My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Initial thoughts: Yeah, I don’t have many words right now to say how much I enjoyed this book. Following Connor, Lev, Risa, Cy, among the cast of Unwinds (even the Admiral) was such a journey. Though truth be told, I would not wanna live in Shusterman’s world at all. I’m not even going to touch how well the Unwind sequence was written. There just aren’t any words.
I need a night to meditate and gather my thoughts, but this is a new favorite for me.
I always have a hard time finding the words to describe books I love, and Neal Shusterman’s “Unwind” is a story I feel that I’m still trying to wrap my head around. It’s the kind of story that I love in the dystopia genre, where the world is built upon an interesting framework of a “what-if” scenario, and crafted with characters that become something more than just the story they’re presented in.
“Unwind” is a story that’s equal parts horror, thrilling, and presents a question that I don’t think I’ve ever encountered in a work before: while conception starts from birth to the age of 13, after that time – between 13 and 18, a child’s parents can opt to have their child “unwound” – or harvested for their body parts to donate. It’s essentially a death sentence, and three teens face different aspects of the same scenario only to converge as the story moves forward. Connor, Risa, and Lev are all chosen to undergo the procedure – Connor no longer wanted by his parents because of his behavior, Risa no longer wanted because of her charge under the state system, and Lev – well, he’s under the impression that his undergoing the procedure will be an honor bestowed upon him, since he’s grown up with the idea that he would always be Unwound – in a sense. Yet, some turns of events occur when Connor finds a means of escaping, and collides with the two after a bus accident that has them all on the run. Lev comes to realize that the world he grew up in isn’t all that it was cracked up to be, and both Risa and Connor learn aspects along the leg of their journeys that change their view of things with quite the same resonance.
The turns in the story that “Unwind” provide from there are nothing short of thrilling, well-developed, and even horrifying. I found myself caring for all three characters even if their respective circumstances led them in different directions. I even cared for some of the side characters in the work that ended up having interesting stories to take from their experiences. Take Cy for example – a smooth talking kid who accompanies Lev on one segment of his journey. Yet Cy has a bit of a dark secret that has to do with a transplant that was done on him to help him, but has some very heavy consequences. Another character I really liked was the Admiral, which I couldn’t exactly tell what kind of character he was for a time, and that was intentional. He has some dark considerations and emotionally strong scenes which showcase the cost of Unwinding and his respective role as the story moves forward. Even the respective antagonists of the work were well-written and developed through the story at an appropriate pace, with a fair number of unexpected turns through the work. I can’t say that there was anything in this story that didn’t engage me, and the times I put it down were that which I did reluctantly, though it did take me a little while longer since I read the audiobook. Luke Daniels was an apt narrator for this, and I thought he did all the voices very well in the spectrum of the novel.
Now I really have to focus attention on one of my favorite aspects of this particular story, and also the most chilling – the process of being Unwound. Holy crud. That was so well written, I’ll admit it felt like I was watching it before my eyes as I read it. It was not just a dark portrayal, but it presents the scenario in segments that are appropriately paced and show the stakes in the environment and why there’s such a terrifying element to the procedure. It’s really unlike anything I’ve read in YA literature, let alone a fine dystopia such as this.
I’m certainly in for the ride this series promises, and I want to know what the future holds in this respective realm Shusterman creates from here on out. Certainly deserving of its respective accolades, “Unwind” is a burning build of wonderful characterization, horrifying stakes, and a narrative pull that’ll keep one engaged to the very end.
Overall score: 5/5