It's not every day you read a book that officially makes it to the top of the list of "best books I've ever read." But for me, Unwind by Neal Shusterman did just that.
The sci fi-slash-horror story-slash-adventure-slash-romance tale takes place a few generations in the future, after a second civil war in which Pro-Life and Pro-Choice armies battled over the abortion issue. The war ended in a stalemate, and a new compromise was made: All babies had to be delivered and raised to age 13. However, between the ages of 13 and 17, parents could choose to "abort" their children by having them "unwound"--a process in which all of the organs are harvested and donated to hospital patients. In other words, 100% of the "unwind" stays technically alive, just in a divided state.
And although the process sounds shocking and unbelievable, in the story, it has become a common and accepted part of American society. Unwind follows three runaway "unwinds": Conner (who's being unwound because his parents think he's a troublemaker), Risa (a ward-of-the-state who's being unwound to cut costs), and Lev (who was promised to be an unwind at birth as a part of his family's religion, and who has been brainwashed to believe that unwinding is okay because it helps people). And when the government is desperate for organ donors, they will stop at nothing to find runaway unwinds and make sure they don't escape their fate. Lucky for Conner, Lev, and Risa, a secret society of runaway unwinds is just around the corner...if they can only survive to make it there.
Although Unwind is thoroughly packed with action from start to finish, that's not the only reason I loved it so much. In a YA room full of Cliques and Gossip Girls. Unwind really makes the reader think about deep, life-or-death issues. Like, who has the right to say when someone's life is going to end? Is it really okay to commit an act like murder in the name of religion? How far can you go in order to "protect the greater good?" And which is better: aborting thousands of babies that someone could have loved, or having an orphanage full of thousands of babies that no one loves? Unwind explores all of these and many more. Throughout the main story, Neal Shusterman intertwines many different subplots that get you thinking about the values in America and the value of your own life. There's even some laughworthy satire thrown in here and there. I'm warning you now, it's extremely intense, and many of the ideas suggested in the book may upset you. But if you're looking for some meaningful, thought-provoking reading that really changes the way you look at life, death, and your place in the world, then I strongly consider Unwind.
I definitely give this book the full 5 out of 5 daggers.