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By Anna Saryusz-Bielski October 28, 2011

Humpty Dumpty Falls Apart

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king's horses and all the king's men
Couldn't put Humpty together again.

“In a society where unwanted teens are salvaged for their body parts, three runaways fight the system that would "unwind" them. Connor's parents want to be rid of him because he's a troublemaker. Risa has no parents and is being unwound to cut orphanage costs. Lev's unwinding has been planned since his birth, as part of his family's strict religion.

Brought together by chance, and kept together by desperation, these three unlikely companions make a harrowing cross-country journey, knowing their lives hang in the balance. If they can survive until their eighteenth birthday, they can't be harmed -- but when every piece of them, from their hands to their hearts, are wanted by a world gone mad, eighteen seems far, far away. In Unwind, Boston Globe/Horn Book Award winner Neal Shusterman challenges readers' ideas about life -- not just where life begins, and where it ends, but what it truly means to be alive. ”

Unwind is one of today’s great science fiction books, set in a terrifying and chilling universe that might just become ours one day. In this novel, it is justifiable by the law to ‘sell’ your child, to give it away, to disown it so it can be cut in pieces, the body parts transformed into a resource for anyone who’s in need of some new limb or organ. All of it backed up by the thought that it’s all right and that you’re doing someone out there good. But obviously not to your own child.


“You can't change laws without first changing human nature."
-Nurse Greta

The idea of being so unwanted that you’re given away to be dismantled is absolutely daunting. Could you imagine your parents even considering such an option? Could you imagine facing their decision and having to run away to save yourself, running away from your home, and what you thought was your loving family? What if you were forcefully brought to whitely-clad, smiling scientists bribing you with reassuring words when, to their eyes, you are just some cattle, and the same cattle like all the rest, obviously not human enough to partake and have a say in the situation? It would be natural for anyone to feel mad and distraught, and Unwind is the story of three teenagers whose only resort is to flee.

Fast-paced and nerve-racking, this book is a great read. It truly outlines the most disgusting attitudes and highlights human nature with a dark shadow that lingers even after the book is closed. It is written in raw, harsh words, and doesn’t censure, giving the reader a lot of thoughts to chew on.

The three teenagers in Unwind are Conor, Risa and Lev. Set apart, they are three different types of characters guided by separate morals, values and goals. Together, they are three hopeless and desperate teens fated to die like countless others, but inevitably being the same at heart; troublemaker or simply unwanted, none of them can be classified as better or worse, worthy or underserving. Any reader can come to the conclusion that whoever you are, you don’t deserve to be killed, murdered even, in such atrocious ways as the ones conjured in the book.

“I'm scared," he says.
"I know," says the nurse."
"I want you all to go to Hell."
"That's natural.”

One of the best aspects of a book is when its characters evolve throughout the story-telling, and Unwind delivers as Conor’s, Risa’s and especially Lev’s perceptions change and enrich their quest for survival, entwined by the fates of all these other kids who, just like the three protagonists, want to make it to eighteen safely, and not without using all the tricks that will assure their outmost survival.

“What he's really saying is: Please be a human being. With a life so full of rules and regiments, it's so easy to forget that's what they are. She knows—she sees—how often compassion takes a back seat to expediency.”

There is nothing disappointing in this novel, except maybe the fact that not enough physical descriptions are given, although that is not a point that argues against the story’s swiftly crafted and meaningful plot. Despite this, Unwind manages to be one of the greatest science-fiction books I’ve read till now. The ending is full of promises and hopes. There are sacrifices and lessons learned. Unlike many novels these days, it’s perfect as a stand-alone.

Unwind is an amazing book, a definite must-read for everyone who’s into science-fiction or simply the observation of raw, human behavior. It has well-constructed characters. It has an original plot and story, and the whole Bill of Life concept is unforeseen. A terrifying book that manages to open our eyes on the premise of human rights and future needs.

It is indeed arguable to say that one day we might run out of resources; are we not already coveting and encouraging organ donations, even if it’s consensual? Imagination is a tool we all possess; let’s imagine a dystopian future where the need for body parts and transfusions suddenly increases. Where will we get all the replacements for lost arms and legs, for damaged lungs or hearts and livers?

Today, right now, in this very present, 4,000 Canadians are waiting for organ transplant. Only 1,803 were performed last year, and 195 Canadians died in the wait.  The question here is indeed not if we should or no donate our organs, but rather the realisation that even if Unwind is a fictional story that will (most hopefully) never become reality, the need for transplants will always be present in our own world, and might also increase. The government will never force an individual to donate against his will, but in Unwind it’s exactly what happens. Teenagers are stripped of their rights, their freedom, their individuality and downgraded to the level of cattle, bovine, mere animals. It’s a most horrifying idea, so let’s just think about it for a while before continuing to turn the page.

“You never realize the holes a person leaves behind until you fall into them. ”

About the author

Anna Saryusz-Bielski is a first year First Choice Science student although she’s the biggest of science student scams because she dwells more within the multiple universes of artistic endeavours ranging from illustration to photography to music to literature and lattes. She’s a bookworm at heart and a big-mouthed critic, and has been reviewing novels for the past two years at www.pepperinkbooks.blogspot.com.


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