When I read Unwind in 2009, I had no clue it was going to be a series. The book was published in 2007 and the story seemed to end on the final page. At least, I felt like Connor and his friends would keep fighting and surviving even if I wasn’t reading along with them.
Then in 2012 I saw Unwholly on the new books cart. I was skeptical – was Shusterman just cashing in on the “YA series” craze? Could the story still be as powerful in a second time?
I was not disappointed, with Unwholly, Unsouled, and Undivided raising even more questions and issues. It was the kind of Science Fiction I loved – one that takes ethical dilemmas we are dealing with right now and throwing them to an extreme, but an extreme that doesn’t seem too far off (as Shusterman regularly points out by including actual articles from the past few years, complete with URL information in case you wanted to follow up).
The Unwind Dystology, as it has come to be known/marketed, is the story of the near future. After the Heartland War, a war that came about because of the abortion debate, a truce of sorts was reached – parents had until the age of 18 to decide if they wanted their child or not. If a parent no longer wanted a child, they could be unwound, a process by which the body parts are extracted and sent somewhere to be used. No waste, the child is technically still “alive” but their body is being “put to good use”. Connor Lassiter makes several mistakes and pushes his parents to the point that they feel he should be unwound. Connor manages to escape from the transport when he takes a hostage, Levi Calder. Levi is a tithe from a very religious family who has been raised to be unwound as a sacrifice. While on the run, they also meet Risa Ward, a girl from a state orphanage who is being sent to be unwound because the government can no longer support the funding.
There is a WHOLE lot more to this story, especially now that it spans four book, but it is better to read it and experience it than me spoiling it for you. You will be confronted with issues like biomedical ethics, terrorism, politics, propaganda and more. I was on the edge of my seat, up until 2am reading the finale and it was worth it. The scene from that final page will stay with me. Actually, there are several moments from this series that will haunt me.
A recent Huffington Post article compares it to The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins, though I would not pit the two against each other. While both have to do with the aftermath of war and it’s effects on the next generation, Collins and Shusterman are focusing on completely different issues beyond that.
This is a must-read series for anyone over the age of 16. There is SO much to discuss here. And while the last two books falter a little bit (I think Shusterman could probably has published a HUGE third book and gotten away with it but he clearly had one too many ideas he wanted to get down so the fourth book came to be as he hashed out the details) this series is one of THE BEST SCIENCE FICTION SERIES.