When Connor’s parents schedule to have him unwound, meaning all parts of his body would be redistributed to others, he flees. While on the run, he meets Risa, a girl scheduled to undergo the unwinding process and Lev, a young teen whose family raised him to be unwound as a tithe to God. Together the three evade police and government officials only to discover an entire underground network of runaway kids scheduled for unwinding. At first the community seems like a wonderful miracle. Then the stench of rumors, chaos and death threaten to destroy the delicate balance required to protect so many from death and discovery, and Connor, Risa and Lev are forced to take sides in a conflict that could cost their lives.
At first it was difficult to suspend disbelief enough to become immersed in a story-world that devalues its youth so completely as Schusterman’s fictitious society does. However, the detailed backstory about the political move toward the decision to legalize and promote the unwind procedure helped make the premise more believable. The dehumanizing of the youth scheduled for unwinding can easily be a metaphor for a number of other groups who, in real present-day life experience a devaluing of existence. Think of victims of genocide, for example.
Connor and Lev display the highest degrees of character development. At the beginning, Connor is a kid with a short fuse and unfocused, uncontrolled anger. As the story progresses and with Risa’s help, he begins to apply restraint to his emotions and strategy to his decisions. Lev initially believes that he is destined to be a living sacrifice to God, that he has no right to life as a human being. Though he is often led astray by feelings of betrayal and anger toward his family, his choices lead him to become a powerful humanizing force in understanding people often considered evil and inhumane.
Unwind is the first in a series of three novels that make up the Unwind Dystology. Schusterman is also author to the Skinjacker Trilogy.
Someone comments to Connor that he should get Risa pregnant to keep her from getting unwound. He does not take this advice.
Lev comes from a very religious family and upstanding family. His parents believe firmly in giving, and this extends to giving their son Lev as a tithe to be unwound. Lev grew up believing that this was a holy calling, and the church supports this idea. In the course of the story, Lev’s pastor changes his mind about the morality of unwinding teens and leaves the church.
Connor has a history of getting into fights with other kids. In the story, he fights off a police officer who tries to arrest him. He fights with a boy who has antagonized him and Risa for months. Nothing over-the-top in these scenes. When a boy undergoes the unwind procedure, readers experience it from his point-of-view. Details are not gross or graphic, but it is a powerful scene showing how dehumanized children scheduled to be unwound have become in the eyes of other society members.