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Publisher's Summary

In a society where unwanted teens are salvaged for their body parts, three runaways fight the system that would "unwind" them.Conner'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 18th birthdays, they can't be harmed - but when every piece of them, from their hands to their hearts, are wanted by a world gone mad, 18 seems far, far away.In Unwind, Boston Globe/Horn Book Award winner Neal Shusterman challenges listeners' ideas about life - not just where life begins, and where it ends, but what it truly means to be alive.

©2009 Neal Shusterman (P)2009 Brilliance Audio, Inc.

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It won me over completely

My first hour into this book I was groaning: ah, me, just another sci fi tale that claims all sorts of dire consequences if [insert one political party here] gets its way.

Stories like that always seem to simplify everything way too much. One side is always Nazi-evil to the core, and boy, who could ever have voted for them? And the other side is good good good all the way to their little tippy toes, and only a very few brave and extremely intelligent people can recognize the truth... blah, blah, blah.

But "Unwind" did not turn out to be the simplistic "Voter Beware!" I assumed it would be. In Shusterman's world, both sides compromise in politically safe ways, screwing everything up to the point where all young people are at the mercy of adults who may arbitrarily decide to "unwind" them, and everybody rationalizes away their qualms because they're sick of the war and politics that brought them there.

I don't think I really understood how fine this book was until we got to Sci Fy's story. That's when I began to better appreciate the narrator, too, and I really began enjoying "Unwind".

"Unwind" has lots of memorable lingo that make total sense, which for me is the mark of a great worldbuilding author. And it's got unforgettable scenes: heroic, sad, and sometimes incredibly disturbing. (What ultimately happens to one bad boy may be too intense for younger kids to hear; as an adult I found it quite unsettling. That scene alone almost took the book from science fiction into horror, and yet there's no gore in it.)

Best of all, the the heroes, the villains, and even the bit-players are all memorable, imperfect, totally believable people I enjoyed getting to know.

Great job, Mr. Shusterman. I expect to read more of your work!

57 of 61 people found this review helpful

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  • Cristy G
  • Bluffton, SC, United States
  • 10-19-11

“Would you rather die, or be unwound?”

To say that UNWIND is a disturbing concept would be an understatement for sure, but to Shusterman’s credit, he was very forthright with what to expect; from the title to the plot summery there was no hiding what this book was all about… and I can absolutely confirm, he delivers on the promised creep factor. The basic gruesome premise being that after a War in the US between the pro-lifers and the pro-choicers ends with an unthinkable compromise; abortions banned protecting a child’s life from conception until the age of 13, at which time(until the age of 18) parents have the right to unwind them. To be unwound is basically to be harvested for parts and organs, a process that is done without ever technically killing the child; therefor the Unwind lives on in a “separated state” through the recipients of each part/organ. Needless to say harvesting has become a very profitable business, so to run is to be hunted and hunted hard.

UNWIND (Unwind Trilogy #1) is a book that I’ve almost purchased for the better part of a year now, always opting out (or more accurately put, chickening out) at the last minute. Being a fan of Neal Shusterman, I was initially intrigued, but ultimately freaked out by the concept.. I mean, “unwinding” your teen for parts if they turn out to be too much trouble… ick! But like a passing a car accident on the highway, morbid curiosity won out and I looked. Granted, I took the cowards way out, going the audio route verses actually reading the book in hard copy, usually finding it’s easier to “detach” oneself as a third party observer then to go in alone. The idea being that hearing the disturbing details would somehow lessen their impact opposed to a much more personal and all encompassing experience of reading them and becoming wholly absorbed into the story. Because a book in audio format is more akin to seeing a movie, ultimately you see a the book unfold only with your ears instead of your eyes, at least that’s what happens when the book is well written and the narrator has some chops. But when you read a book (a good book anyway), you become the character and feel what they are feeling. Well experiment coward backfired, at least when it came to the gory details. Unfortunately I failed to factor in one very crucial aspect to reading… the ability to “skip” or “skim”; an ability I lost in audio format and ability I really could have used during the last quarter of the story where things got to be a bit too much for my squeamish nature to handle. In spite of my low tolerance for the ick-factor, in the end I did manage to power through the stomach turning details and was a satisfied customer because of it.

Narrator Luke Daniels does a superb job delivering UNWIND, giving each character a distinct voice that felt true to their individual personality. And as I’ve come to expect from Shusterman, the book is excellent, disturbing yes, but excellent none the less with an eerie, unique and thought provoking concept that gets the reader invested from the get-go. UNWIND is definitely a book I’d recommend; well paced with lots of action, a little romance and plenty of white-knuckle “no freaking way” moments, a truly exciting and horrific tale like no other.
... oh and by the way, "Nice Socks".

48 of 53 people found this review helpful

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  • Dubi
  • New York, NY
  • 01-16-14

Worth Suspending Your Disbelief

If you could sum up Unwind in three words, what would they be?

Save the children!

What did you like best about this story?

I like the way Neal Shusterman is able to address some major contemporary social issues within the context of his story line while keeping the actual story moving along and never making it feel like he was moralizing.

Which character – as performed by Luke Daniels – was your favorite?

Connor, the most central of the three main characters. As one of the other characters says about him, he always does the wrong thing but only ever for the right reason. He's a complex troubled teen in a world where troubled teens are retroactively aborted, trying to avoid that fate and in the process helping others do the same. As in all good dystopian teen fiction (just like The Hunger Games and Divergent, for example, and even Harry Potter), the main characters prove to be heroic figures despite never seeing themselves that way, always doubting themselves even as their instincts propel them to take a certain course of action. Connor is in that mold, in an engaging, charismatic manner.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I didn't, but some might react with horror. Not horror movie horror, but true horror at a world gone so awry that it would treat its children so callously.

Any additional comments?

Dystopian teen fiction will always strain credulity and require a suspension of disbelief that our world could ever devolve in such ways. Could an American civil war ever really end up with something like the Hunger Games, where children are deliberately sent into an arena to fight to the death for the entertainment of the privileged class and further suppression of the working class? Nevertheless, the books and movies have been extremely successful. Unwind may be even more a stretch, an American civil war between pro- and anti-abortion forces that is resolved by allowing abortion, but only after children reach their teenage years. But the author and the reader prove to be adept enough at their craft to engage the readers/listeners nevertheless. The premise left me skeptical at the outset -- I didn't think they'd pull it off. But they did. Suspend your disbelief, and you'll be rewarded.

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • Margaret
  • San Francisco, CA USA
  • 10-04-13

Fierce but well done

This is a premise so fierce that I hesitated to select the title. And I think I'm going to be haunted by this book for quite some time (at least as long as it takes me to download the second in the series, that is...) The book is set in a world of the future where the United States has fought another civil war. This time abortion is the issue instead of slavery. So a compromise has reached. A pregnancy can be aborted only retroactively by "unwinding" a kid (and harvesting all the parts, so the kid is really dead, just divided) between the ages of 13 to 18. Kind of a "try before you buy" idea. Scary, eh?

Into this world comes Connor whose parents signed the unwind order, but instead of being taken by surprise by Juvie Cops, Connor finds out beforehand and runs. When they catch him, he resists and he escapes. He meets up with two other unwinds who join his fight to stay alive. And this is in the first fifteen minutes. The pacing is breakneck and the writing is okay. Not great, but good enough to tell the story convincingly.

One thing that pleased me about the book is that it is neither pro-life nor pro-choice. But shows a world where ANY position, if taken far enough to the extreme, results in insanity. If there is a genre called Young Adult in a Very Disturbing Future this is it.


31 of 35 people found this review helpful

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I loved and hated this thought provoking book!

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes. I have already recommended this thought provoking young adult novel to several friends, some teens, some adults. It is guaranteed to hold the interest of any reader or listener who gives it a fair chance, regardless of age. It is well written and follows all of the "rules" for YA fiction, while not talking down to the reader. It raises questions regarding current social issues without being preachy.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Unwind?

The scene in which one of the teenagers is "unwound." It is explicit but not gory. I had a very hard time listening to it, and wondered about its appropriateness for teen readers, but it was exactly what the story needed. Without it, the story would have lacked context.

What about Luke Daniels’s performance did you like?

Initially, I questioned the choice of Mr. Daniels to read a YA book. He started out almost in a monotone, but it quickly became clear that his style was exactly right. He did a great job of giving voice to the various characters, while using an almost deadpan tone to deliver some passages that might have been very difficult otherwise.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

A frightening ... and plausible ... view of a possible future.

Any additional comments?

Adult readers might have difficulty accepting some pretty implausible coincidences, especially toward the end of the book, but they aren't jarring.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Suspenseful Thriller!

The story is based on a civil war between pro-life & pro-choice sides known as the Heart-Land War. The war ends on comprise between the two parties with “The Bill of Life”. It states that a human life may not be touched from the moment of conception until the child reaches the age of 13. However, between the ages of 13-18 a parent may actively abort a child on the condition that the Childs life doesn’t technically end. A process in which the child is terminated & kept alive is called unwinding. When a child is unwound their body parts are harvested and reused. The practice is common and accepted in society and is looked upon as donating. The story follows three teens to be unwound for varies reasons.

I like the way the author had everything moving at a fast pace. The story had a lot of twist and turns and was unpredictable, but it all fell together throughout nicely. It kept me at the edge of my seat making it hard to put the book down. There are a few eerie parts. One chapter has you following one of the unwinding through the operation and it was quite chilling and creepy, it made for a sleepless night.

Some schools have this as a mandatory read (gez in my time Jonathan Livingston Seagull was it) and I can see why. It leaves a lot open for debate. It even had me question on my own beliefs.

Neal Shusterman has quite a following with this dystopian tale so I am sure there will be a sequel. The way the book ended it could use one, it left me with questions (which I HATE). Yes, it’s a young adult book, don’t let that stop you I’m 35+ and highly recommend it. It is worth the read/listen.

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

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A story that stays with you for a long time

I had listened to this book when it first came out and then I came across the 3rd book of the series and I couldn't believe it, I had no idea it was a series! I listened to the first one just to remember the main characters and so on, and I found the story to be as good as the first time I read it. The narrator does a great job, one particular scene towards the end comes to mind that had me feeling that moment in the story, not just listening to it. A credit well spent!

11 of 13 people found this review helpful

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Nice Socks

I am following 21 reviewers. I have made a list of all the books they gave 5 stars to. I had never heard of Unwind or Neal Shusterman, but it was on the five star list. This is the best book I have read or listened to since June and that was over 50 books ago.

The subject matter of this book may seem weird at first and a little unbelievable. In this future, abortion is legal up to age 18. I know your thinking too stupid, but the author makes you believe. The story is strong and compelling. Keep in mind, In China girl babies are killed all the time, due to the one child law and the importance of male children. In my life time I can remember when divorce was rare and abortion was illegal. Girls who had sex outside of marriage where whores. Most women were virgins when they got married. T.V. was not allowed to show a couple in the same bed. In some cults here in the United States, girls of 12, 13 and 14 are married off to old men. Eleven year old boys are taken to the country, left and told not to return. (see Prophet's Prey) In the Middle East, women are property (see A Thousand Splendid Nights), they still stone people to death, etc.

This book not only has a great story, it has characters. These are characters you will care about. The side characters such as one called SciFi, are so good they could have there own books about them.

The book has 68 chapters and six parts. The story builds through each part. There are several twists and turns. The description of an actual Unwind, will stay with me for a very long time. It was very intense. (Make sure you have a tissue)

Based on this reviewers recommendations, I will be listening to The Map of Time. I will be seeking out more Neal Shusterman Novels based on the quality of this book.

I am not sure I have heard Luke Daniels before and he was very good. His reading was spot on. His narration is so good you forget your listening, as the story is do deep into your head.


46 of 57 people found this review helpful

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Powerful and unsettling societal evolution

Shusterman's Unwind posits a nearly unthinkable evolution in societal norms: teenagers may be "unwound" by their parents or guardians. To be unwound implies total dissection and a recycling of all body parts for needed transplantations. While the sci-fi elements are subdued and quite subtle, the backstory for how society arrived in this state is detailed. Essentially, the confrontation between pro-life and pro-choice, having led to civil war was adjudicated in a classical "Solomonic" fashion by decreeing that all conceptions were sacrosanct, but between the ages of 13 - 18 a child could be retroactively "aborted" or unwound in such a fashion that by utilizing all bodyparts, the person is not considered to have been killed, but rather surviving in a distributed state.

As ghastly medieval as this sounds, Shusterman adds in subtle analogies to slavery where similarly incomprehensible and contradictory attitudes about human life were maintained, but instead of a civil war to end as for slavery, unwindng was instituted to prevent civil war. Following along the slavery theme, Shusterman adds an underground railroad supported by opponents of the status quo. We follow the escape and exploits of three unwinds with very different circumstances and backgrounds.

The timeframe is the near future (ipods are from their grandparents' generation). The sci-fi elements are minimal except for a reference to nerve grafting that made transplants easier, as well as liquid explosives that can be placed in blood. Other than these features, technology and people are quite familiar. This story is like a funhouse mirror that distorts our views sightly, but sufficient enough to require closer inspection of our values and ideals.

The narration is superb with an excellent range of voices, both male and female as well as young and old. While this may be considered in the teen genre as it is a classic coming-of-age tale, this is still heady stuff for any serious listener.

12 of 15 people found this review helpful

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Protect your head from the moralistic bashing...

Very interesting concept, and I certainly can see the attraction of unwinding some of the azzhats I see bumming around the streets, but it does take a huge (HUGE) suspension of disbelief to buy into the underlying concept of this novel.

I am not sure which part I couldn't accept: that a parent *would* unwind a 13 year old they raised from birth, or that any parent would *not* unwind a surly 17 year old. HAHA.

Lots of room for exploration of more adult themes which were not touched on here in any depth: selection based on race, gender, orientation, disability, etc. And, really, could our world really be the same in every other manner if we unwound unwanted teens? Wouldn't our entire mode of existence have to be altered to accommodate this? The author assumes unwinding could evolve from our current state to be part of mainstream society, but this is fundamentally too far-fetched to accept.

Anyway, it is YA, so no deep thoughts on the nature of a society that would allow unwinding, but, otherwise, it is kinda interesting and, while we really don't care about most of the characters, I think that is the point... or maybe the author just isn't very good at characterisation because the characters all feel interchangeable with the stereotype they represent (i.e. bad boy, bad girl, orphan girl, religious boy... their names are irrelevant).

The pacing is a bit disjointed - there are long segments where not much happens, then a burst of stuff that is a bit interesting, then long segments again. I think this pacing issue was mainly due to the YA-Lecture component of the story and, if the author was not so driven to share morals, the story would have been better.

There is nothing gory, no swearing and no sex here. The narration is fine.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful