Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Peas in the Pages: Neal Shusterman's Unwind

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

     This is one of those books that reached me via word of mouth, borrowed from a friend. If I'd seen it on the shelves of the chain-bookstores, the memory didn't stick. But there's no unsticking Unwind from your memory once you've read it. And here's why: To put it plainly... the premise is awesome
     The idea that a child can be unwound -- "retroactively aborted" so not "technically" ending life {the explanation of all that is quite something} -- at any time between the ages of thirteen and eighteen... It was fascinating and horrifying. {Not the only bit of fascinatingly horrifying concepts to crop up in this book, either... *the Clappers, she references with a shiver*}.
The three main characters, Connor, Risa and Lev, all have widely different journeys to take through this book, yet the cause for those journeys is the same: the Unwinding. The characters add greatly to the book's already rich depth. Their stories: as unique and individual as the characters themselves. The plot: weaving, twisting, and downright enthralling. The directions Shusterman takes you are unexpected and breath-caught-in-your-throat exciting. It is, in this voracious reader's opinion, a standout. One that sticks with you long after you've put it down. It's easily one of my favorite and oft-recommended {in the same breath as Hunger Games} books. 
     Next time you're perusing the bookshelves, take notice. Pick it up. Read the first chapter. I dare you to put it down and be able to forget it. 
     {But not actually. Read the whole thing. It's worth it. Besides, you won't be able to put it down}.

     Unwind by Neal Shusterman is a book that took me by surprise. It is a high stakes dystopic adventure that left me wanting to inform everyone I know that they have to read this book. Shusterman paints a picture of a post pro-life and pro-choice society where parents not only abandon unwanted children at birth, but they sign their rights away to children who are troubled or troublesome and tithe their tenth born children as a gesture of faith. Published in 2007, Unwind remains a fresh voice in the current over-crowded dystopic market. To say it is a favorite young adult book would be understating the point. It is one of my top five favorite books of any genre and of all time. 
     The protagonist Conner is an immediately empathetic character--a runaway set to be unwound by his own parents in this not-so-distant alternate future where, by law, parents may retroactively abort their children between the ages of thirteen and eighteen. Those contracted for unwinding will have their body parts and organs bought and/or distributed. Conner's strong narrative is intertwined with the voices of Risa and Lev, kids from very different circumstances than Conner's own. Risa doesn't exhibit the extraordinary skills required of the perfection-seeking adoptive parent pool at the orphanage. Lev was born to his family with the intent of being unwound as a tithe. Running from the authority, Conner's life intersects with Risa's and Lev's during a highway accident that propels the three of them on an thrilling, page-turning, and thought-provoking adventure. In a stroke of genius by Shusterman (and my favorite element of the book) thier stories are joined by an incredibly effective floating fourth point-of-view that represents the collective--informing, entertaining, allowing the reader to experience unwinding, and resonating far after the last page is turned. 
     I can't stay objective or rave enough about Unwind. And I'm over word count so I'll just say one last thing, read it.

      This will come as no surprise, and if it does then you don't know me very well, but I love to read. I'm not an elitist when it comes to books. I'm a card-toting omnivore. I'm willing to read anything that can grab and hold my attention for more than twenty pages. (Yes, I said twenty pages. If a story hasn't given me some kernel of "Wow, this could be really good" by then, I usually drop it for the next book in line. Sad, but true.) There are books I can remember reading from years ago with the same sort of fondness that one has for cupcakes. You know what I mean, the Warm Fuzzies, the "Oh, yeah. That was good. Wish I could find that again" kind of feeling. 
     But there are few books that stick with me for very long. Most fade over a few days or even months. Only a handful lingers like ghosts in an attic. Books such as Mary Shelley's FRANKENSTEIN, Oscar Wilde's THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY, Elizabeth George Speare's THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND, and most recently, Neal Shusterman's UNWIND.
I'm not going to give you a rundown of UNWIND's plot. That can easily be found on countless sites around the internet. No, I want to tell you why this book has earned a place on my Keeper shelf. (And, by the way, I own two copies of it--one in e-book form, which I read originally, and a hardcover edition for the actual Keeper shelf. Only a handful of books receive this multiple copy honor, but that's a different matter. Moving on...) 
     Aside from the great storytelling, masterful character arcs, and thought-provoking plot, UNWIND has something few books today can claim: resonance. A deep, rich, yet subtle element that draws the reader closer, lulls them with a siren's song, and while they're distracted, it worms its way into their brains and carves out a forever home. Resonance in fiction tears at your heart, makes you rethink your world, makes you identify with each character and every plot shift. Shusterman does that beautifully in UNWIND. 
     When I finished reading--no, devouring the story of Connor, Risa, and Lev, I felt as though I'd been with these teens every step of their journey. I identified with their isolation, their desperation, their desires, their triumphs and sacrifices. Whether I'd personally dealt with similar feelings was irrelevant. Shusterman made me feel theirs and their emotions became mine. 
     This is resonance. 
     This is the indefinable element that every author strives to capture, concentrate, and weave through their stories. 
     This is why I always recommend UNWIND to anyone who asks me "Have you read any good books lately?" Yes, I've read others since reading UNWIND, but none have made a forever home on my Keeper shelf.

     Next week, another joint pea effort. Game Pod: Destruction...er...I mean...Dissection. *grin* What does that mean? You'll have to return next week to see!

     Peas Out.


  1. Well. You two said it better than I did. I'm smacking my head over here thinking "yes! THAT'S what I meant to say!" to literally all of it.

  2. Lol I don't know... I'm not the best book reviewer. It's a learning curve. Maybe by this time next year we'll both be better at it!

  3. I find it interesting that both Jeannie and I used the term resonance. Just throwing that out there. :)

  4. The trick is not to think of it as a "review." Think of it as a "recommendation." In other words, what would you tell me or some random stranger why they should read this book.

  5. Also, resonance is an awesome term...and great minds think alike in the Pod. ;)

  6. I'm so glad we have this blog comment box to talk to each other...I like to imagine our imaginary readers reading them and feeling the Pea Love.

  7. Wow. I have never even heard of this book but I will rush out and obtain it soonest! It is available on audio (which I am able to get to quicker due to my long commute to work) and has a favorite reader of mine, the same reader that did Kevin Hearne's Iron Druid Trilogy. Yay! Can't wait. Thanks for the reviews - you are all BRILLIANT!! I have always felt that the purpose of a review is to make me want to read a book not to just retell the plot as so many seem to do. And you have all marvelously succeeded in this, so Yay Peas!!

  8. Yay! A reader!! Lock the door! Don't let her out!

    Uh, I mean, glad to know our brainwashing--uh, recommendation--yeah, that's what I meant--was successful. ;)

  9. Loved it as well, guys. Thanks, Michelle, for letting me borrow it.

  10. Oh, and I forgot--the unwinding scene of the "other" kid (can't remember his name now) was amazing, disturbing, and unforgettable. It's still with me now. Well, um, except for the kid's name :)

  11. Hey M!! Maybe Gary has your copy?? lol