UnWholly- Neal Shusterman

I know I’ve mentioned a thousand times how much I liked Unwind  by Neal Shusterman and how it is such a good and awesome book and it will make you think and feel and why haven’t you read it yet?  Well, when I finished Unwind, I was content in thinking there would be no sequel.  However, in writing my review, I discovered that this would indeed be yet.another.trilogy.  Ok, fine, I thought.  I will read UnWholly when it comes out and I might be disappointed by another middle book in trilogy (Insurgent, I am looking at you).

So I approached UnWholly with some caution.  And I probably didn’t need to.  UnWholly is all kinds of good and thought-provoking.  Shusterman is an author who turned his book into a trilogy because he had more to say and more issues to explore (eugenics!  black market organs!), not because he (or a publisher) wanted to stretch his one story over three books to make more money.  This is something I can applaud and endorse wholeheartedly.

We are brought back to the crazy world in which ending a life is illegal from conception until 13 years of age, but between ages 13 and 16 (the age limit was lowered after the mess at Happy Jack Harvest Camp) unwinding unruly and unwanted teens is legitimate and necessary in order to sustain a medical system which is able to transplant any and all organs.  We get to see what Connor, Risa, and Lev are up to these days, but we are also introduced to some new characters– Camus Comprix, a human made entirely of other people’s harvested organs, Starkey, a storked baby who is enraged at the lesser treatment of storks, Miracolina, a tithe who has made peace with becoming a sacrifice to God, and a so-called parts-pirate, who abducts runaway unwinds or unfortunate teens for sale on the black market.

I don’t want to spoil this book for those of you who have yet to read Unwind, but I will say you learn a little more about why the Unwind Accords were struck up, why parents and the government were able to turn a blind eye towards their troubled young people.  You also get a glimpse of the future, of what could be possible if teens banded together to fight against the system instead of hide from it.  You also get to see more nefarious sides of organ harvesting… like the boy made up of other people’s body parts– what sort of humanity does he have?  Is he as much a victim of this system as the unwinds themselves are?  And you get a glimpse into the black market of organ harvesting, which is as much or if not more disturbing than government-sanctioned unwinding.

We also get the perspective of another deeply troubled unwind like we did with Roland in Unwind.  I almost can understand the justification for unwinding these youthful psychopaths.  Shusterman deals in the shades of gray, and his portrayal of the varying troubledness of unwinds just clouds the issue even further.  Can we justify killing off the most dangerous/sick members of our society?  If so, what happens when their organs are transplanted into others?  Does that evil live on in their body parts?

If you haven’t given this series a try, I’d highly recommend it.  Shusterman will challenge you to think, question your black-and-white positions on divisive issues like abortion and genetic research and at the same time give you characters you will root for and ones you will cringe at.  There is such complexity to the characters, world, and issues in this book that it has quickly become one of my favorite dystopian series out there.

TGIF: Best of 2012 (Part I)

image courtesy of greads.com

TGIF at GReads is a fun feature for recapping the week’s posts (I don’t have any because this is the first post back after a little hiatus) and answering a book-blogging question posed by Ginger.

This week the question is: Best I’ve Read So Far: We’re half way through the year (crazy how time flies!), which top 3 books are the best you’ve read so far this year?

Unwind by Neal Schusterman– This is probably my favorite dystopia read and was one of those books that dealt with big issues like organ transplants and abortion in a balanced, smart way.  I loved that everything was shades of gray, there were no good answers, and that we got to see the bad teenagers find the good in themselves.  Also, very good audio!

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell– Such a delightful rom-com of a book!  The characters are spot-on.  You will want to befriend them all.  It’s the sort of book that I kick myself for checking out of the library.  I know I’ll want to revisit it!!

The Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness– This might be the only set of books that I’ve actually pushed people in my real life to read this year.  They’re just that good!

What are some of your favorite reads of the year?  What book should I not wait another minute to get to?

Unwind- Neal Shusterman

Unwind cover

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.

Thanks for the Recommendation:
The Librarian Who Doesn’t Say Shhh listed this as one of her favorite dystopians and that is why I picked it up.  Her review can be found here.