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5/5: Unwind

Unwind - Neal Shusterman

I picked Unwind up from a recommendation on Goodreads...and I wasn't disappointed. In a powerful piece of writing, Neil Shusterman takes us to a future world where abortion is illegal - but teenagers can be harvested for all their organs and body parts from the ages of thirteen to eighteen in a process euphemistically called 'Unwinding'.

Tne story follows a group of teens as they are selected by their parents for this process, one of them through a religious 'tithe'.

The teens finally end up in a 'harvest camp', a chiling echo of World War Two death camps, complete with friendly guards and a band playing music as you march to your dissolution.

In a shocking and terrifying piece of writing near the end of the book, we travel along with one of the teens as he's harvested, conscious and aware throughout the whole procedure as his body is disassembled piece by piece. There are no gory details, no blood mentioned, but still...it's something that will stick with me for a long time.

Woven into the stories of the teens are subplots about a mythical teenager called Humphrey Dunfee, whose parents decided to find every unwound part of their son and recreate him...it turns out he wasn't so mystical after all, but I don't wish to drop a spoiler and tell anymore about it, and a teen who recieves a part of an unwound brain, one who's neurons still fire to a different body, one he has no control over.

Shusterman also takes the opportunity to ask The Big Questions about who we are, without positing any answers: What is consciousness? Do we live on after death, even if our components are spread across a continent? Do our organs keep the memory of the body we came from?

This is YA writing at it's best, YA writing that everyone should read, regardless of their age. The writing is clear, the characters well developed and the plot subtle and twisty enough that the book never lags or loses its focus.

I believe this is the first in the series, and I shall certainly be on the lookout for the others. Read it.