Kewpie's Reviews > Unwind

Unwind by Neal Shusterman
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Mar 26, 08


This is one of those books that once I finished it, I started it over and read the whole thing over again. And even after that, there were parts of it that I kept re-reading and thinking about. Before I go into my long review, I wanted to just mention that this book had one of the most nightmarish and horific scenes that I have ever read in my life. It contained almost no details at all, and none of the sparse details were graphic or gory. And that made it even scarier. My imagination provided more than any author ever could. It's been a few days and I can't get that scene out of my mind.

There are so many ethical and moral arguments brought up here and almost no clear cut answers. Here are just a few of the dilemas that come up or discussed about:

1.The obvious ones: abortion, stem cell research, tissue and organ harvesting.

2. In the case of minors, where does the line between "guardian" and "owner" cross over? The parents in this book treat children as property from the day they are born. They are things to donate to churches, sell for money, "put to sleep" when they are being a nuisance. When the parents sign the unwind orders, the State becomes the guardian of the minors. When the minors run away, they are considered to be stealing government property.

3. The power of euphamism. There are many terms and phrases in the book that seem very neutral, nonthreatening and almost positive. All the while, these terms mask draconian, horrific and barbaric rituals. I think a big message of this book is that euphamisms can be used as propaganda. People condone actions that they wouldn't normally condone because the euphamisms soften the messy harsh realities.

I find it interesting that some people were offended by the book and claimed it was too pro-life! I thought the book was very pro-choice. The author set up a world with abortion being illegal and the world being over-run with unwanted babies, who were discarded on random porches or put into massive institutions where teenagers were gotten rid of to make room for the mass influx of new babies. The message sometimes seemed to me that if you made abortion illegal, then the population would explode and children would be neglected and devalued to the point that people would sell their teenage children to organ harvesters because they needed the money or the kids were too inconvenient or annoying. There is no mention of illegal abortions or mandatory sterilization of undesireables.
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Comments (showing 1-18 of 18) (18 new)

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Pandora Actually while I was reading Unwind I was trying to decide if Shusterman was pro-choice or pro-life. In the end I felt he was like the military officer in the middle. Not comfortable with abortion and yet at the same time reconginzing without it there would be too many unwanted babies. Like the military officer I think Shusterman is hoping a more reasonable compromise could be made between the two sides - such as the middle ground people who recoginzed the true goal should be reducation of unwanted pregencies.

Of course this could be me the reader reading into his writing my own postion.


Arlene I know exactly what scene you are talking about! I beleive it's the Roland scene at the end, right? OMG! I can't get that out of my head either and it's been 4 days!!!


Clickety Hahaha! I bet that's it. I loved that scene - it reminded me of the X bit in A Wrinkle in Time.

Also, I found the CyTy confrontation/confession very powerful too. Disturbing, definitely, but that's part of what made this work so memorable.


Heather I can't get that scene out of my mind either. I feel so drained and disgusted by it. I hope it doesn't haunt my dreams.


message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

I wholly agree that the scene where Roland is being unwound doesn't have much detail but that's also what makes it that much more traumatic due to the fact that you register the situation yourself, especially when it went through Roland's slowly deteriorating sense of being there. Also, it made me wonder what actually happened to the soul. Especially with the CyTy situation.


Wicked Incognito Now One of the reasons that I love this book is that it doesn't come down firmly on either side of the pro-life pro-choice debate!!

I was so confused when I began reading this, trying to decide which soapbox lecture I was getting from the author. I finally figured out that the author was NOT saying that there is one right answer. The world is just not that black and white. The last lines in the book Connor says: "We have a right to a life!" "We have a right to make a choice about our bodies!" Those lines seem to say to me, directly from the author, that humanity is all about realizing there are no clear cut answers. We all have stories and reasons for doing what we do.


message 7: by Gwen (last edited Sep 11, 2010 10:20AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gwen I have already had that scene haunt me with a nightmare about a disembodied brain last night and it has been a few days!
The scenes were made all the more horrific and vivid by a wonderfully authentic sounding audio book narrator!

The way the nurse tried to soothe Roland while he was awake was unbelievable! Everything is going to be OK, don't worry about it... OMG.


Gwen I totally agree with you about "The power of euphamisms"


Brenna Agreed. I really think that this book is one of those books that just slaps you in the face. I read it almost 3 months ago and I can still basically recite the entire scene you were referring to.


message 10: by Gwen (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gwen It's too bad that some readers won't give this book a chance. When pro-life friends hear Unwind's topic they run for the hills so to speak and won't consider reading it. This experience is not what they think and they are missing out on a book that would really make them think, regardless of pro-life or pro-choice.
However, everyone is entitled to their own book choices. There is so little time considering how many excellent books are out there, this being one. Despite having nightmares, I am glad I read this thought provoking novel.


message 11: by Meke (new) - rated it 5 stars

Meke I just finished it last night (5am this morning actually) and I immediately wanted to read it again right then and there.


message 12: by Meke (new) - rated it 5 stars

Meke ETA: I can actually see how one could think the book was pro-life because pro-life people believe that abortion is killing a person and unwinding, which is presented as something horrible, is killing a person. I'm pro-choice, but the scene with Roland did make me consider my stance on abortion briefly. If I had to label the book I would call it "pro-bodily autonomy." But those lines, "We have a right to our lives. We have a right to our bodies." Those two lines are the core of the pro-life and pro-choice stances, respectively. Honestly, I think pro-life people would like this book more than pro-choice people because of the moral superiority of those who are against "retroactive abortion."


Jeanette Johnson I know exactly what part you are talking about..disturbing...


Robin Amrine The harvesting scene of Roland is one of the most disturbing written words I have ever read. As a mother, I am sick to my stomach and can't get the images out of my head. Very disturbing. I wish I hadn't read that part...


message 15: by Gwen (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gwen @Robin's comment "The harvesting scene of Roland is one of the most disturbing written words I have ever read."
I agree, but also one of the most powerful of any book scenes, a true testament to the power of the written word. I still think this brilliant book earns 5 stars. It could well be assigned reading for college ethics discussions, don't you think?


Robin Amrine Definitely! I teach 7th and 8th graders and I spend more time reading YA books then "grown up" books. I am always looking for compelling stories to discuss with my students. This book is on my must read list for 8th graders, but I would want parents to be aware of the harvesting scene. I think what struck me (and what is haunting me now) is the complete helplessness of Roland after all his bluster and bullying. The clinical nature of the harvesting of a conscious child is such a raw, chilling statement of how society in Unwind views humanity.


Robin Amrine Definitely! I teach 7th arnd 8th graders and I spend more time reading YA books then "grown up" books. I am always looking for compelling stories to discuss with my students. This book is on my must read list for 8th graders, but I would want parents to be aware of the harvesting scene. I think what struck me (and what is haunting me now) is the complete helplessness of Roland after all his bluster and bullying. The clinical nature of the harvesting of a conscious child is such a raw, chilling statement of how society in Unwind views humanity.


message 18: by Gwen (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gwen Agree with you Robin. A pretty heavy read for 8th graders! Might be traumatic for some.


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