Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Book Review: Unwind

By Neil Shusterman

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.

Why I read it: I saw this book highly recommended on several blogs. Dystopia is my favourite genre, and since this book deals with an alternate form of abortion, I was really interested to see how Shusterman deals with such a tricky subject.

What I liked: I’m strongly pro-life, and while Shusterman doesn’t exactly go out and say ‘abortion is wrong’ this story does a wonderful job of showing the horrors of ‘unwinding’—getting rid of a teen by taking them apart and giving all their body parts to someone who needs a transplant. It has a great message: a person is a person, whether or not they’re useful to society. The best scene of the book is where someone is getting unwound. It’s not gory at all, but it’s just horrifying. It’s one of those scenes that will haunt me for a long time.

The world building was also fairly believable. While I was sometimes annoyed by how little society had progressed in some ways (they still use cell phones and cars, for instance) the effects of the Unwinding law were well realized. There’s a process called ‘storking’ which lets young mothers get rid of their unwanted kids, and then there’s the religious people who now ‘tithe’ their children. All in all, this book is mainly about the issue of Unwinding, but there are so many aspects to it.

What I disliked: First off, I’ll say that I really wanted to like this book. But when I started reading it… I just couldn’t. The writing drove me nuts. It’s written in third person from several different POVs, which I normally like, but it was also written in present tense, which totally didn’t work. It just felt so very awkward. I like present tense when it’s first person, but with third person it was very jarring. He also had an annoying habit of jumping back and forth, skimming over important parts and telling them later… In short, I couldn’t connect to the narrative at all.

Also, this was a book with very strong characters that I just didn’t connect with like I wanted. While I quite liked all the characters, how they were good sometimes but just so flawed, they felt so distant. I think this was the fault of the third person present tense narrative, not the characters themselves. So, basically, the characters were great, but the narrative style made them hard to connect with.

From a Christian Perspective: There was a little bit of swearing, a couple kisses and some minor violence, but nothing terribly bad. In fact, I think Shusterman did a wonderful job of writing a book that deals with gritty subjects without too much explicit content.

While his portrayal of religion certainly isn’t all favourable, I thought it was fair. Some religious people were bigoted and blind to the evil things they were doing, while others came to realize that unwinding was murder and so they tried to stop it.

To buy or not to buy: I don’t think I’ll be buying this book because I just couldn’t stand the writing style. If I had liked the style, though, this would have been a must-buy. 

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