The Hunger Games was my first experience with YA Dystopian. (I had read The Giver prior to this, but didn’t consider it to be dystopian at the time.) That trilogy made me go, “WOW!” Behind Harry Potter, this is my favorite book series. Naturally, I had to read more dystopian – and YA in general. The more I read YA Dystopian, the more each book seemed to be the same. The same type of characters, the same kind of surroundings, the same obstacles, and the same ending. Everything was the same.
Recently, I have been taking a break from anything YA because it was all becoming so cliché. This past Christmas, our fellow Girl Plus Book blogger Sarah, sent me her favorite book series ever – The UnWind Dystology. I have heard of this series before. The synopsis definitely seemed interesting, but because of my YA burnout, I wasn’t particularly in any rush to read the series.
I had just read The Book Thief and Name of the Wind – two hefty books. One was hefty on the heart, and the other was hefty in page numbers. After those two books, I wanted something I thought I could get through quickly. I picked up Unwind. One other reason I decided to read it was because I didn’t want to keep them on my shelves unread too long since they were a gift. That just seems a little rude. But, man, am I glad I decided to read them when I did. It was such a great reading experience.
Disclaimer: This is a full series review. There will be SPOILERS. I will warn you when I get to the spoilers so you can stop reading. Don’t worry, I wouldn’t be cruel like that to you and not warn you.
Unwind is about post civil war United States. The war was called the Heartland War which was between Pro-Life and Pro-Choice parties. This war had no end in sight, so as a compromise to end it, both parties agreed to the Unwind Accord in the Bill of Life. This Accord stated that when you conceived a child, you were not allowed to abort the pregnancy or do anything to your child until they turn 13 years old. If you had a child and didn’t want it, you could “stork” the child. That means you could leave the child on someone’s front porch and when that person saw that child, the child was legally theirs now. However, once the child reached 13 years in age up to 18, the parent/legal guardian could have a child “unwound.” Being unwound meant you went a “harvest camp” where your ALL your body parts were harvested to be used for other people. It’s pretty much a big organ transplant. The difference is, you don’t really die. The child is awake for the whole procedure which started from their feet and works up to their heads, but they can’t feel anything. By having them stay awake, part of their soul goes with that body part. So this way, no one ever really dies. Abortion is not happening. Children are living even if it is through just body parts. Pro-Lifers and Pro-Choicers are happy. But is this really the best solution?
When you start Unwind, you are pretty much thrown into the action of this story. You meet the three main characters: Connor Lassiter, Risa Ward, and Levi Calder. Each chapter is a different character, so you see everything through their eyes as told in third person. Connor’s parents decided to have him unwound because he was causing too many problems. Risa is a ward of Ohio State. She is being unwound because the state cannot afford to keep her there since she doesn’t have any special talents that could be used later in her life. Levi is a tithe. He is the 10th child to a very religious family, and as a religious family, they are to give 1/10th of their belongings in the name of their religion. He is willing to be unwound because he sees the purpose in it. In the first book, all three of these characters converge at one point coincidentally because of Connor. He runs away from home because he does not want to be unwound. Risa and Lev are at the same place when Connor is being pursued by the Juvies, and they get caught up in his actions. They share this adventure of trying to not to be unwound. Each book grows with this. At times they are all together and other times they are separated trying to fight against Unwinding.
Along with the main characters, you meet some amazing side characters. Even the characters you only meet briefly stay with you. You have feelings towards every single character in the book whether it be hatred or love. That’s a hard thing to pull off in one book, let alone four. Also, each character acts how they should. None of them do something that makes you think, “Why did this person do that? That is not part of their personality. They wouldn’t do that.” They stay true to themselves , purpose, and intentions.
I really liked Neal Shusterman’s writing style. I enjoyed how he rolls right over mundane tasks in the book. At parts in the books, the characters are in one place or another for a while. He doesn’t waste time writing about what they do unless it progresses the book. There is no need to write about something that happens every day for a month. I was really appreciative of that; It kept the story moving. There were very few lulled moments. The quieter moments served a purpose.
A lot of people will dismiss YA books because they don’t have mature contest. I think that is completely wrong to assume. The YA Dystopian books I’ve read tend to have heavy themes and really get the reader to do some critical thinking. The UnWind Dystology is up there with some of the heaviest themes I’ve read. Do we have souls? Do our souls live on if we are dissected and put on other people’s bodies? Do we become those people? Is death the better option? There’s also the discussion of abortion, terrorism, false heroism, war, consequences, religion, cults, responsibility, the use of technology, genocide, cloning, identity, what makes a person and more. All of these themes are used throughout the series continuously.
The scary thing about this series is that I could see something like this happening in the future. Pro-Choice and Pro-Life is a debate that has been going on for a long while as it is, and then to have this debate still go on in the future and lead to war, is not unthinkable. There is technology that is discussed in UnSouled (book 3) and UnDivided (book 4) that we are actually using today.
Let’s talk about the ending of this series. I have series where the endings fell flat or went against the character’s intentions. I have gotten angry at book endings. You know what? I didn’t get angry at this series’ ending. I actually felt satisfied. It was a bit of an open-ended ending, but not to the point where you had no clue what was going to happen to the characters. You had a pretty clear vision of what each character’s true ending was. There was one problem I had with the ending, but I will discuss that in my spoiler section. Overall, I was very satisfied with UnDivided.
The UnWind Dystology has become one of my top series. I really think this a series everyone should be reading. There is just so much to think about with these books. I was not expecting to be as emotionally involved with this story as I was. It is really one that sticks with you for a while. As I said before, the ideas presented in this series are ideas that are happening or could happen in the world right now. That’s what ‘s great about this series. It’s believable. Enjoy this amazing read.
SPOILERS! I will now discuss a few scenes from the series that really affected me in one way or another. So if you have not read the series, this is the part where we say goodbye. I don’t want to ruin anything for you. If you have read the series, I would love to know how you felt about these scenes or what your favorite scenes and/or characters were.
In UnWind, Levi breaks away from Risa and Connor. You don’t hear from him for a while, but when we meet back up with him, he is with a young man named Cy-Fy. Cy-Fy has part of a young man’s unwound brain in him. This makes Cy-Fy act very strange sometimes like he has multiple personalities and does strange things like steal jewelry. Lev figures out that it’s the unwound brain that is coming through and takes over Cy. Lev is so caring towards Cy when he figures this out. Cy has a mission to get to Joplin, Missouri to get to his unwound brain’s home. When they get there, Cy is so erratic because his unwound brain has completely taken over. This brain piece doesn’t realize it’s not whole. It thinks it is still this whole boy and he just wants to get home to his parents. They get to Tyler’s (unwound brain part) house and Cy goes straight to the backyard to collect all the jewelry Tyler as stolen. He gives the stolen items to his parents and pleads with them to not unwind him. He is crying out them, “Pleeeeease don’t unwind me! I’m so sorry! I’m sorry! Please don’t unwind me!” Lev steps in and demands the parents to tell Tyler he won’t be unwound. They do and then Tyler is at peace. My heart just broke when I read that. I wondered if that happens to most of these kids that become unwound, especially the brain parts. I felt for Cy and Tyler. Neither of them really had a choice in what happened to them. Just the pleading for forgiveness made me tear up. If this could happen to Cy and Tyler, how many others is this is happening to?
This scene was also the pivotal point in Lev’s unwinding journey. He saw what this process did to children. He always thought it was a gift to be unwound, yet this changed his whole outlook. He became a different person within a second. At first, I asked myself how he could change so quickly, but then I realized when you go through something traumatic like that, even as a spectator, it changes you to your core. Lev’s journey from that point on became the biggest roller coaster and he was never the same.
Also in Unwind, you meet a nasty character named Roland. Throughout the book you just want him to die. He is a fellow AWOL, but you want him to be caught by the Juvies so bad! As we know, that does happen, along with the others from the Graveyard. While the big fight is happening at the harvest camp, Roland is inside the facility about to be unwound. That whole sequence of him being unwound terrified me. How Shusterman wrote this sequence was brilliant. It actually made me feel sad for Roland. Even a child as troubled as Roland didn’t deserve this. We had hints to his personality that he wasn’t all that bad. Such as he would hurt someone, but he didn’t have the nerve kill someone. At the end of the day, he was just a child who was scared of “dying,” and there was no way to save him.
There is a scene in UnDivided that I feel resonates with the conflicts we have right now. In UnDivded, Starkey has his brigade of storks that go to harvest camps to liberate the unwounds. During their last liberation, which was a huge battle, a member of the storks, Jeevan, comes in contact with the gardener of the harvest camp. This gardener sees this as only a job. He doesn’t think working at the harvest camp doing landscaping really gives him a clear position if he agrees or disagrees with unwinding. Jeevan and the gardener get into an altercation. The gardener slices the skin above Jeevan’s eyes, and Jeevan has all intentions of shooting the gardener, but doesn’t. An explosion happens, and they both drop to the ground. They are both on the ground bloody, scared, and panicked. They look into each other’s eyes and take each other’s hands. The gardener tells Jeevan that they all aren’t evil, and Jeevan tells the man, neither are they. That moment made me pause. It made me think of how we treat other religions that aren’t Christian, especially the Islam faith. There’s always the small percentage that makes everyone look bad. That’s how the storks made AWOLs look to the public. Everyone was terrified at what Starkey and his army was doing. Jeevan didn’t always agree with Starkey’s ways. At the end of the day, the gardener and Jeevan just want to survive, just like everyone else.
Let’s talk about Camus Comprix aka Cam. Cam is a Rewind. He was made from only parts of the unwound. He was such an interesting character. He struggled so much with his identity. He knew he wasn’t a real person, but he was made from real people. He had the same feelings as humans did. He fell in love with Risa! With being made from so many people, he had to deal with their emotions and memories as well as his own. Cam never knew the real reason of why he was made. He just knew he was this great experiment that was supposed to change the world. We find out in UnDivided he was a prototype for a much bigger experiment. The government was building an army out of rewinds. Cam was supposed to be the poster boy of how all these army rewinds were going to act. They were going to be poised, smart, diligent, hardworking, and disciplined. This rewind army really had me thinking. I could definitely see the good in this because now no one would have to go to war and get killed. All the parts are made from kids who nobody wanted anyway, right? In that same light, these soldiers are made from kids. But in the book that didn’t matter. Cam becomes a problem to the government at one point, so all they do is go in a tweak him. They are able to get rid of his memories of Risa just like in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. If he thinks about her, his memory gets zapped. With that kind of power, the government could make their soldiers exactly how they wanted them. That is such a scary thought to me. That much control over a “person.” That technology could easily be turned on us non-unwound people.
I want to talk a little more about Lev. Lev’s character development was so complex. This kid never had a true identity. He was a tithe, AWOL, clapper (terrorist),reformed-terrorist, a god, adopted Indian, outcast, and failed-martyr. I feel like his only constant was that he didn’t know who he was, and he was tired of not knowing. In the end, he kind of figured out who he was. He was an unwound. He tattooed as many unwound names on his body as he could. He went to the Statue of Liberty and started clapping in hopes he would be shot dead to show the everyone what has happened to our world. He does get shot, and we are lead to think he was killed, but at the end of the book he is alive. I would have been ok with his death in the book. Lev was ok with it, and so was I. That was really my only complaint about the end. Although, even with him being alive, his point was still made. His actions started a conversation. That conversation started action. That’s what we need for change. In the end, Lev helped many people see the truth behind unwinding. Truth was something he sought after this whole series. He is still searching for his own truth at the end, but at least he was able to get other people to see it.
I loved the solution of having a 3d organ printer. We are already experimenting with similar technology. In the book, they take you stem cells, put it into a printer, you tell it what to make, and then it prints it out. It’s not that quite simple yet. There will be years and years or research and technology left yet still to make it seem that it’s that simple. I just love how Shusterman brought in realistic technology into the series. I think that’s what makes this series great; it’s all believable.
I could go on and on about more characters and plot, but that would be a novel in itself. I will stop now. I hope you all enjoyed or will enjoy this series as much as I did.
Leave comments of what you think about the book or if you think you might want to read it. If you have read the book and plan to discuss plot or characters, please say there will be spoilers in your comment. We don’t want to ruin this for people.