Unwind by Neal Shusterman

unwind_nealshustermanWhat if you lived in a world where illness or disabilities weren’t the problem? An old war veteran could get a new hand, a paralyzed person could replace their spine, a blind man could get new eyes. But all these parts have to come from somewhere, right? What if your parents didn’t know what to do with you, didn’t want you…could unwind you? Your body parts could be useful to another person, if it felt like you weren’t making adequate use of them. When kids prove to be too troublesome or just useless to their parents, their parents sign a form to have them unwound. This way they can be made useful. And if you don’t prove your worth, it’s off to the harvest camps.

Connor, Risa, and Lev are brought together by chance and kept together by desperation. Connor is too much of a troublemaker and Risa is an orphan. The costs are too high to keep housing all of them. Lev has been an unwind, or tithe, since birth as part of his family’s strict religion. These three unlikely companions make a life-threatening journey to save their fates. If they survive until their eighteenth birthday, they can’t be harmed. But when every piece of them is wanted by a world gone mad, eighteen seems very far away.

This book is a real page turner. It had me on the edge of my seat, anxious to see what was going to happen. The reader has to have a good memory of things that happen in the beginning of the book, because although they don’t seem important when they are mentioned at first, they tend to play a big part towards the end. I love the way Shusterman writes, making sure the reader is paying attention throughout the story and adding twists in the story that you never see coming. My friend recommended this book to me and was so happy when I told her I was reading it. Thanks to her, I have a new favorite series. The next book in the series is UnWholly, but you might also want to check out the short story between the first and the second book called UnStrung. This book is definitely in the top ten for best dystopian series.

-Sabrina C., 9th Grade

Unwind is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library.

Genre Introduction: Dystopia

Dystopian stories have become pretty popular recently. There are, of course, the well-known Hunger Games and Divergent trilogies, but there are plenty of other messed-up futuristic worlds to explore. Dystopia worlds usually have the government trying to create a “perfect place,” that results in something far worse than today’s standards. Within different social/political structures, heroes face odds to change their world. There’s often some side romance as well. If you haven’t already started into this genre, here are some different types:

legend_coverLegend by Marie Lu focuses on class struggle.

Welcome to a world filled with plague. A plague, for some reason, only affects the poor people. When Day, the Republic’s most wanted criminal, finds his family has been infected, he’ll do whatever it takes to find a cure. After a break-in at the hospital, Day is the in the prime suspect for the murder of  a commanding officer, June’s brother.

June is the Republic’s prodigy, with perfect academic scores, but is constantly in trouble, for things like scaling a building when she wasn’t supposed to. June swears revenge on her brother’s killer, only to find that the Republic has been lying to everyone the entire time.

maze_runner_coverThe Maze Runner by James Dashner targets post-apocalyptic aftermath methods of recovery.

Thomas arrives in an elevator. Everything is dark, and the only thing he can remember is his name. His destination is the Glade, consisting of only teenage boys, surrounded by an impossible constantly changing maze. Every month a new boy arrives and everyone goes along with life, as they have done for the last couple years. But everything changes when, just one day after Thomas, a girl arrives with a mysterious message. The Glade is no longer a safe place. And if they want to escape, Thomas had better start running.

unwindUnwind by Neal Shusterman asks what it means to be alive.

There are too many teenagers in the future. The solution is not to kill them; instead, the rebellious generation simply lives in a “divided state” with every part of their body still alive, but not making up them anymore. Connor is turned in by his parents rebellious behavior. Risa is an orphan the state can no longer afford, since she has reached her musical potential. Lev is a sacrifice, knowing since birth he was going to be unwound for religious reasons. Fate brings these unlikely teenagers together and keeps them on the run because what will happen if they are caught might be even worse than death.

There are plenty other types of dystopias, not to mention the ones I’ve named have multiple meanings and interpretations. That’s the cool thing about dystopias– you can see, from an author’s perspective, how the world might change for the worst. It just makes me that much more grateful it’s only a story.

-Nicole G., 11th grade

Book Review: Everlost, by Neal Shusterman

everlost_coverEverlost is a fantasy book, the first in the Skinjacker trilogy, that takes place in a dimension between life and death, populated by spirits of dead children and teenagers who failed to cross over to the true afterlife.

Main characters Nick and Allie meet when they die in the same car crash, and befriend a long-dead younger boy named Lief. The three of them travel the country and learn the rules of Everlost: they can no longer be seen by the living, objects with sentimental value can cross over to their plane, and anyone who stands still for too long will sink to the center of the earth. Allie learns the criminal practices of moving objects and possessing the living, intending to go home and visit her family, but when her friends are kidnapped aboard a ghost ship, her plans are derailed by a rescue mission.

The major strength of this book is the author’s creative ideas regarding the properties of ghosts. Spirits in Everlost are never older than fifteen or so, because adults are too focused to get lost on the way to the afterlife. Dead children arrive in Everlost wearing the clothes they died in, but after months in ghost form, their appearances can change as they forget what they looked like in life. They can easily get locked into a pattern of doing the same activity over and over until the end of time, especially if encouraged that this is their natural destiny.

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes imaginative worldbuilding, adventure, and a focus on friendships rather than romance.

-Miranda C., 12th grade