Book Review: “Unwind”

“Unwind (Unwind #1)” by Neal Shusterman

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Science Fiction, Dystopia

Other Unwind books

Summary from Goodreads:

The Second Civil War was fought over reproductive rights. The chilling resolution: Life is inviolable from the moment of conception until age thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, however, parents can have their child “unwound,” whereby all of the child’s organs are transplanted into different donors, so life doesn’t technically end. Connor is too difficult for his parents to control. Risa, a ward of the state is not enough to be kept alive. And Lev is a tithe, a child conceived and raised to be unwound. Together, they may have a chance to escape and to survive.


Dystopias are a tricky thing. They need to be terrifying because part of the point is to scare us away from evolving into that society. At the same time it needs to have a little bit of an appeal. I know that sounds terrible but that tiny bit of appeal makes you understand how society got to that point. To me that makes the story more realistic and terrifying. Unwind was able to do that very well. I still can’t wrap my head around how unwinding a teenager is a compromise for abortion though. I’m thinking more along the lines of what is done after the unwinding. Everything goes to someone who needs it. A new hand for the contractor who lost his in a freak accident. New eyes for a blind person. New brain hemisphere for someone with seizures. So on and so forth. You can see how that can be appealing. Organ donors are a great help but there will never be enough to meet the demands. Unwinding solves that problem.

The multiple narrators helped greatly. Connor, Risa, and Lev make up a good portion of who Unwinds are. Connor is a problem kid. Always getting into trouble and he has poor grades. His parents have been a bit brainwashed into thinking that they’re “helping” everyone by having him unwound. Risa is a ward of the state. Just one of many being taken care of by the state. She’s a pretty good kid. She got good grades, she’s a lovely piano player but in the end she’s just not good enough. She’s just another mouth to feed and is taking up bed space from incoming kids. Lev has grown up his entire life knowing he was going to be unwound. He’s okay with the choice because he believes it somehow gives his life meaning.

There are other narrators thrown in there which worked out well. It’s an easy way to fill in gaps of knowledge that our protagonists don’t know. Roland’s narration was absolutely terrifying. He was written to be hated. You were almost glad to see him go but then the author choose to have him narrate his unwinding. That is horrifying.

There were so many twists and turns in this story. It was fantastic. You really never knew what was coming up next. It reminded me a lot of The Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness (another AWESOME dystopia). This world has no right side. Everyone is a bit screwed up. He was willing to push the limits. Bad things happen to everyone. No one is able to escape it.

The bottom line? Awesome book. It’s very dark and twisted but definitely interesting.

This was read for BHA.

Stop by and talk with us about the book!

13 thoughts on “Book Review: “Unwind”

  1. This is one of my all-time favorite books, and I was really pleased with the sequel. Definitely pick up Shusterman’s “Bruiser” as well; it’s another one of my favorites.

  2. This book looks good, but I’m afraid to read it. I am the mother of 12 year son with autism, and just thinking about Neal Shusterman’s world makes me want to cry. Or vomit. I don’t think I can do it.

    • It is pretty sickening so I don’t blame you for wanting to pass. For what it’s worth, in Shusterman’s world the people with special needs are off limits for unwinding. That’s at least a positive.

  3. I really enjoyed this book. I found the unwinding absolutely horrifying as well. I was so shocked that the author took it there, but at the same time it was so memorable.

    I think the question about why unwinding is a compromise for abortion is an interesting one. I think it it suggests that the problem with abortion is the taking of innocent life. Many people who oppose abortion support the death penalty. I felt like the society in the book seemed to feel as if unwinding was okay because people go to sit back and see what happened and then choose to unwind if there was a reason for it. The also seemed to stick to the fact that it wasn’t killing. I don’t agree with any of it but it was very thought provoking.

    Great review! Here’s my review of Unwind if you want to check it out.

    • That’s a great point. I guess I could understand condemning the problem people of society. I hated the idea of condemning teenagers though. Who hasn’t been a total brat in the their teenage years? UnWholly expands on that issues of unwinding the problematic people. They were trying to expand unwinding to people in prisons. I wonder how people would feel about that.

  4. I am so glad you enjoyed this! It is probably one of my favorite dystopias, just because there is so much ambiguity… unwinding clearly harms a whole lot of people, but it seems to help many more people? How do we draw that line as a society? And really, after reading this and UnWholly, I have a hard time deciding what we do with the Rolands of the world. I just love that there are no easy answers or rights and wrongs and that you’re challenged to think about your positions, no matter what they are!

  5. It was so good! I really loved this book because it freaked me the heck out. Roland’s scene – I still think about that. It reminded me of the scene in kill bill 2 where she is buried alive. Showing, not telling. Crap, that makes me hyperventilate just thinking about it. Well Roland’s scene did the same thing to me. Glad you enjoyed it and I am excited to see in one of the comments that UnWholly is wonderful as well. I think I need to own these books!

What are your thoughts? (Comments are moderated. Yours will be up as soon as I read it!)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s