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In pop culture, YADA-YADA usually means "blah, blah, blah" or "more of the same." For this blog, YADA-YADA is an acronym meaning "Young Adult Discussions About Young Adult-Designed Art." Check out my summaries and reviews of teen media. Chime in and let me know what you think!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Blog NO. 33-Unwind by Neil Schusterman

Dystopian YA Fiction

Title: Unwind
Author: Neil Schusterman

Bibliographic Information:
Pub. Date: November 2007
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Format: Hardcover, 352pp
Age Range: Young Adult 13+
ISBN-13: 9781416912040
ISBN: 1416912045

2010 Evergreen Young Adult Book Award
ALA best Book for Young Adults
Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers

Reader’s Annotation:
America’s second civil war—The Heartland War—has divided the nation between pro-life and pro-choice. To solve the problem, both sides have agreed that abortions are not allowed—but any child between the ages of thirteen and eighteen can be “unwound,” meaning their parents can choose to have them killed and give their body parts to people who need them.

Plot Summary:
The Heartland War—a second civil war for the United States between the Life Army (Pro-Life) and the Choice Brigade (Pro-Choice) movements has devastated America. So that peace can be ensured, an agreement between the two factions has been negotiated: while the federal government has outlawed abortion, it has approved the practice of unwinding which is the termination of life for young people who have not yet attained the age of eighteen. When a person is “unwound” he or she is killed (the book never says how) but their body parts—every simple bit of them—are recycled to others who are either injured or ill. In this way, the Life army is satisfied, because the child is not “wasted”. Connor the protagonist is one such young man. A hothead who has disappointed his parents for the last time, he is condemned to the harvest camps. When the bus to the camp is interrupted, Connor escapes. He meets Risa, an n orphan who is no longer useful because she is not at the top of her piano playing anymore. He also meets Lev, who is a tithe—someone who has voluntarily decided to be unwound to help others. Tithes give their families great honor. Lev does not want to escape, but Connor drags him along. As they run from the juvie cops, the three unwind discover things that horrify them—up to the chilling end. (If I tell you more, it will ruin the story).

Critical Evaluation:
Schusterman writes his novels much like screenplays—with very vivid images and strong dialogue. There is not a lot of unnecessary exposition, and the book reads fast like a screenplay would. But the images Schusterman uses leaves one gasping for air. There is a surprise around every corner, and it makes this book one of the best YA novels I have read in a very long time. It is haunting, resonant and important. Schusterman takes real, everyday events—both political and moral, and spins them into a resilient piece that almost makes readers worry abut the future, yet he doesn’t take sides. It doesn’t’ feel like fiction—it feels like a glimpse into our collective American future.

Reading level/Interest Age:

The publisher recommends this book for a 13+ audience, but I would suggest that the thirteen-year-old needs to be mature. There are some difficult concepts in this book, and frankly, I think this would have done just as well as a work of adult fiction. Every high school student to whom I have recommended this book has loved it, and most are over 13.

Information about the Author:
Neil Schusterman was born November 12, 1962 in New York City and began writing at the age of eight He spent the last tow years of high school at the American School in Mexico City, and later attended University of California Irvine. Upon graduation, he was hired to write a film script, and made his first book deal. He wrote for the TV shows Animorphs and Goosebumps. He currently lives in Southern California with his four children and his girlfriend, Christine. His book, Everlost, is being adapted into a film for Universal.

Curriculum Ties:
Great continuation of a dystopian fiction unit. This is one of the better written works in this YA genre.

Booktalking Ideas:
This is a great story for boys and some girls who like dystopian fiction—a harrowing tale of one boy who tries to escape his fate. Imagine that you are a teen boy who has been a little bit of trouble for your parents, and they decide that suddenly you are going to be unwound—basically “killed” for your body parts.

Challenge Issues:
Some religious folk may not approve of this, because it substitutes abortion for killing teenagers.

Why I Included This Book:
This is one of the first novels I read when I became a high school librarian, and I could not put it down. It is creepy and very believable.

Cover image courtesy of: http://readingandbreathing.blogspot.com/2009/02/unwind-by-neal-shusterman.html

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