Wednesday, August 19, 2009

My Favourite Reads *Unwind*

Right now I'm reading Everlost by Neal Shusterman and I'm reminded of how much I love his books! Which is funny because the only other one I've read is Unwind. But, when I finished it last year, even while I was reading it, I had this sense that I would pretty much follow Neal anywhere storywise. So, knowing that the sequel, Everwild, is soon to be released (Nov '09), I started reading the first of the Skinjacker trilogy. But today I want to talk about Unwind as one of My Favourite Reads.

From Neal Shusterman's website:

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.

Why it is a favourite read:

I started reading Unwind because the cover was so awesome. Also, I pretty much pick up anything that seems in anyway science fiction or dystopian for teens, which is an aftereffect of experiencing Ender's Game at a tender age. And, the thing that I'm realizing with Neal's books is that yes, he hooks you initially with a gripping premise--kids meticulously taken apart piece by piece but still legally alive as a way to salvage unwanted social outcasts--but he doesn't just ride this one narrative hook. He completely explores any and all themes associated, through a cast of well-written and memorable characters. So you have the idea that a person's body parts can be used to help others; What are the specific implications for a person not choosing this fate? What about people who DO choose to unwind themselves for possibly religious reasons? What about the people who, instead of using salvaged body parts to help them live, decide they just want nicer teeth? Also, how do these new body parts affect their owners?

Neal explores every possible ramification of his premise, he doesn't just go "oh, here's something that will catch them, now I just have to sit back and let the adventure plot do the work". He thinks about all of the ways the idea of unwinding could affect people and their lives, and he explores each idea through his characters. Unwind is very thoughtful and crafted. And I remember actually being surprised by this, by finding this type of attention to detail in Unwind. It was being marketed as an adventure, and it IS, but it is also a lot more.

Whenever I point this book out to my customers I have to downplay the dark nature of the premise. Maybe it's because it is usually parents coming in for books for their kids, but I find most adults unsettled by the idea behind Unwind. If a younger reader was browsing, he or she would probably be more apt to pick it up. Or see it in the library and find it attractive. But I actually get the gruesome-reeling-back face from adults. Although one lady told me that she didn't want to pick the book up for her teen because she worried that he would see her as the type to volunteer him for the process, and she herself said it wouldn't be out of character for her. I peered closer, waiting for the "just kidding", but it didn't come. It is to his credit that Neal writes books for his intended audience and not for their parents.
And now Everlost has me hooked.

My Favourite Reads is a weekly meme hosted by At Home With Books


Unknown said...

Haven't read anything by Shusterman, and I'm not sure how I would take this one, but I'm intrigued. I think I'll put it on the list so that it's there to remind me... and I bet I will pick it up sometime.

Also, I had a combined heh/yikes reaction to the story about the mother who would consider unwinding her teen. You told that story very well!

Cecelia said...

Like freaking whoa. I haven't read anything by Shusterman, but your review made me want to dash to the library right this instant. In fact, I may just do that. What a powerful premise! Geez...I may never be the same...

Mandy said...

Kiirstin: Yeah, Shusterman is amazing but there's something so dark about his stories. The thing is, is that they have a very hopeful ending. They're smart books. Let me know if you ever do pick it up and what you think of it. :)

Celi.a: Awesome! I really hope you like Uniwnd! I'll look out for a potential review on your blog.

Cackleberry Homestead said...

Wow - this sounds really good. I haven't read Shusterman, but I will have to give ethis one a try.

Cecelia said...

It may take a couple of months, what with the stack of books I have now and new ones arriving every day...but YES, I probably will review it. :-)

You can find my My Favorite Reads post here.

Mandy said...

Crystal: Yeah! Thanks for the visit.

Celi.a: Stack of books? I hear ya lady!

Alyce said...

Oh my goodness, that mother sounds strange! This book sounds like something I would really like since I love dystopian fiction. I have a review posting tomorrow for The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist, which is similar in theme (those unuseful to society have their bodies donated). Have you read it?

Bryan R. Terry said...

I have had a number of people recommend this to me, now I HAVE to pick it up.

Oh, and "Although one lady told me that she didn't want to pick the book up for her teen because she worried that he would see her as the type to volunteer him for the process, and she herself said it wouldn't be out of character for her. I peered closer, waiting for the "just kidding", but it didn't come." Did someone really say that!? Holy Cow! People never cease to amaze me.

Anonymous said...

I've been reading Shusterman's books for years now. I first discovered him by browsing in the young adult section of my local library, and the first book I read by him was The Shadow Club. After reading it, I went back to the library to read the rest of his books. I've read almost every single one of his books (I say almost because I haven't read any of his books containing the short stories he's written). I recommend you read Downsiders and his Star Shard Trilogy. They're my favorites aside from Everlost and Unwind. The Star Shard Trilogy (Scorpion Shards, Thief of Souls, and Shattered Sky) is aimed toward adults though, but not lacking in the brilliance that Shusterman writes with.

Cecelia said...

I had to come back to your review because I've just finished Unwind, but it's the middle of the night, and I'm not sure I'll be able to sleep with all of this REACTION swimming around in my brain...

You did it total justice. Also, that woman in the bookstore? Completely scary and crazy. Yeesh. :) Thanks again for the great recommendation!


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