an unwind. Though, this means she’s in a wheel chair and seems to be more of a hindrance to her fellow whollies than a help. And Lev first gets taken into police custody for being a clapper (who didn’t clap), and then gets sentenced to community service.
There’s Unwind, Tithe, and Stork rescue missions. There’s a lot of kidnapping. There’s a lot more politics, if that’s even possible. And the points of view go way beyond these three characters. We also get to read in the point of view of a juvey cop turned parts dealer (aka: offal human being). We are introduced to Starkey, a kid who thinks he deserves to lead more than anyone else, and makes it his mission to both find a way to take over Connor’s job and to make all Stork’s first in society. Storks are babies that are abandoned on doorsteps. Since abortion is outlawed, if a woman doesn’t want a child she can legally decide to leave it on a better person’s doorstep. Most storks end up unwound, and until they are unwound, tend to be bullied and persecuted for being not wanted.
With Starkey planning a coup, a pissed off ex-juvey cop on a revenge mission, and more and more people finding out about the graveyard, Connor has to do all that he can to protect as many kids as possible in a short period of time. Also, unwinding science is advancing in frightening ways. There’s an organization that sees and treats Lev as a god… There’s clappers pissed off at Lev that intend to find him and explode him. There’s tons of injuries at the Graveyard, and when Risa (as head medic) goes with one kid to the hospital and realizes that all kids who end up at the hospital get found out and sent for unwinding, embarks on her own, twisted, dangerous journey.
Between the science, the politics, the action, the explosions, and the twists, there is an overwhelming notion of morality. And as the book goes on, we are finally clued in to how a society can rightly end up in a place where unwinding became the ultimate compromise. History is learned! The book is also layered with advertisements, propaganda, commercials, and other networking techniques that added to the terror. So many kids end up dead in this one. There’s an epic battle at the end that involves a major plane crash. And seriously, I was on the edge of my seat till the very last page.
The book had a very slow start. I took me a couple of days to get through the slow beginning, but it was so worth it. Whatever you do, do not give up during the slow beginning because about 1/3 of the way through, it picks up like a serious suspenseful action thriller movie. I found myself laughing at parts and crying at parts. Seriously, reading a parent’s reasons for deciding to unwind their child was so harsh and awful.
The advancements in technology in regards to the character, Cam, were pure terror for me. Seriously, this book will have you laughing one moment, crying another, and then turning all the lights on in your home out of fright the next. I think what this book, and the first one did so well was put together a realistic world that does not sound too far-fetched. It has you believing the worst in people, and seeing how far one idea can go in the wrong direction. It’s a world where kids everywhere are singled out (for their body parts), even kids who aren’t signed up for unwinding. It is not a safe place for teens.
The ending was intense (though not quite as intense as the first one). I had high expectations because of how blown away I was by book 1, and I was not disappointed in the least. I don’t know how I will be able to wait for the last book in the trilogy. Hopefully, it won’t take Shusterman another set of years for the final installment to be finished. Shusterman gets an A+ for world building, for character development, suspense writing, political understanding, and just plain uniqueness. These books are amazing. I’d recommend them to anyone, even to people who don’t read YA. 10/10 from me! Seriously, what are you waiting for? Read it.