Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

Book:  Unwind
Author:  Neal Shusterman
Publisher:  Simon & Schuster
Year:  2007
Grade:  A++

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.

My Review

Holy horrific future, Batman!!!!  This novel left me speechless.  It was riveting, disturbing, action-packed and thought-provoking.  Like “Schindler’s List”, this is one of those experiences that will never leave you.  I am positive that I will think of this novel for years to come.  There will be scenes that will never leave my brain.

Nor should they.

The most disturbing part of this novel is that I can imagine a world in which this actually comes to be.  After all, if our world can allow the Holocaust to happen, the genocides of Bosnia and the Sudan, why would this unwinding concept be so hard for people to accept?  Even in our own country, we have people killing doctors in the name of life and people clamoring to try juveniles as adults and sentence them to death.  Why not just unwind them instead?

Obviously, I’m not serious, but this novel gives one pause to think. 

I read this novel as part of my YA lit assignment.  I had to choose a novel that had been challenged or banned.  This novel was challenged in Montgomery County, Kentucky during the 2009-2010 school year.  It was removed from classroom use and the approved reading list, but was retained in the school library.  It was challenged by a group of parents who asked for the removal of five novels because of what they felt was offensive content.  They claimed that the novels, including “Unwind”, were not suitable for discussion in a coed high school class and that the novels were not rigorous enough for a college prep course of study.  The superintendent removed it because it was not on the pre-approved curriculum list.

This book was a starred review from School Library Journal and was recommended by Library Media Connection.  It also received very favorable reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and Library Journal.  It was also named a YALSA Quick Pick in 2008, which is a list of books for reluctant readers.  It was a recipient of the Sakura Medal for Middle School Book in 2009 and was a nominee for the Florida Teens Read award in 2009.

I am having a hard time trying to figure out why this book was challenged as being offensive.  Obviously, everyone should be offended at the idea of adolescents being
“unwound” and harvesting their body parts.  But we should all be offended by the Holocaust and students still read about that.  Book burnings are offensive to me, yet I still read “Farenheit 451”.  Students also read “Lord of the Flies”, “1984”, and “The Jungle”.  If something is disturbing and offensive to us, it is also thought-provoking.  “Unwind” is definitely disturbing, offensive and thought-provoking.

Which makes it a great novel for discussion.

I think that the parents that challenged this book were parents who don’t want their kids exposed to any ideas that are different from the ones they are taught at home.  This book is a great choice for a college prep class because it would be a very fast novel to read, yet it could inspire deep thinking and debate.  Students would have to examine so many issues while discussing this book.  It would be perfect for a Paideia or Socratic seminar.

This is a book that will stay with me for a very long time.  I could only hope that one of my daughter’s teachers would choose to teach this book.  After all, education should be all about food for thought.  Neal Shusterman has provided a feast with “Unwind.”

I gave this book an A++.  This book was amazing.  On a side note, I did find out that there is a sequel planned for this book called “Unwholly” with an expected publication date in 2012.  That piece of news made my whole week!

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