I love the YA genre for the new and different ideas it produces. Unwind, a series that tells the story of a group of teenagers in a world where you can legally be ripped to pieces, is certainly one of these new ideas. In this dark future, from the ages of 13 to 18, teenagers can be ‘unwound’ against their will with parent permission. ‘Unwinding’ is the process of slowly dissecting a person and transplanting all their body parts, and it really is as awful as it sounds.
Many of the best stories are made so incredibly wonderful because of
their characters. This is especially true in the Unwind series. The main characters are completely believable and relatable. Connor, realistically, has extreme difficulty returning to his childhood home where his parents sign his Unwind Order and condemn him to death at the beginning of the series. Even though he escapes and becomes a fugitive, his emotional weaknesses accurately reflect a scared, angry American teenager whose struggle to stay alive starts a movement to end unwinding. Risa is also a surprisingly realistic and relatable character. She is born unwanted and left in a state home devoid of love, where she is eventually slated to be unwound as part of an effort to cut costs. She has to defend herself, and her occasionally ruthless actions clearly show that she has a strange and difficult childhood. For Risa, emotional attachment is new and dangerous, and she clearly struggles to come to terms with her closeness to her new friends and Connor in particular. Finally, I really appreciated Cam’s character. He is literally made up of pieces of others, and he struggles to find something, anything, to make himself human, in a world that denies that he is alive. Eventually he finds that from the moment he lays eyes on Risa, he knows he is human, because he knows only humans can feel such love. Even though there isn't really anyone alive to compare Cam to, I personally think that if man ever does create artificial life, said life will struggle with the same identity issues as Cam.
I really appreciated the ending of the final book in the series proper, Undivided. All of the characters find their own path, and Shusterman avoids the cliché everyone settles down, stays close, and lives happily ever after ending. Lev, Connor and Risa’s younger friend ends up surviving some very serious injury through organ donors, not unwinding. Hayden, another friend, leads the nation towards ending the practice with a radio show. Connor finds his parents and begins again, hopefully ending in trust and forgiveness for what they did. This realistic ending makes me truly believe anything is possible.
Unwind takes place in a world where teenagers are hunted down and systematically killed if they misbehave. The other half of the teenage population lives in fear of being unwound. Anyone who tries to speak out literally gets torn apart. The system of oppression is perfect. However, Connor, Risa, and their friends are determined to beat the system, even if they die trying. Their struggles taught me that it's better to speak out and face the consequences than to sit in silence and let your rights be taken away. Few books in the dystopian genre offer this lesson, and I think more kids should read this series. It's story is that of some ordinary kids who fix a broken society without the help of adults, and it helps readers realize that no matter how old you are, you have a voice that can change the world.
While Unwind was overplayed with the gruesome and horrible idea of stripping a person of their most basic rights, it taught valuable lessons about change, oppression, society, and forgiveness. This series is packed with excitement and well constructed characters, and has an ending that all teens can appreciate.
What did Unwind teach you? What were your favorite moments? Who was your favorite character and why?