Neal Shusterman’s book is a dystopian thriller with a truly unique plot. In a future society, any unwanted children are “unwound,” which is just a socially acceptable way of saying “dissected.” This was brought on by a second Civil War, which was fought over reproductive rights. Unwinds are sent away to specific camps, known as Harvest Camps, until they are taken apart and sent off to hospitals. Their pieces are used primarily for transplants, however, amputees also make use of unwind parts. Unwinds are justified because, since their parts are still in use by living people, they are not technically dead.
The book’s main characters are Conner, Risa, and Lev. Conner is a 16-year-old troublemaker who finally proves too much for his parents to handle. Risa, who is 15-years-old, has been raised in an orphanage for her entire life. She has been chosen to be unwound because the orphanage is unable to care for all of the children living there, and they view Risa as not talented enough to keep. Lev is 13-years-old, the youngest age that an Unwind can be. He is a tithe, meaning that he was raised to become an Unwind.
The book’s setting transitions into several different places, such as the hometown of each character, a refugee camp, and a harvest camp, it details the escape and capture of the three main characters. Each setting fits in perfectly within the society that Unwind describes. The characters are perfectly molded, as well. Some are drones of the society, blindly following the rules as full advocates of the unwinding process. Others become fugitives, running away from being unwound. Still others, however few there may be, dedicate their lives to helping unwinds escape. One of my favorite parts of this book is that absolutely everything is relevant to the story. A small detail that seems to have no importance to the plot usually plays a big role in it somewhere down the line.
The character development in Unwind is excellent, as well. Connor matures greatly and begins thinking things through. In the end of the book, he takes on a position that requires much responsibility. Risa thinks less of herself and more of those around her, although she still remains very strategic in terms of survival. Lev undergoes the most character development of all. At the start of the novel, he is proud to be a tithe. However, towards the close of the book, he changes his mind completely, allowing himself to be manipulated by others. Thankfully, in the last few pages, he is finally able to form his own opinions without the influence of others.
The ending is undeniably satisfying, mostly due to the character development. Though it was intended to be a stand-alone, it is the first book in a now-completed trilogy.