It had me in pieces – ‘Unwind’ By Neal Shusterman

Dystopian novels are all the rage at the moment.  Here is one my favourites from 2008.  This review was first posted on Amazon in Oct 2009.

It never ceases to amaze me how many wonderful books there are in the world that almost nobody has heard of. ‘Unwind’ is a novel that deserves a place on every bestseller list, yet the copy I bought from my local bookshop was stuck in dark corner, mouldering in the shadows.

This is a visceral thriller that explodes out of the blocks and maintains a frenetic pace all the way through to its startling conclusion. The premise does seem rather far fetched – After a Pro Life v Pro Choice war, abortion is abolished. Instead parents (or the state) can choose to have any 13-17 year old ‘Unwound’ – A medical process whereby all a child’s body parts are disconnected and used for transplants. Strictly speaking, the unwound victim never dies. Surely it could never happen?

Well, hopefully not, but Shusterman’s cleverly constructed tale, highlights the perils of fanaticism and leaves the reader with the uneasy feeling, that such a preposterous suggestion is only a couple of arguments and a few scientific breakthroughs away. There are several strands to the story, each exploring the premise from a different angle and each thread is knitted seamlessly with the others. No event, no matter how small, is incidental to the plot, and the novel’s finale cleverly reveals surprise after surprise.

The final chapters are powerful and thought provoking – one in particular is perfectly delivered and incredibly sad. ‘Unwind’ does what every good novel should – it challenges its readers’ preconceptions, and continually forces us to ask questions about the world in which we live. Shusterman is careful never to let his allegories slip into preaching, or allow them to detract from the novel’s excitement. From start to finish ‘Unwind’ is unputdownable, and I urge you to cancel your weekend plans and pick it up now.


4 thoughts on “It had me in pieces – ‘Unwind’ By Neal Shusterman

  1. Hi Robin!
    First of all I completely agree with your take on the third Hunger Games. I finished it at about 3am and sat there, stunned for a while. “Really?” I thought to myself, “was that IT?”
    But on a dystopian link I was hoping I could borrow an extract from your Shusterman review. I’m saving our copies from spine-on oblivion and building an ‘If You Like You’ll Love’ display with Shusterman in [semi] pride of place. May I borrow your words? I swear I’ll give them back!

    1. Hi Lizzie,
      You may, of course, borrow my words. Let me know when your display is up and I’ll come and have a look. When I worked for Waterstone’s 6 or 7 years ago, I had my very own dystopian table… it’s been a specialisation of mine for a long time, so feel free to drop me a line if you are ever in any need of any end-of-the-world banter!


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