C.G. Drews's Reviews > Unwind

Unwind by Neal Shusterman
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it was amazing
bookshelves: young-adult, dystopian, horror, 5-star, ya-male-narrators

This is the most disturbing book I’ve ever read.

I'm torn here, struggling whether to recommend this book or shout to you never to pick up this book because you will not sleep again! I mean it! This is a horror, thriller dystopian and I cannot say (loud enough) that this is not a book for everyone. I don’t often stereotype books by saying “if you like this-and-that then you will love this book”. I believe you need to read a book before you can say you hate it. But, honestly, I think you need to be aware that this is a horror before you go into it. It’s about ethical issues, speculative future, war, abortion, death, consciousness, human thinking and the never ending issue of life. When does life start? When does it end? And who should be allowed to end it?

The book is full of real questions – questions people ask today and struggle to come up with answers. There’s a lot of speculation about abortion and life choices. At first I struggled to figure out if the author was for or against abortion. Now I realize, I struggled to figure it out because the author was careful to write, with detail and precision, both sides to the story. There are always 2 sides in a story. A writer’s job is to listen to both and then write a good book about it.

Instead of aborting unborn children, this futuristic government has made laws to protect their lives. Instead, a child – between the ages of 13 and 18 – can be unwound. Unwinding is like organ donating. They take your organs and give them to people who need them – cancer patients, car-accident victims, sick, mangled or disease ridden people. The question in the book is: what value is whose life? Yes, I worded that right. Can your life have different value depending on who you are, who loves you, what you’ve done, if anyone actually wants you the way you are? We can laugh and shrug off those kind of questions, but, in this day and age, I think it’s a real thing. And if you think this book is based entirely on speculation: you’re wrong. Unwinding does happen. Illegally. But it has been known to happen. This book is just about a world where it’s legal.

Another theme that runs through the story is the phrase: “Someone else’s problem”. Stop and think about that for a second, eh? After you read this book, you will never (I repeat, never) say that phrase again. No matter what you do, hoisting a “problem” off to someone else will never solve anything.

I have to add in here, too, that the writing of this book is brilliant. It’s written in present-tense-third-person, which is something new for me. Considering I want to write a little like that, I was excited to try it out. While it’s awkward at first, after you grow used to it you forget it’s different to past-tense. The flow of sentences, the dialogue, the humour, the plot, the character development: it’s perfect. I don’t say that lightly. The author hooked me in with his brilliant, real characters. Next his style of writing. Then his plot. Then the themes of his book. Between all that, there was no way I could avoid some serious thinking.

That’s what I love about this book. It makes you think. About unwanted children, and futuristic governments, and the horror of mind-manipulation. One thing that really struck with me was the unwanted children part. So many children are unwanted. In our day-and-age, babies are aborted. Why? Because they’re unwanted. So what happens when a child grows up unwanted and turns into societies’ “problem”? Whose fault is that? How do we treat them? This book throws questions in your face and demands you think about them. I think that’s the mark of a true, talented author. Don’t feed a reader the story. Lay it out before them, blunt and cold and cruel, and say “Now think about it.” A book that makes you think is one of the best books of all.

I loved the characters (Connor and Risa best of all; Lev kind of annoyed me until the end). They were real and tangible and they developed with such ease that I was left feeling gobsmacked. The author has an implicit way with crafting characters. And the plot was breathtaking – full of twists and turns. You’re always getting surprises. Description? It wasn't so much the description, but what wasn't described that left you reeling. And the ending…saying it was brutal and torturous and so effortlessly written would be an understatement. As you read, you may think it’s not that “horrific”. The ending will change your mind. You will be moved. You will be challenged. You will cry (if not outside, inside).

This is a disturbing book. It will play in your mind for days. But you know what? I think books like these are important – extremely important. If people are just fed interesting (but light) books, where they don’t have to work or think or question moral values – how will people be aware of the issues in the world today?

It’s so intensely important to think for yourself.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
September 26, 2012 – Shelved
July 3, 2013 – Shelved as: young-adult
July 3, 2013 – Shelved as: dystopian
July 3, 2013 – Shelved as: horror
July 30, 2013 – Shelved as: 5-star
November 17, 2016 – Shelved as: ya-male-narrators

Comments Showing 1-18 of 18 (18 new)

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Morgan GREAT REVIEW. I could not agree more with everything you said. My brain to this day cannot handle this book! But that's the reason it's so great. Every bit of it had wheels in my head turning and the whole plot was too real for me. The scary part was, I could see the world coming to these conclusions. GAH! Fabulous review!!!

message 2: by Amy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Amy Lou I need this book. As in, right now. I LOVE horror, and books that make me think are my favorite. I will probably end up catatonic and (even worse) in a reading slump. I WANT.

Amanda Beguerie Okay, Cait, I know this review is from 2012, BUT YOU PUT THIS SO PERFECTLY. I just finished this book last night (a little too late in the night, but WHO CARES IT WAS WORTH IT) and GAH your thoughts on this are so well-put and I 100% agree. Everything in this book needed to be put forth, to cause us to THINK, and really think about what life is. <3 Thank youuuuuuu!

C.G. Drews @Amanda: YAY I'M GLAD YOU LIKED MY REVIEW!! Although I'm secretly dying because I wrote this sooooo long ago. Bahaah. xD I actually really want to re-read it and finish the series. 4 years is enough to recover from how traumatised this book left me....right? #crying

Amanda Beguerie HAHA that's funny. Don't die. xD You still wrote fabulously 4 years ago. I badly need the next books - they're pretty inexpensive on Amazon so HAAAAALELUJAH FOR NOT EMPTY BANK ACCOUNTS.

Asmos If you need four years between each book of the series, you're in for a very long ride because it's not getting any easier as the story goes on.

C.G. Drews @Amanda: ahHHH GOOD LUCK WITH THEM!! I hope your feels survive.

@Asmos: I'm prepared to finish this series when I'm....84, probably.

message 8: by Jaydyn (new) - added it

Jaydyn |Between the Bindings| This is one of the most informative and interesting reviews I've read in a while! Thank you for making me want to read this :)

message 9: by Dorreh (new) - added it

Dorreh Okay your review is probably one of the best I have ever read! Your review makes me think about thoughts I might have while reading this book.

message 10: by C.G. (new) - rated it 5 stars

C.G. Drews @Jaydyn: Oh thank you!!

@Dorreh: Omg *blushes* that means so much thank you!

@Kristin: I seriously need to reread it and finish the series, right?!

Asmos Cait (Paper Fury) wrote: "@Amanda: ahHHH GOOD LUCK WITH THEM!! I hope your feels survive.

@Asmos: I'm prepared to finish this series when I'm....84, probably."

I'm probably the same age when they decide to translate the fourth book to German, so we will probably finish the series more or less at the same time.

Christine Wonderful review! You make a lot of good points. I haven't thought about this book in a long time, and you just reminded me how much I loved it. This is still my favorite dystopian series all these years later.

Dark Sith Lordette Jennymort ♔ Awesome review chica! I didn't realize at first that I already had this on my tbr when I clicked that button so fast that I almost broke my mouse. Sheesh. *shivers*

Lawrence Great review!!

Sarah This is probably the best review I've ever read! Thank you for voicing all he thoughts inside my head, that I just couldn't formulate. You are correct in every single way about this book. It is my all times favourite book. THANK YOU

Nurni (Leave What's Heavy Behind) Wait. Did you say... "unwinding does happen?"
I think you just hurt me.

Christy Oh my gosh. So I just rated this one star, but it's because I'm very, very fresh in my trauma. This book had the most (not graphic?) disturbing scene of any book I've ever read. I'm still physically ill about some of the description and it was several hours ago that I finished. This review is spot on. I may change my rating once the trauma has subsided.

Vicky You should read The V Girl, is as disturbing or more than this book. Two very underrated YA dystopias that read more like quality adult fiction.

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