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Unwind

By Neal Shusterman

Plot Summary:
Connor, Risa and Lev are three children facing the same fate in a war torn world. The battle between Pro life and Pro-choie has ended and the resolution is that any child can be retroactively aborted, or "Unwound." All the parts of their body will be used, still living, on someone else. Thus the pro life people have been assuaged. Connor is a "bad" kid whose parents reached the end of their rope, Risa is from a state home and they no longer have a use for her, and Lev is from a religious family, the tenth child, and is therefore being given up as a tithe.
Because of Connor's hotheaded actions the three are tied together in escape. Risa and Connor stumble upon an underground railroad that saves runaway unwinds. Lev ends up at the same place but takes a more twisted route to get there, learning about himself and his newfound religious beliefs along the way.
Once at the safe house (Which is actually a graveyard for out of commission jets), Risa and Connor (who along their journey have been falling for eachother) begin finding their use in this crazy new world. Just as they begin to discover their reason to live, they must turn around and fight for life, truth, self-discovery, and love.

Social Justice:
The question that is raised over and over is "Would you rather die whole, or live in pieces?" The standard of justice in Unwind is that the value of life is in it's use. If a teenager isn't useful as a person, then their parts should be up for grabs. There also is a slight spiritual element that floats between the pages, this question of a "soul." When is it created and where does it rest.
The military element is also interesting. The man in charge of the unwind safe-house is a retired military general who we later find out had not picked a side on the Pro-life/Pro-choice batter. He was just a military man who tried to keep the two sides in check. He gives the impression that the two sides were so tired of fighting that the decision to "unwind" was made haphazardly. A means to an end.

Classroom Usefulness:
For a brave teacher this is a great introduction to the idea of the right to live, when does it begin? It's a well written book with engaging characters that kids won't have a problem ripping through, but at the end of the book, there are more questions raised about our current global climate, than are answered about the book itself.
Teachers can talk about the Pro life and Pro choice agendas without needing to pick a side. It also raises interesting thoughts about the "soul." But that may be a difficult subject to broach in a classroom and may be better suited within a book club of students who are fairly set in their religious persuasions.

Discussion Questions:
- If you split the body, is there still a soul? If so where do you think it goes?

- Does a persons right to live rest in the fact that they're living it, or so they need to provide some use?

- Should a parent be able to give up on parenting a child who didn't live up to expectation?

- Did Risa make the right choice in not fixing her legs? Those parts were already there, if she didn't use them, someone else will.

- Is there any connection between how vegetarians feel about meat, as the doctors and patients felt about their unwind doners?