by Neal Shusterman
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Connor, Risa, and Lev are running for their lives.
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.
"Characters live and breathe; they are fully realized and complex, sometimes making wrenching difficult decisions. This is a thought-provoking, well-paced read that will appeal widely." School Library Journal, starred review
"[A] gripping, brilliantly imagined futuristic thriller...could hardly be more engrossing or better aimed to teens." Publishers Weekly, starred review
"[A] nail-biting, character-driven thriller." Horn Book magazine
In a perfect world everything would either be black or white, right or wrong, and everyone would know the difference. But this isn’t a perfect world. The problem is people who think it is.
Wow. I don’t know what I expected….but it certainly wasn’t that. I wasn’t expecting a broken, tortured soul of a boy who would win my heart on page one. I didn’t expect a fast-paced plot. I didn’t expect disturbing and grotesque images that would haunt me forever. I didn’t expect a heartbreaking romance that would be exactly what I needed. I didn’t anticipate falling for all these flawed characters no matter their faults….and I certainly didn’t expect that I would immediately want to start book two. But guess what? I got all of these things. And there wasn’t a moment I didn’t want to be reading this book.
People aren’t all good, and people aren’t all bad. We move in and out of darkness and light all of our lives.
Is there a word for….HJhfjhfhdfhhfasdfjh? What would that be? Flabbergasted? Shocked? Bewildered? Extraordinary? Sure, this book wasn’t without it’s flaws. There were parts of it I didn’t even like. But I think that marks the work of a great book-that feeling when, even though there are little parts you wish you could skim, in the end, you are so enthralled by it you just. Don’t. Care. That’s right where I am. These characters really meant something to me. And yes, I know I know, I am always talking about how much I love characters in a book I’ve just read-but this is different. This was a case where, even if I hated certain characters, I ended up rooting for them in the end or feeling remorse for what happens to them. That doesn’t happen with me…EVER. If I hate a character, I hate them. End of story.
The better to run. The better to hide. The better to lose himself now that darkness is his friend.
But what happens when the boy who annoyed the shit out of me becomes someone who I couldn’t stand losing? What about the guy who, despite causing PROBLEM AFTER PROBLEM, broke my heart because he deserved so much better? And then there’s Connor and Risa-their story, while not a main plot point, had me so enraptured that I couldn’t see straight while I had to reside in ‘the real world’. These characters meant something to me-and not just on the surface-they touched me deeply and I cared about what happened to them to the bottom of my soul. This book was deep-it only fits that my feelings reflect that amount of depth.
Unwinds didn’t go out with a bang-they didn’t even go out with a whimper. They went out with the silence of a candle flame pinched between two fingers.
And how does someone explain this book? It’s dark. It’s gritty. It’s disturbing as fuck. There’s a chilly detachment that isn’t often seen in YA stories. Parents sign their kids’ lives away just to get rid of a ‘problem child’ or just because they didn’t want another member in their family. And that, to me, is the creepiest part. Once you sign?? No negotiations-Your child is now due to be cut up into pieces for the betterment of the world. Someone’s lungs are no good? Awesome!!! We just removed a perfectly healthy left lung today! SOLD to the highest and most eligible bidder! It literally is that cold. Your son is misbehaving? Time for the juvey cops to come pick him up and transport him to the harvest camp of your choice! Let’s name the camps something uplifting (or retarded) like ‘Happy Jack’. Perfection! Now kids won’t be scared as their numbered days wind down (hardy har har) and they lose themselves piece by piece by piece.
Now, while I could go on and on and on about how creepy this whole process is, I think I need to move on to my favorite part of this story: Connor! You surely KNEW I wasn’t going to skip gushing on my main man, right? If so, you are sadly mistaken. He was loyal. He was sad. He was determined. He would do anything to keep Risa (and even Lev) safe. From the moment I opened this book, I knew I was going to have a deep-rooted connection to this guy, this poor boy who just can’t believe, despite his numerous fights and misbehaving, that his parents would sign him up to be unwound-and not even tell him about it!!!! As the story progressed, we got to see Connor become responsible for his actions and those around him. Some of the things he did were mistakes that might have changed the course of their journey for the worst, but one thing is consistent with his character: Every decision he made was with his heart. And that’s why I truly loved him. His fierce loyalty to Risa and those that couldn’t defend themselves was what broke my heart and kept me addicted to this book. Risa was a stubborn, determined little shit, but her hardheadedness was no match for that of Connor’s.
She takes her time, and seems more surefooted on the steps than she does on level ground. Connor tries to hold her arm to give her support, but she shakes him off, and throws him a nasty gaze. “If I want your help, I’ll ask. Do I look feeble to you?”
“Looks are deceiving,” she says. “After all, when I saw you, I thought you looked reasonably intelligent.”
And one thing I cannot stand is when a story is so amazing, but has horrible writing. Well, this wasn’t the case. I feel like excellent dystopian is so hard to find these days. It’s my favorite genre, yet I rarely read them-why is that? I’ll tell you why-so many authors think a fast pace and awesome plot are enough to excuse shaky or manipulative writing-but that’s not the case at all, and we see that here with this novel. I am super picky before I pick up dystopian anymore, and this is exactly why: I found this excellent, disturbingly realistic portrayal of a futuristic society I would NEVER want to be part of. And not one moment was dull, wasted, or drawn out. It was what it was-stark, harsh, and bleak. No questions, no bending the rules, just cold, hard statistics and surgeries. It was fast-paced and without long scenes that were unnecessary, and every character played a part-sometimes they played too well into the hand they were dealt, and it cost some of them their lives. What would that be like, to be punished for being who you are? You’re manipulative-so is the government. Beat that.
So, yeah. This book wasn’t without it’s flaws-I’d be lying if I said there were parts I didn’t like….but none of that compared to the overwhelming moments where I would cover my eyes and my mouth in horror, or when my heart would beat so fast it felt like I was losing breath-this book wasn’t without it’s butterflies…duh. I do so love a fantastic and bleak dystopian romance. This book will not be for everyone-of that I am certain. But, for those of you wanting to try something different? This is the book for you. And I assure everyone: Just when you think you know what’s going to happen and things couldn’t get any worse? You’re wrong. You bet your ass on that.