01 November 2012


(home page screen shot from unwindmovie.com)
Our school librarian often has volunteers read/screen new books coming into Sahel's library (some books do have age restricted ratings). I willingly volunteer for this job, time permitting, of course. When this book was handed to me last week, I NEVER DREAMED I'd read until the wee hours of the morning to finish it, in its entirety, in a few hours. It was that gripping.

It was also an uncomfortable read (i.e. my recommendation is that this book is only available to juniors and seniors without parental permission). This book addresses hard issues and leaves lots of room for readers to make their own conclusions. It also has one graphic (but not gory or explicit) scene that some readers might find disturbing.

"What book?" you ask?

It most certainly is NOT the type of book you pick up and read if you are looking to unwind, at least not in the traditional sense I've always used that word - and perhaps that play on words is part of the impact of this book.

The book synopsis, on Amazon: 
    "In America after the Second Civil War, the Pro-Choice and Pro-Life armies came to an agreement: 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. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, however, a parent may choose to retroactively get rid of a child through a process called "unwinding." Unwinding ensures that the child's life doesn’t “technically” end by transplanting all the organs in the child's body to various recipients. Now a common and accepted practice in society, troublesome or unwanted teens are able to easily be unwound.
    With breath-taking suspense, this book follows three teens who all become runaway Unwinds: Connor, a rebel whose parents have ordered his unwinding; Risa, a ward of the state who is to be unwound due to cost-cutting; and Lev, his parents' tenth child whose unwinding has been planned since birth as a religious tithing. As their paths intersect and lives hang in the balance, Shusterman examines serious moral issues in a way that will keep readers turning the pages to see if Connor, Risa, and Lev avoid meeting their untimely ends."
At first, it seems an amazing premise - that such a ridiculous "compromise" could even... ever... be reached. A far out suggestion, originally thrown into the pot to point out people's dogmatic idiocy and the dangers inherent in championing a cause not because of a passionate belief in it's rightness but because leaders couldn't (or woudn't) admit error or lose face, is constitutionalized. One of the scariest moments in reading this book came as I considered the vitriolic debate surrounding this particular issue today and recognized current arguments, justifications and reasoning hinted or directly stated at some point in the story as ones I've actually heard, IRL. It scares, as well, to contemplate the lengths to which people will go and the mental gymnastics they will attempt simply to justify their actions and make them more palatable... in their own minds. 

There are probably some who will group this book in the same genre as The Hunger Games. (Unwind is also being made into a movie.) However, as with The Hunger Games,  Unwind encourages wrestling with hard questions. This young adult book asks readers to contemplate pretty heavy, rigorous topics:

  • Would it be better to die or be unwound?
  • Which would you choose, given the choice? Why?
  • In such a society, how could you not end up searing your conscience?
  • How would you protest such a policy?
  • Is an individual more than the sum of his/her parts?
  • If every part of you is still alive but inside someone else, are you alive or are you dead?
  • Can consciousness even exist  if it’s spread out? 
  • Is the soul independent from the body or are the two inextricably linked?
  • What causes us to connect with another person, despite the power of first impressions?
  • As parents or adults, are there ways we emotionally "unwind" the children with whom we are in contact? 
  • When is a soul birthed? When does life begin?
  • Is it any better to retroactively abort... or unwind... your child? Why or why not?
  • Can we justly place a value on another's life or deem one person more valuable than another?
  • Could there be more than one good answer to some of these questions?
  • How do you think Jesus would answer these same questions?

I appreciated how the author, rather than dictating a reader's right response, pointed out pros and cons and left the question open for the reader to debate within him/herself.

This is precisely the type of book I would encourage a mature young adult to read... for these very reasons, for despite the initial, more gruesome first-appearance nature of its topic, I believe it challenges readers to "think on whatsoever things are true, lovely, of good report..." as opposed to those things which are not.

Have you read Unwind? What did you think? 
Would you encourage your 16+ or older child to read a book like this? 
Why or why not?

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