Title of the Book:
# of pages:
Science Fiction, Young Adult, Survival, the Value of a Soul
Summary of the Book:
Set in a futuristic America where the second Cival War was over the right to the soul. The result of the war was an order in which parents could have their children “Unwound” between the ages of 13 and 18. The children are not killed off because their entire bodies are used as organ donations and therefore the body and soul never dies.
Connor is your typical “bad boy.” His entire high school career has been spent getting in and out of fights. When he finds his parents signed form to have him Unwound by the government, he decides to run. His path crosses with Risa, a State Home unwind, and Lev, a “tithe” who is willingly being unwound in order to adhere to religious beliefs. The three run the track of fugitives until they are finally faced with the ultimate challenge: survive until they are 18.
The three unwinds in the story all bring to surface various themes and challenges Shusterman portrays through the novel. Connor is faced with dealing with his anger. How does an unwind who has been betrayed by his family and the entire world find a way to control his anger? Connor plays the game of emotions as he battles his inner anger and finds a way to cope with what has happened to him. Risa deals with the challenge of perfection. She has spent her entire life in the State Home where she became a pianist. Though accomplished, she did not meet the talent of those State Home orphans who are able to avoid unwinding. Eventually she finds that her talents grow and expand as soon as she is no longer under society’s label. Through Risa’s story Shusterman declares that we are all talented in our own ways but not always in the ways society wants us to be. Lev deals with the horror of realizing that everything he has grown up with and believed about God is smashed to pieces. Shusterman makes a huge statement about religion through Lev’s story and contribution. Ultimately Lev finds that he does not have to conform to society’s definition of God; he can believe in a God who doesn’t believe in unwinding.
One of the most interesting aspects of the novel was the short excerpts at the beginning of each section. These excerpts were taken from actual quotes or articles from the world we live in today and connected them to issues in the novel. The excerpts showed that the novel is not as “sci-fi” as we might believe; we are faced, and will continue to face questions about how our world defines the right to life and a soul as we develop as a society.