Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Review: Neal Shusterman, Unwind

So, my blog died for a few years, but during that dark time I was still reading plenty of YA, and plenty of YA dystopian novels in particular. Looking through my Kindle, I realize I've read the first book in a lot of these "hot" new dystopian series, such as Divergent, Under the Never Sky, Enclave, Matched, Delirium, and probably others I'm forgetting. I think I even enjoyed most of these. But, now that some time has passed, all of them run together in my brain. I literally had to look up the Goodreads summaries for each of them just now to even recall what each was about and what the difference between them was. Obviously, I enjoy these types of books as I'm reading them or I wouldn't keep devouring more. But at the same time, I think it's kind of telling that I couldn't remember whether it was Matched or Delirium that opens with a banquet  where the main character finds out who her husband will be, or whether it was Enclave or Divergent in which the protagonist has to go on dangerous missions underground to fight monsters and bring back food. Now, it could be that my memory is disintegrating as the ever darkening twilight of my 20's draws to a close, or it could be the fact that all these books are just really similar. Or some combination of the two.

Anyway, the point I am clunkily trying to make here is that of all these dystopian books I've read in the last couple years, the one with the most staying power is undoubtedly Unwind. The premise of Unwind is similar to Never Let Me Go, though the books are very different. From the Amazon tagline:  "In a society where unwanted teens are salvaged for their body parts, three runaways fight the system that would 'unwind' them." The lead character is a boy named Lev whose family has decided to "tithe" him, meaning his body parts will be donated to the system upon his 18th (if I recall correctly) birthday. Lev considers this a great honor, until it starts to get closer to the hour of his "unwinding" when he begins to have some misgivings. The book is fast paced, well-written, with interesting, relatable characters who grow in believable and pleasing ways as the book progresses.

I read this book at least a year ago, but there is a scene towards the end that I still think of regularly and am still haunted by. I don't think it is giving much away to say that in this scene, a certain character cannot escape his or her unwinding. The unwinding procedure is detailed vividly and horrifyingly, with a good portion of black humor sprinkled throughout. It begins with this creepy passage:

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 behind those secret doors either.
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.

SHIVER. Anyways. Unwind has stayed with me in a way that none of the other dystopian blockbusters (since the Hunger Games) have. I highly recommend it!

A rare 5 star book for me.


  1. I'm glad you enjoyed this one more than I didn't I couldn't get past it all. I had just had my son and I couldn't imagine a parent letting their child go through this unwinding no matter how "for a good cause" bs it was for. I read this too long ago to really remember much else from it though >.< I do remember the unwinding scene and that was kind of psycho so I give it that ;)

  2. I hear you - I had a hard time getting past Lev's insane parents too. Sometimes I am just in the mood for something twisted and dark though and this worked for me! I still need to check out the sequels. Thanks for stopping by :-)