Unwind Teen Book Review

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Unwind is a dystopian thriller by Neal Shusterman that follows three teens on the run from a government that believes “unwinding,” or body harvesting, is an alternate solution to abortions and unwanted teens. Unwinding is also a choice for extremely religious families who want to tithe one of their teens. Although controversial in topic, this disturbing novel inspires deep thought about organ donation, abortion, and one’s personal right to make decisions regarding his or her body. This book is recommended for mature teens.

Story Overview

After America’s Second Civil War between the pro-life and pro-choice factions, a compromise was reached and called The Bill of Life. In this bill, any teens between the ages of 13-18 who are troublemakers, a ward of the state, or a tithe could be “unwound”. In other words, their bodies could be harvested for organ donation in order to give others the opportunity for a better quality of life. To be unwound was to continue “living” through another human being.

Connor, Risa, and Lev are three teens who are scheduled to be “unwound”. Connor is seventeen and according to his parents a troublemaker. Risa is sixteen, a talented pianist and a ward of the state, but she isn't talented enough for them to keep her alive. Lev is thirteen and the tenth child of a religious family. He is proud to be a Tithe until an opportunity to run away is presented and his church pastor tells him to run.

Through unusual circumstances, the three teens find one another, but Connor and Risa are separated from Lev and are taken to the Graveyard, a hiding place for teens on the run. Eventually, all three are captured by the police and are escorted to the Happy Jack Harvest Camp. Now their goal is to find a way to escape and survive until they turn eighteen. Eighteen is the magic number, and if a teen on the run can survive until that golden age, he or she will no longer be a target for unwinding.

Author Neal Shusterman

Neal Shusterman is an award-winning author who has been writing books and screenplays for more than twenty-five years. When asked about his purpose in writing Unwind Shusterman responded, “Unwind intentionally does not take a side on any issue. My point was to point out the fact that there are two sides on all of these gray-area issues, and that’s part of the problem. You have to look at it from a different perspective.”

For more information about the author and his writing career, read Spotlight on Neal Shusterman.

The Unwind Dystology

Unwind is Book One in the Unwind Dystology. The complete Unwind Dystology includes the books Unwind, UnWholly, UnSouled and UnDivided. All the books are available in hardcover, paperback, e-book, and audio editions.

Review and Recommendation

Unwind is a classic study on the value of human life and personal choice. Who owns our bodies? Does the government have the right to determine whose life is more valuable over another? Although the storyline seems extreme, it is not unlike other classic novels such as 1984 and A Brave New World where the individual, in this case, teens, become subordinate to the state. However, in this story, the three teens are determined to fight back.

Without a doubt, Unwind is a disturbing read, but it is a thinking read. Questions about personal rights, especially teen rights, government power, and the sanctity of life flow through your mind as you read. Reading this book puts a new spin on organ donation and gives readers the opportunity to wrestle with difficult topics and think about their personal convictions on emotionally charged subjects. The publisher recommends this book for ages 13 and up. (Simon and Schuster, 2009. ISBN: 9781416912057)


“Interview with Author Neal Shusterman.” YA Highway.

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Kendall, Jennifer. "Unwind Teen Book Review." ThoughtCo, Sep. 8, 2021, thoughtco.com/unwind-by-neal-shusterman-626701. Kendall, Jennifer. (2021, September 8). Unwind Teen Book Review. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/unwind-by-neal-shusterman-626701 Kendall, Jennifer. "Unwind Teen Book Review." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/unwind-by-neal-shusterman-626701 (accessed June 4, 2023).