Unwind by Neal ShustermanUnwind by Neal Shusterman


byNeal Shusterman

Paperback | June 2, 2009

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The first twisted and futuristic novel in the perennially popular New York Times bestselling Unwind dystology by Neal Shusterman.

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 breathtaking 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 complex moral issues that will keep readers turning the pages until the very end.
Award-winning author Neal Shusterman grew up in Brooklyn, New York, where he began writing at an early age. He went on to UC Irvine. Within a year of graduating, he had his first book deal. As a screen and TV writer, Neal has written for the "Goosebumps" and "Animorphs" TV series, and wrote the Disney Channel Original Movie "Pixel Perf...
Title:UnwindFormat:PaperbackProduct dimensions:384 pages, 8.25 × 5.5 × 1 inShipping dimensions:8.25 × 5.5 × 1 inPublished:June 2, 2009Language:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1416912053

ISBN - 13:9781416912057

Appropriate for ages: 13



Rated 5 out of 5 by from Exciting and Enthralling I can read this entire series over and over again and still never tire of it! #plumreview
Date published: 2018-04-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beautiful Trauma This is so worth reading! One of the best dystopian series I have ever read!
Date published: 2018-03-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Underrated Dystopia To this day, one of my favourite dystopian novels ever.
Date published: 2018-03-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from YES The story flows so effortlessly and it has so much originality
Date published: 2018-01-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the best book I've ever read! This book is one worth reading. It's thought provoking .The characters are deep and real. It makes you feel a variety of emotions. I've convinced my dad to read it, and also my boyfriend. I'm recommending it to everyone who's looking for a good read. And now I'm recommending it to you. Read that book, you won't regret it ;)
Date published: 2017-10-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting A good read featuring strong characters and emotional issues.
Date published: 2017-09-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good read, great concept Excellent concept behind the book. Good read for YA and adults. Touches on matters of societal and personal morality, friendship, organ donation, adoption, etc. Definitely going to keep reading this series and try others by the same author.
Date published: 2017-08-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Review for the whole series This is a good YA series and I love how it has 4 books instead of the usual 3. The big idea of the series is unique and interesting (and IMO a little scary because it's borderline realistic!) The characters are well developed as well. The whole series itself is up and down - some books are better than others, the pace is running fast in some while bogged down by details in others - but overall a great collection.
Date published: 2017-08-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from excellent read I just re read this book it is still one of the best YA books that I have read in a long while! Thought provoking and scarily realistic.
Date published: 2017-07-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Unwind An entertaining page turner, thought-provoking and emotional, and I loved the friendships. #plumreview
Date published: 2017-06-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing Series Neal Shusterman creates a disturbing futuristic world where parents can uniwind their children if they feel the need to. In this world we meet 3 characters, Connor, Risa, and Levi. Their story is amazing as they try to survive this world.
Date published: 2017-04-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great! Probably my most favourite YA dystopian book! Fast-paced, realistic and chilling!
Date published: 2017-03-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Awesome Book! One of my all time favourite books!
Date published: 2017-03-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from So well done! Very creative and nothing like anything I've read before. Such a great concept for this dystology
Date published: 2017-03-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Favourite book Read this many years ago and I still occasionally reread this. My favourite book of all time! It's one of the first books I recommend to people!
Date published: 2017-02-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Got Sucked in to this world Very engaging story. A very easy read with a futuristic world as elaborate as a Ray Bradbury. Highly recommended. Great gift for teens.
Date published: 2017-02-14
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting book the story is very engaging, you never get bored or skip pages while reading it. highly recommended
Date published: 2017-02-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing I picked this book up a long time ago, and the series attached to it is one of my absolute favourites. The story is extremely unique, and makes you really think about your life and the lives around you.
Date published: 2016-12-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Cool premise I really enjoyed this book. It's a unique concept and I liked the characters and world a lot.
Date published: 2016-12-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thought Provoking When I first read the synopsis of this book I was a bit hesitant, but after reading it I have to say it is one of my favourite ya books. It's very interesting reading this book and the series handles this whole unwinding thing very seriously, in Unwind, parents can choose to have their child's entire body harvested from the child's age of 13 to (if I remember correctly) 18. Some of the writing is a bit weak, but the characters and the story really pulls this story together at the end.
Date published: 2016-09-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thought Provoking Read I wanted to read Unwind in one sitting, but that would have meant a real late night/early morning. I made the adult decision and slept. Many of the characters in this book will never make an adult decision thanks to the actions of their parents or guardians to unwind them instead. It's a little scary how close the subject of this book is becoming to reality. I recall hearing of at least one couple who conceived a designer baby in order to save the life of their existing child. All it would take is one unscrupulous doctor.... The new Bill of Life protects life from the moment of conception till the age of thirteen, after that parents can chose to unwind the life of their child. Theoretically, the child's life doesn't end, as all his or her body parts are redistributed to others in need of a transplant. If a child makes it to adulthood at eighteen, he or she is safe. As a parent myself, I can't imagine sitting in judgement of whether my child, who I've lived with for years, deserves or has earned the privilege of continued life. On the other side, the kids have the belief that it can't happen to them no matter their behaviour. I was un-nerved by the theme of this book. What could have happened in their society that drove them to such a point. This is a thought provoking book and readers would benefit from having someone to discuss the concepts imagined by author Neal Shusterman. This book brings to mind Never let me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. They both explore organ donation at a level far beyond what is acceptable today, at least what is acceptable for now.
Date published: 2016-01-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Love it I don't normaly read this genra but the moment I read the preview I knew I had to read the book !!!
Date published: 2015-10-04
Rated 1 out of 5 by from I couldn't finish this one How far I got: 28% DNF Explanation: Keep in mind throughout reading my DNF explanation that I am merely basing my opinions on the first 28% of the book. I found this book to have an unrealistic concept. I don't believe that parents would raise a child for 13-18 years only to have them "unwound," which is just their way of saying "killed" for the purposes of donating organs to others. This just doesn't seem plausible to me. The story starts off throwing the reader right into the action. Unfortunately, this doesn't leave much room for development of the story or the characters. The world building isn't the greatest. We don't really know much about the past or the war or how they came to the conclusion in the end that this "unwinding" idea is a better option than abortion. So, did anyone really win the war that was fought over abortion? It seems to me that the two sides must have settled to come to a compromise of sorts: no more abortion, but you can kill kids between the ages of 13 and 18 as long as their organs are donated to those in need? This way, at least it's not a complete waste? Oh, and we will brain wash people into thinking that we're not really killing the person, but each stays alive through his-her organs, just...separated. So, am I to assume this is how it went and there was no true winner of the war? The whole concept of "storking" is ridiculous. The law of storking is that a mother can place her newborn baby on the doorstep of a stranger and then that stranger is legally bound to raise the child. Umm...what? Seriously? So, the mother has the option of giving up her baby, but these strangers that just wake up to this baby in front of their house do not have an option? That's messed up. Oh, and if the mother is caught placing the baby on the step, she no longer has this option and legally has to take the baby back. Can you tell I'm not a fan of this whole concept? The character development is practically non-existent. I feel like I know next to nothing about each of these characters. So, how am I to get into the story and root for them? Of course, I can see they are in a shitty situation, but other than that I have no reason to root for them. I want to know them so I can really root them on! Needless to say, I am not a fan of this book. So, I resolved to putting it down.
Date published: 2015-02-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting Concept I read this book a few years ago and it was my favourite book for awhile! Its well written and very intriguing. I was a little creeped out my the concept at first, but it was definitely worth reading.
Date published: 2015-01-08
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Unwind I'm not sure how I feel about this 1. I enjoyed the characters the story was good but for me I was hoping there'd be more to the 'unwinding' (to avoid spoilers let's say I was hoping for a gorier read) overall its was still a good read.if your into survival and a touch of romance check this 1 out.
Date published: 2014-12-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Unwind This is a dystopian novel that will engage and challenge your belief about the value of human life. In a society where teens can be "unwound" (have their organs taken from their bodies) as a decision from their parents or the state, it follows the stories of key kids who have very different histories bit the same fate. The book explains how the society became like this and how the pro life and pro choice armies came to this conclusion as a suitable option for the world to peacefully function. Follow the story as the kids grapple with their futures and try to stay alive. A very thought provoking book which I highly recommend.
Date published: 2014-01-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A great dystopia book! A little more gory than some of the other dystopia books. Great storey and characters.
Date published: 2013-12-25
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Warped. So this book had one of the most twisted and disturbing premises I've ever heard. Parents who can choose to Dissemble children for spare parts? That's messed up. And the fact that you legally have to be conscious while they do it? Even more morbid. Very original and I'm impressed by such a unique idea. However. .. The style of the story and the way it was written did not leave as great an impact as it could have. The idea had such great potential. I think it could have been more effective if it were told from the first person of each character. The third person format didn't allow you to connect with the characters the way you should have. I would still recommend this book.
Date published: 2013-12-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Favourite Such a unique book, couldn't stop reading it!!!! One of my all time favorite books!
Date published: 2013-07-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Just read Favourite book in book club this year!
Date published: 2013-06-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Unwind Best book everrr
Date published: 2013-06-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A terrifyingly realistic dystopian eye-opener My head..my heart..this book..WHOA. I am such a mixed bag of emotions right now. I LITERALLY just turned the last page, and am trying to maintain some kind of composure here. Hold on, I JUST realized that the front cover is a fingerprint. Okay..done being amazed at my lack of observation. I think I have words now: I kept seeing and hearing/reading about this book everywhere. I was completely iffy on the topic, and decided that I would just hold off reading it until I got some other books read first. Then the library happened, and there it was, all yelling and shouting at me from the shelves. Long story short (actually, it isn't a long story at ALL), it came home with me. I ended up cracking it open that same NIGHT, became COMPLETELY immersed in the first quarter, and then set it down again for a while. I literally PLOWED through the remainder of it tonight, and finished it in near TEARS...TEARS!! This.novel.is.INSANITY. In the worst and best meaning of the word. The concept ALONE is OUTRAGEOUS-I won't go into much detail about that, as the synopsis pretty much lays it out. At the start of the book, we meet Conner, Risa, and Lev, all separately, and within their own stories. I loved how the author sectioned it off this way-I loved that we were able to see inside the heads of each character personally. We learn that they are all on the path to becoming "unwound," one willingly, and two..not so much. Shusterman's writing was captivating, and hard-hitting. I thought I was in for SO much less than what he gave us. The book began as your regular, run-of-mill cat and mouse chase, but then became EPIC..beyond ANYTHING I could have imagined. The scenery was constantly changing, and I welcomed the loops I was thrown for at every turn. I was drawn to the three main characters with ALL of my emotions, and even eventually felt this way about the ones I had no right becoming attached to. The author created a world with a backstory that was believable, and TERRIFYINGLY realistic. He took a topic that is, and will continue to be, very controversial in our society today, and crafted a solution to it that spoke very loudly to me-it really made me question my own thoughts and opinions on the act of being either pro-life or pro-choice, and what it COULD mean for our future. I LOVE when authors could do that to me, I simultaneously lived within and outside of these pages while reading-constantly comparing this fiction to my reality. My whole being took in this book. There were twists I did NOT see coming, and plot developments that seriously pulled at my heart-especially nearing the end. The conclusion of this book had to be my favourite part, even though I know it continues into 2 more books, I still found myself deeply satisfied with the loose ends that were capable of being tied up. However, I do wish some things were not as they were, but those are totally selfish, superficial wishings, and really have no reflection on how I felt about the book on a whole. I recommend this book a THOUSAND times.
Date published: 2013-01-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Speechless. Unwind is amazing. There's no other way to describe it. Simply. Amazing. Before I get to the review, I'm just going to tell you about the plot, because i was hesitant to buy this book, mostly because I didn't understand what it was about. Unwind is a book about 3 different teenagers, who are all about to become unwound. Conner, because he's to much of a trouble for his parents. Risa, whose an orphan and is being unwound due to budget cuts. And, last but not least, Lev, who is apart of a religion where unwinding is not a sin. Actually, it's the opposite. This book is about these 3 characters and their separate lives, and how their lives intertwine and have an impact on each other. Unwind is one of my favourite books. Neal Shusterman is an amazing author. Throughout this book, I felt like I could connect with all of the characters. I loved all of them, even the ones I hated... If you know what I mean. They add more perspective to this book. You know about the characters and their lives, but you keep learning new things along the way. The plot is amazing. I really don't know where Neal came up with this idea for a book. Whatever it was, I thank it greatly. When reading this book questions are raised that relate to your own life. In a way, this is kind of like Suzanne Collins (book) series, The Hunger Games. When reading both books, I kept thinking if these two ideas, the idea of kids fighting for entertainment and unwinding, could possibly come up in our future. I mean, it's possible, right? And, how would you react, if they do? The ending is amazing, and leaves room for another sequel, or not. Since I only recently read this book, I already knew it was a trilogy, and that there was a second book out, which I have not yet read. But, even if you wen't sure if there would be another book, and, even if you were, Neal doesn't leave you on the edge of your seat, begging for him to write the sequel faster. Thats what I love about this book. There are also some cliffhangers spread throughout the book, since it is told in different points of view. Neal spaces out each event, which is one of the things I loved most, and that encouraged me to read on. I love a book thats filled with action and adventure, but also has a little romance. And this book is all that and more. Its, like I said before, simply. Amazing.
Date published: 2012-11-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic! A chillingly realistic read. I look foward to reading more in this series.
Date published: 2012-07-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Chilling, Provocative Read This book was recommended to my son by the local librarian. She was raving about it, so thought I'd read it too and was glad that I did. Right from the start, the book had me hooked - the premise is so horrible, yet I was interested to see what would come of it all. This is the story of three teens, Connor, Risa, and Lev, told largely from alternating points of view. They live in a dystopian future, where life is sacred, except that from the ages of 13-18, your parents can have you unwound. These unwound children are used as organ and body part transplants and the whole thing is justified by saying that they are not actually dead, that they live on. This is such a horrifying concept, but Shusterman makes it ring true - his writing is so compelling. He brings in real things that have already happened to lay the foundation for this future. For me, the end was especially chilling with its direct links to Nazi Germany. I liked the diversity of the three main characters, Connor, Risa, and Lev. They are good foils for each other and show three typical kids from three separate walks of life and how they ended up in their current situations. I found that I really felt for each of this kids in their own way - I know kids like them, they are normal, make mistakes, and get along as best they can. There is a bit of romance, and lots of adventure and tension. I think this book would really appeal to both boys and girls. I, personally, love books that explore big and interesting questions, and this one certainly does. I find myself thinking of this book at times - it is one that has stayed with me. I highly recommend this book an will look up the next one in the series the next chance I have.
Date published: 2012-03-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Exciting, horrifying, suspenseful 4.5 stars In this dystopian novel, teenagers can be "unwound" once they hit 16 years old; that is, taken apart piece by piece, so that each part of them can be used to help heal other people. This book focuses on three "unwinds", as they are called, kids who are supposed to be unwound, each becoming an unwind via a different route. When Conner escapes with Risa, and they "kidnap" Lev along with them, they are on the run for their own survival. This was a very exciting book, I thought. I was drawn in from the start, and although a few places here and there slowed down a little bit, I wanted to keep reading (or listening to the audio in my case). The book just got more and more exciting and tense and suspenseful as it drew towards the ending. Be warned, though, that there is an absolutely horrifying description of one kid being unwound - at least I found it incredibly horrifying (but it made the book so much more suspenseful and exciting for it, I thought). I wonder if it was more horrifying, as it was being read to me and I was listening to it happen vs. reading the words on the page. Anyway, it was a very very good book and will make my favourites list this year.
Date published: 2011-12-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Emotional Thriller This book was very well written. The storyline is nothing like you've ever read before. I brought this book to work on a graveyard shift and it definitely kept me awake. Lots of action, but also a book with a lot of emotion. It's hard not to feel for the main characters. I have never had a book make me feel the sense of fear and anxiety I did reading a specific chapter in this book. Definitely recommended.
Date published: 2011-10-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wow.. The plat was filled with adventure, and twists and turns, and it all just seemed so real. This was the first book I have read by Neil Schusterman, and let me tell you, I sure am going to be getting some more! The idea was complex and fascinating, and he spun it into a story fantastically! Definatly a five star book!
Date published: 2010-07-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good Luck Unwinding Your Fingers From This One!!! WOW! What an incredible read, I couldn't stop reading it! Shusterman is now one of my favourite authors, he creates such brilliant adventures that leave you captivated right until the end! The whole concept of this book is pretty heartbreaking, but is was also very exciting. Following the characters during their escape from being Unwound was a crazy ride that leaves your palms sweating and your heart broken... Parents have children and know that they'll have them forever and always love them, but some parents have a different idea in mind. They can Unwind them, where the kids are literally taken apart. Let's say that they are a troublemaker, or ''not good enough'', or even a tithe (planned to be Unwound from birth), these could be some of the reasons why they could be Unwound. They can only have it done before the age of 18. Unwinds are sent to a Harvest Camp and put into the Chop Shop, where no one knows what exactly happens in there... All they know is that you never come out, and your parts are kept for future transplants for other people. If you need an arm, They got one! Need some new teeth? They got some! Everything is available. It may seem great for the people receiving new parts but think about where those parts came from, and what all those kids went through to give their limbs. Well, Conner is that troublemaker, Risa was just not good enough at piano, and Lev is a tithe, who believes that his destiny is to be Unwound.. Conner is that kid who gets in fights, and starts them. He finds out that his parents are going to have him Unwound. Conner knows that he has to leave, and escape before they come to take him away. He leaves home and meets two other kids in the same situation... Conner meets Risa, a girl immediately sent on a bus to a Harvest Camp right after a piano performance that proved she's "not good enough." The bus never gets to its destination, and that's where she meets two other kids... Conner and Risa meet Lev, who is in a different situation than them--well, sort of. He is a tithe, he was born and raised with the plan in mind that he will be Unwound in the future. He is proud of being an Unwind, and he won't let Risa and Conner stop him from getting to the Harvest Camp... These three kids meet unexpectedly and their adventure turns out to be one wild roller coaster. Emotions jump of the pages as these kids experience what they feared the most, they meet new kids; some good and some bad. They can't understand why their parents would do this to them, but it doesn't matter, because they are determined to get out of this and escape the deadly horrors of being Unwound.... All I can say was this book was amazing!! Shusterman did such a brilliant job writing this book, you feel the characters emotions and it feels like you are watching them or even experiencing the journey with them. The characters are so strong and inspirational, they go through so much but they never give up. The concept of this book was creepy but very interesting, and you can't help but think of it after you've closed the book, and wondering how the characters were holding up after the last page... 2010-018
Date published: 2010-03-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Sci-fi that will blow your mind! Imagine if your parents could unwind you; take you apart piece by piece and have it donated for transplant. Nothing gets wasted --your blood, your bones, your tissue, your brain-- everything is recycled. If you get in an accident and lose an eye, no problem. Get a new one from an Unwind. Got your finger cut off? Head on to the nearest hospital and pick out a new one. Everything is reused, never wasted. The world's better off that way. But what about the children who are unwound? What happens to their memories, their thoughts, their souls? In this new world, parents have the choice to unwind their children until they reach the age of eighteen, then they are safe and cannot be unwound. But for those troublemakers who are just taking up space, if their parents choose to, they will be sent to the nearest harvest camp and will be taken apart piece by piece. Connor has always been that kid. The bully who gets into fights and doesn't know when to shut up. But even when he finds the order for his unwinding, he is still shaken by the fact that his parents are so willing to get rid of him. Risa's troubles are similar. She's lived all her life in a State Home and grew up with her piano music. Unfortunately, she wasn't good enough for her audience and she is immediately put on a bus to a harvest camp. Lev is the one that's different. He is a tithe, one that was born and raised up to be unwound for God. He is more than thrilled to be taken apart when he comes of age. When the three of these unlikely friends' paths meet, they are sent on a wild thrill ride of survival. This was such an amazing book with a powerful and gripping story. The very idea that Shusterman has created will blow your mind as you read on and find out the things the trio go through. The betrayals and unlikely friendships, the pain and lies, and all through that, the understanding of their desperation can really tear your heart out. What I really loved about this book were the different views of unwinding. The characters were so different, yet so similar too. The other ones we meet along the way are also so full of life and their own complex emotions that keep the book so interesting. There were some moments that just made me want to melt inside of the book and be there for the characters while they tried to get out of their new little hole of misery. Shusterman has created such a captivating and imaginative story that will really make you wonder what the world will be like one day.
Date published: 2010-02-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Creepy and Fun Pros: excellent characterization, original ideas (unwinding, stoking), complex plot Cons: written in present tense (jarring to read), simplistic writing (definitely a younger teen novel) "The Bill of Life states that human life may not be touched from the moment of co...nception until a child reaches the age of 13. However, between the ages of 13 and 18, 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'” The Bill of Life is the foundation of Neal Shusterman's novel, Unwind. Three children are about to be unwound for different reasons. Connor has become an unruly child. Risa is a ward of the state and caring for wards is expensive. Lev is a religious tithe. When Connor runs from the authorities, his path crosses that of other unwinds, all trying to survive until their 18th birthdays. The book is equal parts social commentary and horror - because everything that happens is perfectly plausible. The body parts harvested from the teens help keep other people alive, and with a higher quality of life. But even that has a cost as these parts have 'memories' of their own. The characters develop throughout the story, doing things that match their maturity at various points in the book. The climax is stunning, and when you finally learn how unwinding happens... I haven't been so chilled by an idea in quite some time. My only problem with the book dealt with the fact that it was entirely written in the present tense. I found the transitions between dialogue (which I'm used to reading in present tease) and narrative (which I'm used to reading in past tense) would bump me out of the story. It was especially noticeable when a past event was being narrated. One of my favourite aspects of the novel was storking. I won't explain it as its 'fun' to learn about and it's a highly original idea. If you want to get a teen boy reading, or want something fun and creepy for yourself, this is a fantastic book.
Date published: 2010-02-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Unwind was a wild ride. Thank goodness we don't live in a world like this - where parents can Unwind their bad teenagers. Can you imagine? This book is full of action and twists and great characters. If you are looking for an imaginitve story that keeps you turning the pages - this book is for you.
Date published: 2009-11-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wind me up! In the future, teens can be unwound: their body disected and parts delierved to more deserving people around the world. You don't die, your parents tell you, you live on in different places. Connor is being unwound because his parents can't control him, Risa becasue she is a ward of the state, and Lev is tithe, chosen since conception to be unwound and help humanity. Together they experience fear, hope, loss and redemption. The action is intense, the tension high, and the future looks grim. I couldn't put this book down once I started, and I was dissappointed when it ended. I was surprised how much I enjoyed this book; I picked it for our store's teen book club and was a little worried about it. As happens sometimes when you try a something new, I found something wonderful.
Date published: 2009-07-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Creepily Good Unwinding- the “abortion” of a child between the ages of 13 and 18. The Bill of Life declares that a person’s life cannot be terminated, starting from conception and ending at age thirteen. After that, well, your life’s out for the taking. If your parents decide that they no longer want you they can “abort” you. Justifiable? Maybe, because unwinding doesn’t “technically” kill you. Being an unwind is sort of like being an organ donor, all your parts are sent to different people. So, really, you’re alive. After all, your body parts are still living and working- they’re just no longer living and working together. But some teens are unwilling to go down without a fight. Conor is the kind of guy, with, say, an anger management problem. A problem that led his parents to sign the unwind order. And, it’s that very problem that may help him save his life. Declared a tithe from birth, Lev was born to be an unwind. And he’s ready to be terminated. Or so he thinks. Risa is a piano-playing orphan. Unfortunately, the government’s decided that her piano playing isn’t up to their high standards and frankly, she’s a liability. And the best thing to do with liabilities? Uh, get rid of them. * What will happen when theses three meet? Forced together by fate, the three unwinds vow to escape the government. No matter what the cost. Unwind is good in a creepy keep-you-up-at-night sort of way. Thought-provoking and engaging, Neal Shusterman will have you questioning your beliefs on religion, abortion and life itself. In a way, it reminded me of Margaret Peterson Haddix’s Shadow Children series. In typical Neal Shusterman style, this book is startlingly readable, action-packed and filled with thrills that will keep the readers turning the pages. The characters are fully realistic and make fully believable changes throughout the book.
Date published: 2008-05-25

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Unwind 1 • Connor “There are places you can go,” Ariana tells him, “and a guy as smart as you has a decent chance of surviving to eighteen.” Connor isn’t so sure, but looking into Ariana’s eyes makes his doubts go away, if only for a moment. Her eyes are sweet violet with streaks of gray. She’s such a slave to fashion—always getting the newest pigment injection the second it’s in style. Connor was never into that. He’s always kept his eyes the color they came in. Brown. He never even got tattoos, like so many kids get these days when they’re little. The only color on his skin is the tan it takes during the summer, but now, in November, that tan has long faded. He tries not to think about the fact that he’ll never see the summer again. At least not as Connor Lassiter. He still can’t believe that his life is being stolen from him at sixteen. Ariana’s violet eyes begin to shine as they fill with tears that flow down her cheeks when she blinks. “Connor, I’m so sorry.” She holds him, and for a moment it seems as if everything is okay, as if they are the only two people on Earth. For that instant, Connor feels invincible, untouchable . . . but she lets go, the moment passes, and the world around him returns. Once more he can feel the rumble of the freeway beneath them, as cars pass by, not knowing or caring that he’s here. Once more he is just a marked kid, a week short of unwinding. The soft, hopeful things Ariana tells him don’t help now. He can barely hear her over the rush of traffic. This place where they hide from the world is one of those dangerous places that make adults shake their heads, grateful that their own kids aren’t stupid enough to hang out on the ledge of a freeway overpass. For Connor it’s not about stupidity, or even rebellion—it’s about feeling life. Sitting on this ledge, hidden behind an exit sign is where he feels most comfortable. Sure, one false step and he’s roadkill. Yet for Connor, life on the edge is home. There have been no other girls he’s brought here, although he hasn’t told Ariana that. He closes his eyes, feeling the vibration of the traffic as if it’s pulsing through his veins, a part of him. This has always been a good place to get away from fights with his parents, or when he just feels generally boiled. But now Connor’s beyond boiled—even beyond fighting with his mom and dad. There’s nothing more to fight about. His parents signed the order—it’s a done deal. “We should run away,” Ariana says. “I’m fed up with everything, too. My family, school, everything. I could kick-AWOL, and never look back.” Connor hangs on the thought. The idea of kicking-AWOL by himself terrifies him. He might put up a tough front, he might act like the bad boy at school—but running away on his own? He doesn’t even know if he has the guts. But if Ariana comes, that’s different. That’s not alone. “Do you mean it?” Ariana looks at him with her magical eyes. “Sure. Sure I do. I could leave here. If you asked me.” Connor knows this is major. Running away with an Unwind—that’s commitment. The fact that she would do it moves him beyond words. He kisses her, and in spite of everything going on in his life Connor suddenly feels like the luckiest guy in the world. He holds her—maybe a little too tightly, because she starts to squirm. It just makes him want to hold her even more tightly, but he fights that urge and lets go. She smiles at him. “AWOL . . .” she says. “What does that mean, anyway?” “It’s an old military term or something,” Connor says. “It means ‘absent without leave.’” Ariana thinks about it, and grins. “Hmm. More like ‘alive without lectures.’” Connor takes her hand, trying hard not to squeeze it too tightly. She said she’d go if he asked her. Only now does he realize he hasn’t actually asked yet. “Will you come with me, Ariana?” Ariana smiles and nods. “Sure,” she says. “Sure I will.” *   *   * Ariana’s parents don’t like Connor. “We always knew he’d be an Unwind,” he can just hear them saying. “You should have stayed away from that Lassiter boy.” He was never “Connor” to them. He was always “that Lassiter boy.” They think that just because he’s been in and out of disciplinary school they have a right to judge him. Still, when he walks her home that afternoon, he stops short of her door, hiding behind a tree as she goes inside. Before he heads home, he thinks how hiding is now going to be a way of life for both of them. *   *   * Home. Connor wonders how he can call the place he lives home, when he’s about to be evicted—not just from the place he sleeps, but from the hearts of those who are supposed to love him. His father sits in a chair, watching the news as Connor enters. “Hi, Dad.” His father points at some random carnage on the news. “Clappers again.” “What did they hit this time?” “They blew up an Old Navy in the North Akron mall.” “Hmm,” says Connor. “You’d think they’d have better taste.” “I don’t find that funny.” Connor’s parents don’t know that Connor knows he’s being unwound. He wasn’t supposed to find out, but Connor has always been good at ferreting out secrets. Three weeks ago, while looking for a stapler in his dad’s home office, he found airplane tickets to the Bahamas. They were going on a family vacation over Thanksgiving. One problem, though: There were only three tickets. His mother, his father, his younger brother. No ticket for him. At first he just figured the ticket was somewhere else, but the more he thought about it, the more it seemed wrong. So Connor went looking a little deeper when his parents were out, and he found it. The Unwind order. It had been signed in old-fashioned triplicate. The white copy was already gone—off with the authorities. The yellow copy would accompany Connor to his end, and the pink would stay with his parents, as evidence of what they’d done. Perhaps they would frame it and hang it alongside his first-grade picture. The date on the order was the day before the Bahamas trip. He was going off to be unwound, and they were going on vacation to make themselves feel better about it. The unfairness of it had made Connor want to break something. It had made him want to break a lot of things—but he hadn’t. For once he had held his temper, and aside from a few fights in school that weren’t his fault, he kept his emotions hidden. He kept what he knew to himself. Everyone knew that an unwind order was irreversible, so screaming and fighting wouldn’t change a thing. Besides, he found a certain power in knowing his parents’ secret. Now the blows he could deal them were so much more effective. Like the day he brought flowers home for his mother and she cried for hours. Like the B-plus he brought home on a science test. Best grade he ever got in science. He handed it to his father, who looked at it, the color draining from his face. “See, Dad, my grades are getting better. I could even bring my science grade up to an A by the end of the semester.” An hour later his father was sitting in a chair, still clutching the test in his hand, and staring blankly at the wall. Connor’s motivation was simple: Make them suffer. Let them know for the rest of their lives what a horrible mistake they made. But there was no sweetness to this revenge, and now, three weeks of rubbing it in their faces has made him feel no better. In spite of himself he’s starting to feel bad for his parents, and he hates that he feels that way. “Did I miss dinner?” His father doesn’t look away from the TV. “Your mother left a plate for you.” Connor heads off toward the kitchen, but halfway there he hears: “Connor?” He turns to see his father looking at him. Not just looking, but staring. He’s going to tell me now, Connor thinks. He’s going to tell me they’re unwinding me, and then break down in tears, going on and on about how sorry sorry sorry he is about it all. If he does, Connor just might accept the apology. He might even forgive him, and then tell him that he doesn’t plan to be here when the Juvey-cops come to take him away. But in the end all his father says is, “Did you lock the door when you came in?” “I’ll do it now.” Connor locks the door, then goes to his room, no longer hungry for whatever it is his mother saved for him. *   *   * At two in the morning Connor dresses in black and fills a backpack with the things that really matter to him. He still has room for three changes of clothes. He finds it amazing, when it comes down to it, how few things are worth taking. Memories, mostly. Reminders of a time before things went so wrong between him and his parents. Between him and the rest of the world. Connor peeks in on his brother, thinks about waking him to say good-bye, then decides it’s not a good idea. He silently slips out into the night. He can’t take his bike, because he had installed an antitheft tracking device. Connor never considered that he might be the one stealing it. Ariana has bikes for both of them though. Ariana’s house is a twenty-minute walk, if you take the conventional route. Suburban Ohio neighborhoods never have streets that go in straight lines, so instead he takes the more direct route, through the woods, and makes it there in ten. The lights in Ariana’s house are off. He expected this. It would have been suspicious if she had stayed awake all night. Better to pretend she’s sleeping, so she won’t alert any suspicion. He keeps his distance from the house. Ariana’s yard and front porch are equipped with motion-sensor lights that come on whenever anything moves into range. They’re meant to scare off wild animals and criminals. Ariana’s parents are convinced that Connor is both. He pulls out his phone and dials the familiar number. From where he stands in the shadows at the edge of the backyard he can hear it ring in her room upstairs. Connor disconnects quickly and ducks farther back into the shadows, for fear that Ariana’s parents might be looking out from their windows. What is she thinking? Ariana was supposed to leave her phone on vibrate. He makes a wide arc around the edge of the backyard, wide enough not to set off the lights, and although a light comes on when he steps onto the front porch, only Ariana’s bedroom faces that way. She comes to the door a few moments later, opening it not quite wide enough for her to come out or for him to go in. “Hi, are you ready?” asks Connor. Clearly she’s not; she wears a robe over satin pajamas. “You didn’t forget, did you?” “No, no, I didn’t forget. . . .” “So hurry up! The sooner we get out of here, the more of a lead we’ll get before anyone knows we’re gone.” “Connor,” she says, “here’s the thing . . .” And the truth is right there in her voice, in the way it’s such a strain for her to even say his name, the quiver of apology lingering in the air like an echo. She doesn’t have to say anything after that, because he knows, but he lets her say it anyway. Because he sees how hard it is for her, and he wants it to be. He wants it to be the hardest thing she’s ever done in her life. “Connor, I really want to go, I do . . . but it’s just a really bad time for me. My sister’s getting married, and you know she picked me to be the maid of honor. And then there’s school.” “You hate school. You said you’d be dropping out when you turn sixteen.” “Testing out,” she says. “There’s a difference.” “So you’re not coming?” “I want to, I really, really want to . . . but I can’t.” “So everything we talked about was just a lie.” “No,” says Ariana. “It was a dream. Reality got in the way, that’s all. And running away doesn’t solve anything.” “Running away is the only way to save my life,” Connor hisses. “I’m about to be unwound, in case you forgot.” She gently touches his face. “I know,” she says. “But I’m not.” Then a light comes on at the top of the stairs, and reflexively Ariana closes the door a few inches. “Ari?” Connor hears her mother say. “What is it? What are you doing at the door?” Connor backs up out of view, and Ariana turns to look up the stairs. “Nothing, Mom. I thought I saw a coyote from my window and I just wanted to make sure the cats weren’t out.” “The cats are upstairs, honey. Close the door and go back to bed.” “So, I’m a coyote,” says Connor. “Shush,” says Ariana, closing the door until there’s just a tiny slit and all he can see is the edge of her face and a single violet eye. “You’ll get away, I know you will. Call me once you’re somewhere safe.” Then she closes the door. Connor stands there for the longest time, until the motion sensor light goes out. Being alone had not been part of his plan, but he realizes it should have been. From the moment his parents signed those papers, Connor was alone. *   *   * He can’t take a train; he can’t take a bus. Sure, he has enough money, but nothing’s leaving until morning, and by then they’ll be looking for him in all the obvious places. Unwinds on the run are so common these days, they have whole teams of Juvey-cops dedicated to finding them. The police have it down to an art. He knows he’d be able to disappear in a city, because there are so many faces, you never see the same one twice. He knows he can also disappear in the country, where people are so few and far between; he could set up house in an old barn and no one would think to look. But then, Connor figures the police probably thought of that. They probably have every old barn set up to spring like a rat trap, snaring kids like him. Or maybe he’s just being paranoid. No, Connor knows his situation calls for justified caution—not just tonight, but for the next two years. Then once he turns eighteen, he’s home free. After that, sure, they can throw him in jail, they can put him on trial—but they can’t unwind him. Surviving that long is the trick. Down by the interstate there’s a rest stop where truckers pull off the road for the night. This is where Connor goes. He figures he can slip in the back of an eighteen-wheeler, but he quickly learns that truckers keep their cargo locked. He curses himself for not having forethought enough to consider that. Thinking ahead has never been one of Connor’s strong points. If it was, he might not have gotten into the various situations that have plagued him over these past few years. Situations that got him labels like “troubled” and “at risk,” and finally this last label, “unwind.” There are about twenty parked trucks, and a brightly lit diner where half a dozen truckers eat. It’s 3:30 in the morning. Apparently truckers have their own biological clocks. Connor watches and waits. Then, at about a quarter to four, a police cruiser pulls silently into the truck stop. No lights, no siren. It slowly circles the lot like a shark. Connor thinks he can hide, until he sees a second police car pulling in. There are too many lights over the lot for Connor to hide in shadows, and he can’t bolt without being seen in the bright moonlight. A patrol car comes around the far end of the lot. In a second its headlights will be on him, so he rolls beneath a truck and prays the cops haven’t seen him. He watches as the patrol car’s wheels slowly roll past. On the other side of the eighteen-wheeler the second patrol car passes in the opposite direction. Maybe this is just a routine check, he thinks. Maybe they’re not looking for me. The more he thinks about it, the more he convinces himself that’s the case. They can’t know he’s gone yet. His father sleeps like a log, and his mother never checks on Connor during the night anymore. Still, the police cars circle. From his spot beneath the truck Connor sees the driver’s door of another eighteen-wheeler open. No—it’s not the driver’s door, it’s the door to the little bedroom behind the cab. A trucker emerges, stretches, and heads toward the truckstop bathrooms, leaving the door ajar. In the hairbreadth of a moment, Connor makes a decision and bolts from his hiding spot, racing across the lot to that truck. Loose gravel skids out from under his feet as he runs. He doesn’t know where the cop cars are anymore, but it doesn’t matter. He has committed himself to this course of action and he has to see it through. As he nears the door he sees headlights arcing around, about to turn toward him. He pulls open the door to the truck’s sleeper, hurls himself inside, and pulls the door closed behind him. He sits on a bed not much bigger than a cot, catching his breath. What’s his next move? The trucker will be back. Connor has about five minutes if he’s lucky, one minute if he’s not. He peers beneath the bed. There’s space down there where he can hide, but it’s blocked by two duffle bags full of clothes. He could pull them out, squeeze in, and pull the duffle bags back in front of him. The trucker would never know he’s there. But even before he can get the first duffle bag out, the door swings open. Connor just stands there, unable to react as the trucker reaches in to grab his jacket and sees him. “Whoa! Who are you? What the hell you doin’ in my truck?” A police car cruises slowly past behind him. “Please,” Connor says, his voice suddenly squeaky like it was before his voice changed. “Please, don’t tell anyone. I’ve got to get out of this place.” He reaches into his backpack, fumbling, and pulls out a wad of bills from his wallet. “You want money? I’ve got money. I’ll give you all I’ve got.” “I don’t want your money,” the trucker says. “All right, then, what?” Even in the dim light the trucker must see the panic in Connor’s eyes, but he doesn’t say a thing. “Please,” says Connor again. “I’ll do anything you want. . . .” The trucker looks at him in silence for a moment more. “Is that so?” he finally says. Then he steps inside and closes the door behind him. Connor shuts his eyes, not daring to consider what he’s just gotten himself into. The trucker sits beside him. “What’s your name?” “Connor.” Then he realizes a moment too late he should have given a fake name. The trucker scratches his beard stubble and thinks for a moment. “Let me show you something, Connor.” He reaches over Connor and grabs, of all things, a deck of cards from a little pouch hanging next to the bed. “Did ya ever see this?” The trucker takes the deck of cards in one hand and does a skillful one-handed shuffle. “Pretty good, huh?” Connor, not knowing what to say, just nods. “How about this?” Then the trucker takes a single card and with sleight of hand makes the card vanish into thin air. Then he reaches over and pulls the card right out of Connor’s shirt pocket. “You like that?” Connor lets out a nervous laugh. “Well, those tricks you just saw?” The trucker says, “I didn’t do ’em.” “I . . . don’t know what you mean.” The trucker rolls up his sleeve to reveal that the arm, which had done the tricks, had been grafted on at the elbow. “Ten years ago I fell asleep at the wheel,” the trucker tells him. “Big accident. I lost an arm, a kidney, and a few other things. I got new ones, though, and I pulled through.” He looks at his hands, and now Connor can see that the trick-card hand is a little different from the other one. The trucker’s other hand has thicker fingers, and the skin is a bit more olive in tone. “So,” says Connor, “you got dealt a new hand.” The trucker laughs at that, then he becomes quiet for a moment, looking at his replacement hand. “These fingers here knew things the rest of me didn’t. Muscle memory, they call it. And there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t wonder what other incredible things that kid who owned this arm knew, before he was unwound . . . whoever he was.” The trucker stands up. “You’re lucky you came to me,” he says. “There are truckers out there who’ll take whatever you offer, then turn you in anyway.” “And you’re not like that?” “No, I’m not.” He puts out his hand—his other hand—and Connor shakes it. “Josias Aldridge,” he says. “I’m heading north from here. You can ride with me till morning.” Connor’s relief is so great, it takes the wind right out of him. He can’t even offer a thank-you. “That bed there’s not the most comfortable in the world,” says Aldridge, “but it does the job. Get yourself some rest. I just gotta go take a dump, and then we’ll be on our way.” Then he closes the door, and Connor listens to his footsteps heading off toward the bathroom. Connor finally lets his guard down and begins to feel his own exhaustion. The trucker didn’t give him a destination, just a direction, and that’s fine. North, south, east, west—it doesn’t matter as long as it’s away from here. As for his next move, well, first he’s got to get through this one before he can think about what comes next. A minute later Connor’s already beginning to doze when he hears the shout from outside. “We know you’re in there! Come out now and you won’t get hurt!” Connor’s heart sinks. Josias Aldridge has apparently pulled another sleight of hand. He’s made Connor appear for the police. Abracadabra. With his journey over before it even began, Connor swings the door open to see three Juvey-cops aiming weapons. But they’re not aiming at him. In fact, their backs are to him. Across the way, the cab door swings open of the truck he had hidden under just a few minutes before, and a kid comes out from behind the empty driver’s seat, his hands in the air. Connor recognizes him right away. It’s a kid he knows from school. Andy Jameson. My God, is Andy being unwound too? There’s a look of fear on Andy’s face, but beyond it is something worse. A look of utter defeat. That’s when Connor realizes his own folly. He’d been so surprised by this turn of events that he’s still just standing there, exposed for anyone to see. Well, the policemen don’t see him. But Andy does. He catches sight of Connor, holds his gaze, only for a moment . . . . . . and in that moment something remarkable happens. The look of despair on Andy’s face is suddenly replaced by a steely resolve bordering on triumph. He quickly looks away from Connor and takes a few steps before the police grab him—steps away from Connor, so that the police still have their backs to him. Andy had seen him and had not given him away! If Andy has nothing else after this day, at least he’ll have this small victory. Connor leans back into the shadows of the truck and slowly pulls the door closed. Outside, as the police take Andy away, Connor lies back down, and his tears come as sudden as a summer downpour. He’s not sure who he’s crying for—for Andy, for himself, for Ariana—and not knowing makes his tears flow all the more. Instead of wiping the tears away he lets them dry on his face like he used to when he was a little boy and the things he cried about were so insignificant that they’d be forgotten by morning. The trucker never comes to check on him. Instead Connor hears the engine start and feels the truck pulling out. The gentle motion of the road rocks him to sleep. *   *   * The ring of Connor’s cell phone wakes him out of a deep sleep. He fights consciousness. He wants to go back to the dream he was having. It was about a place he was sure he had been to, although he couldn’t quite remember when. He was at a cabin on a beach with his parents, before his brother was born. Connor’s leg had fallen through a rotted board on the porch into spiderwebs so thick, they felt like cotton. Connor had screamed and screamed from the pain, and the fear of the giant spiders that he was convinced would eat his leg off. And yet, this was a good dream—a good memory—because his father was there to pull him free, and carry him inside, where they bandaged his leg and sat him by the fire with some kind of cider so flavorful, he could still taste it when he thought about it. His father told him a story that he can no longer remember, but that’s all right. It wasn’t the story but the tone of his voice that mattered, a gentle baritone rumble as calming as waves breaking on a shore. Little-boy-Connor drank his cider and leaned back against his mother pretending to fall asleep, but what he was really doing was trying to dissolve into the moment and make it last forever. In the dream he did dissolve. His whole being flowed into the cider cup, and his parents placed it gently on the table, close enough to the fire to keep it warm forever and always. Stupid dreams. Even the good ones are bad, because they remind you how poorly reality measures up. His cell phone rings again, chasing away the last of the dream. Connor almost answers it. The sleeper room of the truck is so dark, he doesn’t realize at first that he’s not in his own bed. The only thing that saves him is that he can’t find his phone and he must turn on a light. When he finds a wall where his nightstand should be, he realizes that this isn’t his room. The phone rings again. That’s when it all comes back to him, and he remembers where he is. Connor finds his phone in his backpack. The phone ID says the call is from his father. So now his parents know he’s gone. Do they really think he’ll answer his phone? He waits until voicemail takes the call, then he turns off the power. His watch says 7:30 a.m. He rubs the sleep out of his eyes, trying to calculate how far they’ve come. The truck isn’t moving anymore, but they must have traveled at least two hundred miles while he slept. It’s a good start. There’s a knock on the door. “Come on out, kid. Your ride’s over.” Connor’s not complaining—it was outrageously generous of this truck driver to do what he did. Connor won’t ask any more of him. He swings open the door and steps out to thank the man, but it’s not Josias Aldridge at the door. Aldridge is a few yards away being handcuffed, and in front of Connor is a policeman: a Juvey-cop wearing a smile as big as all outdoors. Standing ten yards away is Connor’s father, still holding the cell phone he had just called from. “It’s over, son,” his father says. It makes Connor furious. I’m not your son! He wants to shout. I stopped being your son when you signed the unwind order! But the shock of the moment leaves him speechless. It had been so stupid of Connor to leave his cell phone on—that’s how they tracked him—and he wonders how many other kids are caught by their own blind trust of technology. Well, Connor’s not going the way Andy Jameson did. He quickly assesses the situation. The truck has been pulled over to the side of the interstate by two highway patrol cars and a Juveycop unit. Traffic barrels past at seventy miles per hour, oblivious to the little drama unfolding on the shoulder. Connor makes a split-second decision and bolts, pushing the officer against the truck and racing across the busy highway. Would they shoot an unarmed kid in the back, he wonders, or would they shoot him in the legs and spare his vital organs? As he races onto the interstate, cars swerve around him, but he keeps on going. “Connor, stop!” he hears his father yell. Then he hears a gun fire. He feels the impact, but not in his skin. The bullet embeds in his backpack. He doesn’t look behind him. Then, as he reaches the highway median, he hears another gunshot, and a small blue splotch appears on the center divider. They’re firing tranquilizer bullets. They’re not taking him out, they’re trying to take him down—and they’re much more likely to fire tranq bullets at will, than regular bullets. Connor climbs over the center divider, and finds himself in the path of a Cadillac that’s not stopping for anything. The car swerves to avoid him, and by sheer luck Connor’s momentum takes him just a few inches out of the Caddy’s path. Its side mirror smacks him painfully in the ribs before the car screeches to a halt, sending the acrid stench of burned rubber up his nostrils. Holding his aching side, Connor sees someone looking at him from an open window of the backseat. It’s another kid, dressed all in white. The kid is terrified. With the police already reaching the center divider, Connor looks into the eyes of this frightened kid, and knows what he has to do. It’s time for another split-second decision. He reaches through the window, pulls up the lock, and opens the door.

Bookclub Guide

About the Book In the not-too-distant future, teens Connor, Risa, and Lev are on the run for their lives. Following the Second Civil War, between pro-choice and pro-life forces, the United States now allows parents to unwind their unwanted and difficult kids between the ages of thirteen and eighteen: Their bodies are surgically taken apart and all the organs and tissue are used in other people. According to the law, the kids aren't considered dead, they're "living in a divided state." But Connor, Risa, and Lev, and thousands of other teens slated for "unwinding", don't see it that way. They choose instead to "kick AWOL," or run away. Unwind follows these three across the country as they travel together, split up, and meet again when their destinies cross in a Harvest Camp where they are slated to be unwound. Prereading Research/Activities Have students research those who helped endangered people in the past. They can study the pre-Civil War Underground Railroad, a vast network of individuals who helped runaway slaves make their way to freedom. They can also research the stories of those who helped Jews escape the Nazis, including Oskar Schindler, Raoul Wallenberg, and Chiune Sugihara. The novel takes places after the "Second Civil War." The real Civil War was fought primarily over the issue of slavery. Learn about recent civil wars in other countries. What issues--such as religion, race, or politics--have they been fought over? In small groups, discuss the idea of a second civil war in this country, and what it might be fought over. Do you think it could happen here? Find out how many people today elect to donate their organs after their death. What is the process to do so? How are the organs handled and delivered? How many lives do they save? Ask other students how many of them intend to donate their organs. Stage a debate: Discuss whether it is a good idea to donate organs. If so, why do so few people do it? Discussion Topics 1. How would you feel if you discovered you were going to be unwound? What would you do? If you didn't want to go along with it but couldn't run away like Connor and the others in the novel, what other options might you have? 2. How would you feel if you were in an accident, or had a rare disease, and you could be cured only if your damaged organs were replaced by parts taken from unwound teens? What would you choose to do? What if you were certain to die if you refused the parts? What if it wasn't you, but someone you loved (a parent, a sibling) who was in an accident? Would your answer be different? 3. You just found out the person sitting next to you is going to be unwound. Come up with ten good reasons why they should NOT be. Remember, their life may depend on it! 4. When do you think the story takes place? The book never reveals the year. How many years in the future might it be? What clues hint at how much time has passed? What companies or products are named? What societal norms can you point to that have changed or remained the same? What are the similarities between the world of Unwind and our own world? What are the differences? 5. Which of the three main characters, Connor, Risa, or Lev, do you most identify with? Why? What traits do you have in common? Which of their traits work for them, and which make their lives harder? Which of your own traits would you like to give up? Which would you want to keep? 6. In the course of the book, Connor and Risa get separated from Lev, who travels for a time with another character. Why do you think the author chose to split the narrative into two distinct threads? What do you think this achieves? How does this affect the evolution of the characters? 7. Compare the similarities and differences of Lev's journey with Cyrus to Joplin, Missouri, in Unwind to Huck's travel with Jim down the Mississippi River in the novel Huckleberry Finn. 8. While being transported to possible safety, some of the kids on the run wonder, "Would it be better to die or be unwound?" If given the choice, which would you choose? Why? 9. Another question the kids in the book discuss is, "If every part of you is still alive but inside someone else, are you alive or are you dead?" They also wonder if consciousness can exist even if it's spread out, and if the soul remains intact. What do you think? 10. Which adults in the story are depicted sympathetically? Which do you feel are not sympathetic? Do any shift from one to the other? How did the author describe these characters to make you feel one way or the other about them? 11. Risa is assigned to play in a band at a Harvest Camp, performing upbeat tunes while teens are marched to their unwinding. Risa is conflicted: She knows playing in the band will keep her alive longer, but it's at the expense of others, and her joy at having her fingers on a piano is matched by the horror of knowing what's going on around her. How would you feel in this situation? Would you accept the position? Are there any situations in history similar to this? 12. What positive consequences do you imagine would be realized by a society where unwinding exists? What are the negatives? Do you think the negatives outweigh the positives, or the other way around? 13. A euphemism is a mild word or phrase that's used to refer to something unpleasant or embarrassing. "Living in a divided state" is a euphemism officials in the novel use in place of "being unwound." Another euphemism in the novel is "harvest camps" in place of "unwinding facilities." Can you think of any commonly used euphemisms in real life? Why do you think people use euphemisms? 14. In the novel, unwinding becomes big business, as there's a lot of money to be made from ill people and accident victims requiring fresh organs, and the population looks the other way, not considering the source. Are there any present-day situations you can think of where ethics have been compromised because of money, or because it's simply easier not to think about it? Predict a situation in the future where greed or denial could defeat morals. 15. Imagine that you are approached to join the Clappers, the novel's futuristic terrorists. How would you respond? What would you tell them? 16. Connor's anger and lack of impulse control is often a problem for him, until he learns to control and channel his emotions. Do you ever feel like your impulses are stronger than your will? What strategies do you use to control your feelings? Do they work? 17. The bully, Roland, makes life hard for Connor and Risa from the time they meet him. What do you think of his ultimate payback? Did you think it was fair? Was it satisfying, or did it make you squirm or both? Why? Activities In the novel, Sonia, the owner of the antique shop, has each of the teens she helps write a letter to someone they love. Write your own letter to someone you love and, like the kids in the novel, put everything you want to say to that person, good and bad, in the letter. Would you be willing to show this letter to the person you wrote it to? Why or why not? What about in three or four years? Draw up a will; instead of possessions, it's your personality that you're giving away. List your personality traits. What parts of your personality (your sense of humor, your determination, etc.) would you give away, and to whom? Prepare testimony to Congress as they begin hearings on the status of the Bill of Life. Write your testimony from the point of view of a teen slated to be unwound or from someone whose life was saved by receiving body parts from an unwound teen. Hold hearings, where several students share their testimony with the class. Then debate whether the law should be changed or not. Risa's band plays "Don't Fear the Reaper," among other songs, for the teens who are going to be unwound. Put together a set list of songs your band would play if you were performing at a Harvest Camp. Explain your choices. In the novel, the characters arrive at "the graveyard," a safe refuge for teens facing unwinding. In a group, invent another location where teens have gathered. Describe how your own makeshift community functions, and what each of your jobs is. Create a list of ten rules for getting along, in the spirit of the Admiral's "Ten Demandments." At the novel's end, when different people who obtained parts from a single individual are brought together, they begin to act as a unit. In a group, try performing the acting exercise known as "the Machine." One person does a single repetitive motion over and over again. Then a second person joins the first, repeating a different but complementary motion. Then the others join, one at a time. In the end, you will have a "machine" with a number of different parts, all doing separate but related motions, acting as a single entity. Try telling a story in which every person, one after another, gets to donate only one sentence. The goal is not to throw the story off track, or to be funny, but to make the story coherent. Can it be done? Did the story make sense? Write a newspaper article dated one year after the end of the novel. What news event has just happened (for example, a new election, a riot, a new terrorist attack)? Has it changed anything fundamental about the society or the Bill of Life? Has the law been repealed? Characters Connor Lassiter: a sixteen-year-old troubled kid. When he learns his parents have signed an unwind order, he runs away in search of a place to hide until he's eighteen years old. Risa Ward: fifteen years old, an orphan at a state home. She runs away when the administrators sign the order to have her unwound, and out of necessity joins Connor in seeking safety. Lev Calder: the tenth and youngest child of his religious family, a "tithe" who was born to be unwound when he reached his thirteenth birthday. He is "kidnapped" by Connor, who means to save him from his fate. Pastor Dan: Lev's minister and his spiritual advisor. Pastor Dan gives Lev support as he approaches his unwinding, but at the moment Connor frees Lev, he urges him to run. Hannah Steinberg: the high school teacher who hides Connor and Risa in a classroom. Sonia: an antique-store owner who hides AWOL teens in her basement, the first step on their roundabout journey to safety. Mai: an AWOL Asian girl whom Connor and Risa meet while in hiding. Roland: a manipulative, ruthless AWOL bully who has continuing confrontations with Connor. Hayden: a snarky but thoughtful AWOL with attitude. Cyrus Finch (CyFi): a runaway teen encountered by Lev. Cyrus, who received a piece of brain from an unwind, is searching for something the unwound kid in his head is trying to tell him. The Admiral: the adult, former U.S. Navy man who runs "the graveyard" where many AWOL teens stay for safety. The Admiral was one of the drafters of the Bill of Life. Unwind Slang AWOL: a runaway teen, scheduled to be unwound, hoping to survive to age 18; said to be "kicking AWOL." Bill of Life: the law instituting unwinding. Boeuf: a soldier, male or female (from the French word for beef) Chop Shop: the operating room where teens' bodies are surgically taken apart. Clappers: suicide-terrorists who have replaced their blood with a nitroglycerin blend. They blow themselves up by clapping their hands. Harvest Camp(formerly called "unwinding facilities"): where teenagers awaiting unwinding are housed, as well as where the procedure is performed. Humphrey Dunfee: urban legend about an unwind whose parents go crazy from grief and kill all the recipients of their son's body parts, in an attempt to reassemble their son. Juvey-cops: Police officer specializing in taking down AWOLs. "Living in a divided state": a euphemism for being unwound. StaHo: State Homes, orphanages where wards of the state stay until their eighteenth birthday or until they are sent to be unwound. Storked: babies who are left on doorsteps. The homeowner is obligated to keep and raise the child. Tithe: a child of a religious family who is born and raised to be unwound, as an act of charity. Umber: the socially acceptable way to describe someone who is African American. (In contrast to sienna, the socially acceptable way to describe someone who is Caucasian.)

Editorial Reviews

"The power of the novel lies in what it doesn't do: come down explicitly on one side or the other."--The New York Times Book Review