Wednesday, January 28, 2015

what we're reading wednesday: unwind (& sequels)

I recently finished a young-adult sci-fi (or dystopian maybe?) series that I've been working on for a couple years-- only just finished because the final book only just came out. There are 4 novels and a companion novella by Neal Shusterman-- Unwind, UnWholly, UnSouled, and UnDivided (and the novella is UnStrung).

I can't decide what I think of this series. It was very good, but I can't say that I loved it, because it was so disturbing. But I think I would recommend it BECAUSE it was so disturbing-- it was supposed to be.

The premise is as follows: sometime in the not-too-distant future (but several decades prior to the start of the series), the U.S. was ripped apart by a civil war fought over the issue of abortion. Part of the treaty included the Unwind Accord-- a law which made abortion illegal, but allowed parents to choose to "unwind" their teenage offspring. "Unwinding" means that all the teen's organs are harvested and distributed to those who medically need them (which technology had recently made possible), with the justification that since all parts of the body remain alive, the unwound person has not actually been killed, but is simply now living in a "divided state."

This seems so horrifying as to be implausible, but of course objectively it's no more horrifying than the millions of unborn babies who've been killed by abortion. It just feels more horrifying because we're used to abortion... just like society in the novels is used to unwinding. The great thing about the books is that this parallel is never explicitly made, so it never feels preachy. There's one brief scene in the first book where several teenagers scheduled to be unwound have a discussion about abortion and at what point a fetus is a person... but the author never inserts his opinion on abortion, which I think makes the parallel much more powerful. (I don't actually even know the author's stance, though if I had to guess, I'd guess he's pro-life.)

The storyline follows three main characters (all teenagers scheduled for unwinding, but for different reasons) with perspective shifting among them with each chapter. A fourth main character is introduced in book two, and there are several more minor characters who get their own perspective-chapters to a greater or lesser degree.

Cautions/FYIs: A lot of horrible things happen in the books, but none of it is particularly graphic-- it's more horrible concepts. Premarital sex between two of the main characters (and several minor characters) is mentioned but not depicted. There are some allusions to "mercy killing" without clear judgments made. I'm pretty sure there's some bad language, but I honestly don't remember.

I wouldn't recommend it to younger teens unless they're very mature, just due to the horrible-ness of the premise, but most high-schoolers would be able to handle it. Well, I mean, as fine as can be expected... I lay awake thinking horrified thoughts about these books, but that's kind of the point. It's less graphic than the Hunger Games, but much closer to home. But (spoiler, I guess) the end of the series is uplifting/hopeful, so that helps.

Looks like I can't link up to Housewifespice until next week... I've been a bit out of the loop lately!

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