Friday, April 18, 2008

Do You Dare Take a Step Out of Line?

Unwind by Neil Shusterman
4Q 4P M/J

This didn't turn out to be quite what I thought it was going to be, but I still liked it and thought it gave lots of food for thought.

Imagine a world in which there is not a Bill of Rights, but a Bill of Life:

The Bill of Life states that human life may not be touched from the moment of conception until a child reaches the age of thirteen.

However, between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, a parent may choose to retroactively "abort" a child...

...on the condition that the child's life doesn't "technically" end.

The process by which a child is both terminated and yet kept alive is called "unwinding".

Unwinding is now a common and accepted practice in society.

Creepy, no?

Connor's parents decide he's too uncontrollable. Risa is a ward of the state. She hasn't gotten any talents that make her particularly valuable, so she's expendable. Lev was conceived specifically as a tithe, his family's donation to God. All three are scheduled for unwinding. Lev goes willingly, even gladly, but Connor and Risa are desperate to save themselves. They can't imagine that someone would be happy to be unwound, so when they get the opportunity to save themselves, they save Lev, too. At first, they find reason to hope. But Lev doesn't want to be saved, and his actions bring them close to disaster before they find people who will help them. But the question they should always keep in mind is "Why?" In this book, much is not what it seems to be. It will certainly leave you questioning.

Shusterman is scrupulous about playing fair to both sides of the abortion question (though that term is rarely, if ever, actually used). Unwinding is presented as a good thing, in that it enables others to live (every scrap of an unwind is used to prolong or enhance the life of another human being). Unwinding is also presented as an evil, robbing a person of his/her life without recognizing the value of that life except as it exists to help someone else. There's one truly freaky scene when we actually read from the point of view of someone being unwound. For that reason (especially), this one isn't one for the faint of heart. And you like to read for pure pleasure, without thinking about what you read, you'll probably want to give this book a pass, too. But if you like putting yourself into many character's point of view and thinking about moral issues, give this one a try. I promise lots of action, too. These are not kids who go willingly into that dark night.

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