Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Unwound to a Better Place?

Ever wonder what will happen if two groups fighting over an unanswerable problem finally went too far? What about the pro-life/pro-choice debate? If both sides finally realize their futility and reach a point of no return, where would we be? In Unwind, Neal Shusterman has taken the abortion issue so far, you will be terrified to imagine such a world.

When the second civil war is fought over abortion, both sides agree to end the war if one rule is implemented: unwinding. A parent can choose to "unwind" a child only between the ages of 13 and 18. They must keep the child until they are 13 before unwinding. When a child is unwound, they are taken to a Harvest Camp and their parts are dismantled and used for other people awaiting the organs and limbs. The theory behind unwinding is that although a child is never alive "whole" again, they will always be alive in pieces, and therefore not be "aborted".

Connor, Risa and Lev are three unwinds who are all being sent to Harvest Camp for different reasons. Connor is a moderately bad kid whose parents are tired of dealing with detentions. Risa is a ward of the state and due to cutbacks, they are unwinding a bunch of kids to make room for more. Lev belongs to a religion where they believe 10% of their worth should go back to the community. As the tenth child, Lev becomes the "tithe" or donation to the community in the form of unwinding. While all came form different backgrounds, all three will end up the same way- as spare parts for the operating rooms.

During a freak accident, Connor runs away and causes an accident on Risa's bus to camp so she is able to escape. Then Connor rescues a reluctant Lev who just wants to fulfill his duty as a tithe. The three find themselves bumbling through town trying to find a way to escape the Harvest Camp. They find adults who are willing to sneak them and other runaway unwinds to a plane graveyard that doubles as hideaway for unwinds until they are 18 and free of the Harvest Camps. Unfortunately, for Connor, Risa, and Lev, it isn't as simple as just waiting, especially when someone is trying to take down the hideaway from the inside. Can they escape the camps? Or will they end up like every other unwind... pieced up like a junked car.

This story is so horrifying it would catch anyone's attention. And the creepiest part? It's delivery is almost casual, making it even more terrifying. Shusterman keeps you engaged from the first page and leaves you gaping at the ending. I think this is a great book for either a male or female student, as the main characters present both sides. Each chapter is told in the perspective of one of the three main characters, giving the story an amazing twist.

The most important part of this story is the discussions it will lead you into with your student or child. How far will people go to settle a long-standing argument? Can a compromise give up more than you imagined? What is death really? If your parts are still alive, are you? The discussion possibilities are endless. This is a book that will open up more than just your students reading fluency. It will create an opportunity to really talk a child about important topics. Shusterman hit a home run with this one- more than you can imagine!

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