I finished Unwind by Neal Shusterman about a week ago and it's taken me this long to formulate my opinion of it. This book made me sick to my stomach, but not for the reasons you would think. It was both awe-inspiring and deeply disturbing. Shusterman isn't exactly known for pulling punches, but my jaw dropped so many times while reading Unwind that it was sore afterward.
The book deserves more than my typical one-sentence summary: In an undetermined future (the MC mentions his grandfather's use of iPods seen in an antique shop), the Second Civil War - fought between pro-life and pro-choice armies results in a haunting compromise: "a human life may not be touched from" conception. "However, between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, a parent may choose to retroactively 'abort' a child" through a process called "unwinding." Unwinding means the child is taken apart and used for parts. According to the law, as long as every part of the child goes on living, he/she's not dead. (Hey, I told you it was disturbing.) The MC, Connor, is a 16 year-old whose parents choose to unwind him due to the trouble (fights) he gets in to. He finds out and runs away, inadvertently taking two other Unwinds with him.
As unsettling as this world is, I really think (if you can stomach it) you should read this book! If you don't have a visceral - or maybe even a physical - reaction to it, you must have no pulse. It doesn't matter if you are pro-choice or pro-life, it will force you to look at the subject from a new angle. I saw some chatter arguing about which side of the debate Shusterman intended this book to support, but I think the fact that both sides can claim it proves he only intended to start the conversation. For me, he succeeded royally. My mind is still reeling a week later.
At first, I thought it unbelievable Americans would allow this to become "a common, and accepted practice in society." Well into the book, you find out that the idea of unwinding was initially meant as a joke - to shock both sides into seeing reason. It's like that story in the Bible where King Solomon offers two women fighting over a baby the compromise of cutting the baby in half. Only if Shusterman had written it, the women would have agreed to the compromise. One of the most telling lines in this conversation is "people let it happen." Watch the evening news for an hour and you'll see it's not that big a jump. So many debates about a certain issue devolve into a situation where each side's hate for the other becomes stronger than their devotion to the original idea.
The one thing I did have a hard time believing was how easily parents like Connor's signed the unwind orders. Throughout the book, he reflects on memories from his childhood and you discover that his parents are not terrible. In fact, they're pretty normal and loving parents. I don't care how "acceptable" unwinding has become, I can't see parents like these sending their kid off to die (you know these people don't actually believe that BS about the kid still being alive in pieces) for doing something like getting into a few fights at school.
The story is gripping and the circumstances are high enough that you will be biting your fingernails at several points. My one criticism is the lack of advanced technology. It seems the only advances that have been made are medical - and those are astound. I have to give any book that entrances me and disturbs me this much 5 stars.