Unwind

Unwind (Unwind, #1)Unwind by Neal Shusterman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is a dystopian world set in the future (where iPods and plasma screens are in antique stores, just in case you didn’t realize it was the future) where abortion is no longer allowed, so people can choose to “unwind” their unwanted children, thereby donating their organs and various body parts. It is believed that the child will continue to live on (albeit in pieces) through this process, while still doing some good through things like curing medical problems for others. You might imagine that if you are about to be “unwound”, you might feel a bit differently about that… and the story follows a group of children who attempt to escape and attain freedom.

I’m not sure what to say about this book. It popped up on my Goodreads recommendations and I thought “oh sweet, a dystopia that sounds interesting.” I love dystopian survival stories, so I nabbed it.

I will add a disclaimer that a number of things are happening in my life that are probably making me far less patient than I usually am, and that’s probably not entirely fair to this book… but I was almost immediately disappointed.

The writing failed me on a number of points.

1) Present tense. Ugghh. I mean, I’ve seen present tense used effectively, and I suspect it was chosen in this case to try to make the situations the characters were in a bit more urgent (“This is happening NOW and the outcome is uncertain”, as opposed to “This once happened and I am telling you about it, thereby indicating that someone did survive to be able to tell you about it.”), but it was awkwardly handled with some jarring tense transitions, and general discombobulation that I found distracting. I think present tense was the correct choice for the setting, but the actual execution of it was lacking.

2) Character development. I see a number of people lauding the characters in their reviews but I found them stereotypical and flat. The book strayed a bit into the “tell instead of show” territory when discussing their inner thoughts, and I got a bit impatient. It started to feel a lot like the things I used to write when I was a kid, where I was concerned that the reader might miss what I wanted the characters to feel so I had to describe it all in painstaking detail… but after all that work I’d look back and realize I spent a ton of time fleshing out completely arbitrary details.

– In addition, many of the characters simply don’t act in a believable manner. Some of the decisions they make leave you thinking “…what.”

Which leads me to…

3) Unresearched plot points. I’m not sure if you’re supposed to just take the worldbuilding as pure fiction, but I had a hard time swallowing the background behind the organ donations… which was an issue because that is the entire book. I don’t mean “unwinding” as a thing – that was an interesting idea that made me want to give the book a shot. I mean all the stuff about “muscle memory” and personalities living on within the cells of the donated parts, and the bits where brain transplants lead to split personalities. I have studied real world muscle memory and personality disorders and cellular functions, and I had to grit my teeth each and every time it came up in this book. I’m used to fiction getting split personalities wrong because it’s such a popular (and convenient) trope in the media, but so much of this book is inaccurate that I couldn’t just ignore it. So if you’re reading this book and wondering… no, cellular memory does not work that way. If you get a transplanted organ it will not have someone’s ghostly personality wandering around inside of it wondering what has happened and trying to take over your body.

But now that I’m done bitching, it wasn’t all bad! I actually enjoyed a fair amount of it and I think it was an interesting idea that has a lot of merit. I saw a movie recently where clone children were grown for the sole purpose of being harvested for organs for medical purposes, which I thought of many times during the course of this book. I quite enjoyed the movie despite the fact that it was a romance wrapped in a dystopia (why do they always do that), so I thought a similar story wrapped in a survival story would be right up my alley. Unfortunately the premise was executed far more believably in the movie, and the unrealistic bits of the book were too conspicuous for me.

View all my reviews

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About tagracat
I am not a professional, I don't get paid to review shit, I am just opinionated and I seem to have some sort of disorder that results in spewing my opinions onto the internet. I enjoy writing long-winded posts about things and sometimes I like to pretend people want to read them, so a blog seemed an appropriate place to stuff it. But mostly I just like writing about things.

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