After the Heartland War, the US’s second civil war fought over reproductive rights, an uneasy compromise is struck: no life may be intentionally ended from conception until the age of 13. Between the ages of 13 and 18, though, a child may be “unwound” at the discretion of his/her parents/guardians. Unwinds, as these children are called, are dissembled with all their organs being transplanted to different donors. Unwind is the story of three runaway unwinds: Connor, your typical angry and out-of-control teen, Risa, a ward of the state who isn’t talented enough to support to adulthood, and Lev, whose religious parents tithe him.
I listened to Unwind on audiobook, read by Luke Daniels. At first, I wasn’t too pleased with the reading of the book. Daniels has a bit of a forceful voice and it was starkly in contrast to my last audiobook (Matched which was read by the soft-spoken Kate Simses). However, as the book went on, I came to be more accepting. It was an incredibly harsh reality that these kids lived in and the strength and harshness of Daniels’s voice was absolutely appropriate. It just took a little getting used to. My only major complaint with the voice acting was some of the minority characters’ voices were a bit stereotypical. I’m not really sure that there is a good alternative to this when a character is described as speaking with a particular accent, but it irritated me a bit.
This may be one of my favorite dystopias. I loved the characters, I loved the world, I loved the big issues. All of the characters were really well-developed and were written in such a way that you knew/understood them. Connor, especially, grows up so much over the course of the book and becomes a strangely loveable character. He is the sort of kid who is always getting in fights, but is so noble and has such integrity, that you end up respecting him quite a bit. It was great, too, to see Risa discovering that she had much more potential than she was ever pegged with while living as a ward of the state. Lev makes many disastrous mistakes, yet always seems to make the right decision in the end. I couldn’t hate him, even when he was being reckless and destructive.
The point of view changes multiple times and you get to see in the heads of everyone from Connor, Risa, and Lev to a mob of unwinds to a random doctor, etc. That was actually a highlight of the story. I got a very complete picture of how unwinding had affected society because of the variety of perspectives.
Perhaps what I loved most about this book, though, was how the big issues were discussed. Unwinding is a response to a war over abortion and it turns out that there are NO WINNERS in this war. Unwanted children know that they are unwanted and unloved and feel unworthy. In one example in this story, an unwanted baby left on a doorstep (a practice called storking) is bounced from house to house to house until it finally dies from lack of care. On the other hand, though, the ending of a life is just as tragic as an unwanted life. Many of these unwinds are on the path to self-destruction anyways, but one lesson we learn in this story is that we don’t know the potential of a person and we will never know if that life is ended prematurely. There is no winner– kids lose out, parents lose out, society loses out. There is no good solution. Abortion, unwinding, unwanted children– it is only a matter of the lesser of evils, not a matter of a right way.
Definitely add this to your to-be-read list if you are a fan of dystopia. It is everything great about dystopias– great characters, an interesting world, and a frank discussion of a very divisive issue.