Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Review: Unwind- Neal Shusterman

"I'd rather be partly great than entirely useless."

The Second Civil War was fought over human reproductive rights. To end the bloody conflict, a set of constitutional amendments known as "The Bill of Life" was passed. The Bill of Life states that human life may not be touched from the moment of conception until a child reaches the age of thirteen. However, between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, a parent may choose to retroactively "abort" a child..... on the condition that the child's life doesn't "technically" end. The process by which a child is both terminated and yet kept alive is called "unwinding."

As far as dystopia goes the book was amazeballs. I started to read it with some justified trepidation (cough...chemical garden...cough) but the incredible setting of the story was quite addicting, although more than a little creepy. The dystopian future created by Shusterman sees children between ages 13-18 yrs being legally signed by their parents/guardians to be sent for 'unwinding' ie. scavenging blood, tissues and body parts for the people who need it for transplant. Although the use of the 'need' here might be debatable since getting a new pair of eyes to impress your girlfriend is hardly a life-death issue.

The story follows the experience of three teens- Conner, Risa and Lev-who have been signed up for unwinding. Conner is a loose cannon with a short fuse who has been signed up for unwinding by parents who are apparently fed up of his regular fights and loss of temper. So of course the best solution they come up with is to send their son to a 'Harvest Camp' so that his body may be diced up only to be used in various transplants! Risa is an orphan, a state's ward and a typical realist. She pauses to think through every possible course of action before pouncing on the enemy. When the State Home sends her to be unwind as a result of budget cuts, it's the last straw for her. Lev is the young 'tithe' who was born to be unwound. He has been brainwashed by his family to think that being unwound makes him God's envoy and everybody who thinks otherwise is a sinner.

The entire concept of the 'Chop-Shop' a.k.a the 'Harvest Camp' where the unwinding process if carried out is quite disturbing. Abortion is also illegal but 'storking' a baby ie. leaving it on people's doorsteps without getting caught so as to make it seem like their responsibility is allowed. The irony of the entire situation is palpable throughout the story along with the motto that if something becomes too difficult to handle it becomes someone else's problem.

Funny, but the Bill of Life was supposed to protect the sanctity of life. Instead it just made life cheap. 

Neal Shusterman delivers a subtly hidden message about meeting a crisis head-on and makes us realise the value of life. Although writing in present tense and frequent switching of POVs may be uncomfortable for some the excellent plot more than makes up for it.

3 stars for this one!

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