Unwind (Unwind, #1)

By Neal Shusterman

206,251 ratings - 4.16* vote

Connor, Risa, and Lev are running for their lives.The Second Civil War was fought over reproductive rights. The chilling resolution: Life is inviolable from the moment of conception until age thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, however, parents can have their child "unwound," whereby all of the child's organs are transplanted into different donors, so life Connor, Risa, and Lev are running for their lives.The Second Civil War was fought over reproductive

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Book details

Hardcover, 337 pages
November 6th 2007 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Original Title
Unwind
ISBN
1416912045 (ISBN13: 9781416912040)
Edition Language
English

Community Reviews

Kat Kennedy

I was walking back from my playgroup with my son on Monday, I came out of an elevator to find a teenage boy waiting for me. Fear and an urge to protect my son came over me as he looked a little "rough" around the edges.

Instead of pulling a knife or picking a fight though, the teenager turned on me with big, embarrassed, doe-eyes to ask in a quivering voice, "Excuse me, can I please have fifty cents to call my mum?" I fished out fifty cents worth of coins and left as soon as I saw him head towards the telephone, not waiting around to see if he got through to her. True story.

Unwind by Neal Shusterman is a novel about a world gone mad in which children between the ages of thirteen and eighteen can be legally signed over by their parents or guardians to be put through a harvest camp so that others can take their organs, tissue and blood.

Abortion is also illegal but people can leave infants on other people's doorstep as a method of "storking" and thus legally handing over their responsibilities of the child.

A common phrase used throughout this book is, "Someone else's problem." This encompasses the spirit of the book and is said often by adults who have had children fall temporarily into their hemisphere and require dealing with. There are very few adults in this book who do more than the bare minimum of what they have to do to sit right in their conscience and there's a whole bevy of others who don't do that much.

Connor, one of the trio of main protagonists and an indisputable Christ metaphor, is a "problem" child. His parents are at a loss as to how to handle his behavioral problems and his poor grades so they consign him to being unwound. Risa, a ward of the state, is a bed that the government can free up for a child that they can't legally unwind yet and so is also handed over to the harvesting camp. Levi, the last of the trio is a religious tithe by his parents - born and raised to serve God by handing him over to be tithed as part of their duty to the community and God.

There are many other such stories in this book from a boy whose loving parents died, leaving him an inheritance that his aunt feels would be better off putting her kids through college once he's been unwound and a boy whose divorcing parents couldn't agree on any custody solution and would rather, literally, divide him.

This whole book is about the powerlessness of children in the hands of those who should be responsible for them. It is at times nerve-wracking, heartbreaking, devastating and a complete adrenaline rush.

What it is most of all, though, is sad. Sad because the truth is that children are not the problem and they shouldn't be treated like a problem. They are a symptom at worst and a blessing always. They are a gift that requires attention. They are an innocent package and in the case of 99% of them - if they are running around the street as twelve year olds being a menace to society then they have not let us down - we have let them down.

I love this book because it is well written, I love this book because it is compelling. I love this book because sometimes it is a hard and challenging read on a personal level. I love this book because it asks you to think. I love this book for the many things it has revealed about me - most of them not positive. I love this book because it is well-written with absorbing characters and a great plot.

Most of all, I love this book because next time I come across a kid of the street asking for fifty cents to call his mum, I'll let him borrow my phone and make sure she's coming to get him.

Tatiana

As seen on The Readventurer

I approached rereading Unwind with trepidation. I generally enjoy revisiting books in series before each new release, but two reasons held me back in this case:

1) My original reading of Unwind left me completely horrified and I wasn't sure I would want to relive this story again (my husband is still too scared to revisit it); and

2) Unwind was one of the very first books I read when I had just discovered YA back in 2009, and it was also one of my very first dystopias. I didn't have much to compare it to then and, let's be honest, I liked quite a bit of crap YA at that time. Plus, there have been so many dystopias published since then, surely it would be very unlikely for an older novel to be better than newer ones?

I shouldn't have worried. Unwind proves once again that most of the best YA dystopias were published way before the current dystopian craze.

What stood out for me the most this time is how political this novel is. Reading the latest YA releases would make you think that dystopias are all about running around and snogging while hiding from the big bad government that wants to kill you for no good reason. But Unwind, while containing all these tropes (running, hiding, and a bit of romance), has plenty else to think about in relation to the oppressive government.

I know some readers can't quite swallow the premise of this book, find it unrelatable, implausible, etc., etc. (Catie can tell you all about her problems with this novel) - yeah, the idea that people in a country would ever resolve the pro-life vs pro-choice conflict by abolishing abortion but allowing parents of the unwanted, troublemaking teens ages 13 to 18 to have an option to "unwind" them into parts that are later used for transplants is a pretty crazy one. Parental love and all that. BUT, I am not oblivious enough not to know that there are parents who sell their children into prostitution in order to have money to feed the rest of their family, who throw their newborn daughters into the dumpsters because dowries are strenuous on family finances and boys are just plain better, that entire nations were and are involved in genocides and scientific experiments on people (adults and children) that are deemed not racially desirable (Nazis anyone?) And don't get me started on the pro-life movement, members of which are preoccupied with saving lives of the not-yet-born, but have absolute disregard for the mothers' health or the well-being of those children when they are born and need monetary support for medical care or education, or, alternatively, this forced abortion story fresh off Jezebel's presses. So yes, the premise is far-fetched, as far-fetched as stories about the inhumanity of clones (The House of the Scorpion, Never Let Me Go), women used for nothing more than breeding (The Handmaid's Tale) or children forced to play survival games (The Hunger Games) are, but I believe in it, because I've seen things just as vile in real life.

... And back to the politics of Unwind. (I get carried away so easily ...) Besides the most obvious from the synopsis issue of pro-live/pro-choice conflict, Shusterman skillfully incorporates into his story domestic terrorism, religious brainwashing, and, the most disturbing part - the politics of transplant therapy, because an opportunity for adults to have an easily available supply of young organs (or hair!) sweetens the whole unwinding deal so nicely.

I like when an author makes his young audience think about these issues without openly pushing his personal agenda, especially now when these particular issues are so heated and in your face. Unwind is a dynamic, scary story that is carried by charismatic teen characters who are at times defiant and so easy to hate, yet they prove they deserve to live just as much, if not more than any "proper" adult.

Glad to say, I feel like I can safely continue recommending this novel. And I can't wait to read more about this unsettling world. UnWholly, evidently, has a character made entirely of spare body parts! Goodness, I don't think I am fully recovered from Shusterman's variation of Humpty Dumpty yet...

Shelby *trains flying monkeys*

I've been asked why I keep reading young adult books when I hate some of them. I hate some ways of preparing chicken too, but I'll eat it.
This book is a reason why I keep reading young adult. It's the fried chicken of the book world.


There has been a war recently. A war based on reproduction rights.
On one side, people were murdering abortion doctors to protect the right to life, while on the other side people were getting pregnant just to sell their fetal tissue. And everyone was selecting their leaders not by their ability to lead, but by where they stood on this single issue.

What that leads to is the Bill of Life. The Bill of Life changes the way people live. For one, a woman that just gave birth can leave her newborn at your door. As long as she is not caught that newborn becomes the homeowners. They have no choice in the matter. They have been "storked." Some families have been storked multiple times.
Then there is the "Unwinding"....Unwinding happens when you have a kid/teen who hasn't reached the age of 18 yet. They go to a harvest center and their body parts are taken and can be used as transplants in other people. It keeps people living longer and rids the world of some "unwanted" kids.

These kids can be signed up for the unwinding for a multitude of reasons. Connor's parents sign him up because he has a bad temper. He gets in fights, they just can't control him. Risa gets signed up because she is a ward of the state, it costs too much money to keep the kids alive that aren't really special enough.
One kid is signed up for stepping in when his stepfather is beating his mom. His mom sided with the stepfather and needed him out of the picture after that.

There are also kids who are "tithes", They are born to be unwinded.
Like Lev's parents, they ended up with ten kids. They felt that they should give one tenth of their children for the good of man.
Lev says, "Tithing's in the Bible; you're supposed to give 10 percent of everything. And storking's in the Bible too."
"No, it isn't!"
"Moses," says Lev. "Moses was put in a basket in the Nile and was found by Pharaoh's daughter. He was the first storked baby, and look what happened to him!"




Connor, Risa, and Lev all decide that they don't want to be Unwinded. They escape and must hide until they turn eighteen. That is when the will be exempt from the unwinding. They are helped along the way by people who believe that just because something is a law, it isn't necessarily right.
One thing you learn when you've lived as long as I have-people aren't all good, and people aren't all bad. We move in and out of darkness and light all of our lives.

Well done, Neal Shusterman. Well done. You are my fried chicken.

Janina

An astonishing and at the same time disturbing read. Took me some time to get into, but from then on I was hooked. The world Shusterman created feels so vivid and real, it almost scared me. Thought-provoking and highly original. I haven't read anything like this ever before.

Also, it contained one of the most disturbing scenes I have ever read - not on a graphic level, but more due to the fact that what exactly is happening is left almost completely to the reader's imagination (if you've read the book, you will most likely know what I'm referring to).

Set in the near future, the novel follows three teens about to be unwound – which is the thing to do with unwanted teens and basically means that they are to be scavenged for body parts to be transplanted to those in need of them (though the signification of 'need' can be stretched here: someone can also 'need' new eyes because his girlfriend doesn't like the old ones' colour).
Connor has always been trouble, sometimes unable to control his temper. When he finds out that his parents are about to have him unwound, he runs away and crosses paths with Risa and Lev. Risa is a state ward being sent away due to shortage of money and Lev is a tithe, sacrificed by his religious parents for a greater good.
Connor and Risa have only one goal: to be able to make it until their eighteenth birthday, when the law will protect them from being unwound after all. Lev, who has always believed in his special purpose, is deeply conflicted. Should he run with his two 'rescuers' or should he turn them in?

I not only found the three main characters, but also the friends and enemies they make on their journey drawn realistically and very relatable. Everyone has his own way of dealing with their situation and nothing is painted in black or white. Those characters have their faults – some more than the others – but in the end there was no one who deserved to be treated like he was nothing but human spare parts for those who could afford it.

The only thing that felt a bit off at times was the writing style. Sometimes the present tense sounded awkward to me, and the frequent switching between the different points of view made it hard for me to become fully attached to all the characters, but I loved Connor, Risa and Lev.

I will definitely be looking out for more of Shusterman's work.

Edit: I originally rated this book four stars, but I've decided to up my rating ;). I would recommend Unwind to everyone looking for a good YA book, I would label it a favourite, and I don't think I'll ever forget it. If a book makes me think about it even months after reading it, it definitely deserves five stars!

Chelsea Humphrey

I've been letting this book process in my mind for many days now and I still don't know where to start. This is an older book, one that has been held in highest regards by many for almost a decade now, so whenever I read a book like this I feel awkward and useless writing a review. What could I possibly say to do this book justice that hasn't been said yet? I'm not even sure there are words to describe just how undone this book made me feel. It's rare that I find myself emotionally involved in a book these days; I mainly read mystery/thrillers or YA sci-fi/fantasy and neither of those genres tend to hold deep, moving stories of this kind. The only way I know to describe how this book made me feel is that it wormed it's way so deep inside my body that it touched my soul. My brain felt so jumbled it didn't know whether I should cry, vomit, or give a standing ovation, so it just kind of snorted. If you read the tiny blurb above then you know that there isn't much given away of what this book really is, other than touching on the fact that it's premise is truly horrifying. While I'm not planning on giving away any major spoilers or plot points, if you're wanting to go in completely blind, I recommend stopping right here and grabbing the book. If you are wanting to get a little more of a feel of what this is before you dive in, keep reading on.

" The Bill of Life"

The Second Civil War, also known as "The Heartland War," was a long and bloody conflict fought over a single issue.

To end the war, a set of constitutional amendments known as "The Bill of Life" was passed.

It satisfied both the Pro-life and the Pro-choice armies.

The Bill of Life states that human life may not be touched from the moment of conception until a child reaches the age of thirteen.

However, between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, a parent may choose to retroactively "abort" a child...

... on the condition that the child's life doesn't "technically" end.

The process by which a child is both terminated and yet kept alive is called "unwinding."

Unwinding is now a common and accepted practice in society.


Wow. It's a little hard to swallow, yes? When I initially saw this page I thought "Geez, a little dramatic. I'm not sure how he's going to make this seem realistic, but I'll follow along and keep an open mind." He made it realistic people. When I think of how utterly disturbing an "unwinding" would be, I found myself riddled with all types of questions. What happens in an unwinding? Will we be privy to a procedure? Is this going to be highly graphic and full of blood and guts? How is this being marketed as a YA novel? This book is recommended for ages 12 & up. Here's what I found out after reading this book; yes, we find out what happens specifically in an unwinding and are privy to one, but just one, and it is highly disturbing in the most subtle way. What surprised me the most though was the lack of graphic violence (aside from one major scene near the end). The reason this book is so utterly brilliant is due to the fact that the author has left most of the highly disturbing factors vague; he knew for each reader, what would move us the most, would be different and has given us the opportunity to let our imagination carry us where he couldn't take us with too much structure and detail.

"I was never going to amount to much anyway, but now, statistically speaking, there's a better chance that some part of me will go on to greatness somewhere in the world. I'd rather be partly great than entirely useless."
-Samson Ward

This book is structured so well; it has all the elements of a complex, highly intelligent read while also being written in a way that is easy for anyone to connect with and understand. The story is divided into seven parts, each told from multiple views, but mainly from three. Connor is a trouble maker from Akron, OH that becomes AWOL while running away from his impending unwinding. Risa is a ward of the state and is set to be unwound due to the lack of space in the institutions housing orphans. She is a musician but not deemed talented enough to be considered cost effective in keeping around. Lev is a tithe; these are children conceived and raised specifically to be unwound once they reach the age of thirteen. These three lines converge at a specific event and begin what I like to consider the first part of our journey. I won't give away anything else, but we ride lots of ups and downs with these folks. The ending was satisfying in the sense that it clearly is left with the assumption of a series following, but there isn't a giant cliff hanger where you feel pressured to pick up the next book immediately. In fact, I've seen most people choose to read this as a standalone and not continue on. Either way, this is a book that is worth your time; it's far from your typical, sometimes flimsy YA novel. There was actually a good bit of "real life" research that went into this story; Shusterman found various news articles surrounding stem cell research that helped form a base for his fictional story to be crafted around. I know this because I took the time to look up each link he provided and, by George, they are real! And horrifying!

"You can't change laws without first changing human nature."
-Nurse Greta

"You can't change human nature without first changing the law."
-Nurse Yvonne

Words can't convey how important this novel is. Yes, it's highly disturbing, horrifying, and a place our mind doesn't even want to venture to, but this book touched on so many issues in our current state of affairs world wide and is surprisingly still relevant after nearly ten years. Stem Cell Research, Cellular Memory, Reproductive Rights, the afterlife, faith, and morals; it's all discussed in this book. I found myself constantly pondering all of the above and how it relates to humanity. As a parent, this was a hard book to stomach. It brought an all-too-real sense of terror over me that I couldn't shake, and still haven't. The Roland scene was one where I had to put the book down, wipe the tears from my eyes, and process before I could continue on to finish. The reason this book can even have the potential of being beloved by so many is this: amidst all the horror and unspeakable evil the plot is founded on, there is a constant glimmer of hope in the horizon. It's a beautiful thing folks. Change. Community. Forgiveness. It's all there, and that's why I'm going to recommend this book to literally everyone I come in contact with. I could ramble on for weeks about this book, but I think it would be better if you just read it for yourself. I'm also planning on continuing the series, so I'll try to provide insight into whether or not it's worth investing in the long haul or just soaking up this treasure by itself.

*I'd like to thank The Literary Box for providing my copy; it was an absolute pleasure to return an honest review.

*In case you missed it, you can find my full review and unboxing of the subscription this book was included in here: https://thesuspenseisthrillingme.com/...

Kiki

Of late, we've seen the YA dystopia trend grow to dizzying heights. Many like to bleat that every post-apocalyptic adventure published within the last year is trying to grab the success of The Hunger Games, just as we've all assumed that authors of YA paranormal romance are trying to jump on the Meyer bandwagon. We're being conditioned to accuse every dystopian author of being a scammer, and every book (before we've even read it and discovered that no, it doesn't have anything to do with Collin's already derivative plot) of being a loserific rip-off.

Those who believe this: stop. Because I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, that this book is better than The Hunger Games.

First of all; the world-building is spectacular. It's all related to an issue we face right now: pro-life vs. pro-choice. Being a Wendy Davis fangirl, this book disturbed and touched me on a very deep personal level. It literally changed my life.

Let me elaborate.

So: America. The so-called "Heartland War" was fought by pro-choice and pro-life armies as each sought to obliterate the other. What's left is a compromise dictating that human life cannot be touched before adolescence, but between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, a child can be "unwound"; a process by which the child is split apart and all organs (99.44% of the body must be used) are saved as transplants for donors. Problem children are signed as Unwinds by parents at their wit's end, while tithes are born and raised to be unwound.

The premise didn't convince me at first. I couldn't buy it. I couldn't buy that people would sign off their children to be cut into pieces and scattered around like car parts. But that's the beauty of this book; while The Hunger Games never succeeded in convincing me, this book did. The farther I read, the more invested I became. It's electric, in every sense - the characters, the world, the premise, the writing. The way tithes were brainwashed became frustrating, just as the "terribles" became nauseatingly tragic. Yes, I'm talking about Roland, a troubled boy sentenced to unwinding by his mother even after he saved her from her violent husband. Written off and judged as dangerous, Roland was unwound at Happy Jack harvest camp (yes. Happy Jack. It gets sicker). The best part? We have front row seats to Roland's unwinding. The narrative continues and we find ourselves watching, helpless, as a team of doctors and nurses cut him into pieces. His fear leaps off the page.

Our first and main narrator is Connor, a troubled boy not unlike most of the kids I've known at high school. He's not particularly vicious, spiteful or difficult. He's just a teenage boy on a rough patch. But his parents are lazy and selfish, so they sign him up to be unwound. Connor won't stand for it, though; he finds the order and makes tracks in the middle of the night.

Risa is a ward of the state. Due to budget cuts (I kid you not) she is signed up to be unwound. At her tribunal, in which she's informed she'll be sent to a harvest camp, she's told that she isn't smart or talented enough to be kept alive.

Lev is a tithe, a child born and raised to be signed off as an Unwind as soon as he turns thirteen. His oldest brother is vehemently against the process, but his deeply religious parents have convinced Lev that being tithed is a great honor that he must follow through to the end.

The collision of these three characters is the start of this never-ending thrill ride that comes to a screaming stop only on the very last page. The last page is equally as rewarding, so never fear!

My point before, while I was still reading this, is thus: in recent YA and in general, men write better heroines than women. Why is this? Does this depress anyone else? Can we please start having some faith in our own gender, women, and stop letting male writers covet positive and proactive females?

Also, interestingly, the romance in Unwind, though light, was more convincing than anything I've read in YA lately. It brought me to tears twice, and only made me love both characters more. Why? I can't say. Perhaps it's because it never felt like a Romatic Plot Tumor, and it never felt forced. There was no "tightness in my chest" or "shimmering azure pools". It was two people, two desperate teenagers, knowing and accepting and appreciating each other.

Though who else thought Connor and Risa should have had the smex? Come on, people. If you're going to be slaughtered in a matter of days and your loved one is right there, all hot and yummy, wouldn't you want to have the smex? Yessir.

Anyway. The heroine? I loved her just as much as I loved Connor. You know what? Sometimes I loved her more. Risa is just alive, so filled with personality and integrity and intelligence. She's strong, capable, and entirely independent. Her final fate (along with Connor's) was a little bittersweet, but on the whole it fully satisfied me. Like, MAN, did it satisfy me. You know when you're really hungry, and then you scarf down a massive Montana's steak with 'shrooms and tomatoes and steak sauce and big fries with salt and vinegar? That's how satisfied I was. (I hope y'all are hungry now.)

Guise, my ONLY problem with this book lies in the writing. To begin with, I didn't like it. It took a while for me to get into the style of it, and the editing was squiffy as hell:

"Just because he's to be unwound does NOT means he's an Unwind." - page 31

"Smorgas-bash!!" - page 128

"This is a pawnshop isn't it?" (Missing comma) - page 158

"...but Hayden isn't done done yet." - page 172

As I said - this book is beautifully written, but I only came to appreciate this when I was about a quarter way in. I also don't like all-caps sentences in published works (save it for Tumblr, bbys) but once I got used to it, it really just stopped bothering me. And sure, the little blips above irritate me, but there are dozens of gloriously beautiful passages within Unwind that moved me and allowed me to easily forgive Shusterman for the slip-ups. Third person present tense is difficult to pull off, but Shusterman did. And hella kudos for that, broski!

Unwind isn't for the faint-hearted. It pushes a lot of very close-to-home questions that might make you squirm. What is the value of life? Does our society unfairly judge youth? Do we give up on troubled children too quickly? How can one profess to be "pro life" but then advocate killing grown humans (this is an EXTREMELY relevant question)? Is revenge ever justified? Can you justify cruel means to a kind end?

How far would you go to preserve your own life? What sacrifices would you make?

These questions are never explicitly answered by Unwind, and this is what makes this book such a legend. It never preaches, only teaches. It informs, but does not push opinions. It poses questions that are open to be answered by the reader, not the author. It is a very challenging read, but an incredibly rewarding one.

On the whole? This book is absolutely excellent. It's probably one of my favourite books of all time. I adore it. I adore the brilliant characters, the electric premise, the gorgeous writing and the wildly original premise. It's so full of heart. I admit it: I cried twice. I was shocked, disturbed, enlightened, amazed. It grabbed hold of me and drew me in from the first page. It's highly original, and basically, a triumph in every sense of the word.

Read it. Now.

Cindy

Update: The more I think about it, the more I have to lower my rating.

---

The book is an interesting and easy read, but the concept has a lot of potential that I don’t believe was seized fully. My main complaint is that Shusterman seems to try to straddle the line between pro-choice and pro-life without taking a side. This comes across as playing it too safe to me; in politics you don’t have the luxury of not taking a stance when lives are at stake. My other complaint is that the world is not very believable or fleshed out - the world building could have expanded a lot more to provide some insight to how a divisive society could easily come to an agreement like this, and how parents would so easily sign away their children. To make this a more quality dystopian, we need to know more about the war, how this government came to be, and how this unwinding system works. We also need the roles of the 3 central characters to actually represent different facets of whatever argument Shusterman was trying to make - but again, I don’t think the argument is very clear or barely exists at all. There was an opportunity for interesting worldbuilding and for Shusterman to take a stand on something; instead it was reduced to an action story with surface-level characters.

C.G. Drews

This is the most disturbing book I’ve ever read.

I'm torn here, struggling whether to recommend this book or shout to you never to pick up this book because you will not sleep again! I mean it! This is a horror, thriller dystopian and I cannot say (loud enough) that this is not a book for everyone. I don’t often stereotype books by saying “if you like this-and-that then you will love this book”. I believe you need to read a book before you can say you hate it. But, honestly, I think you need to be aware that this is a horror before you go into it. It’s about ethical issues, speculative future, war, abortion, death, consciousness, human thinking and the never ending issue of life. When does life start? When does it end? And who should be allowed to end it?

The book is full of real questions – questions people ask today and struggle to come up with answers. There’s a lot of speculation about abortion and life choices. At first I struggled to figure out if the author was for or against abortion. Now I realize, I struggled to figure it out because the author was careful to write, with detail and precision, both sides to the story. There are always 2 sides in a story. A writer’s job is to listen to both and then write a good book about it.

Instead of aborting unborn children, this futuristic government has made laws to protect their lives. Instead, a child – between the ages of 13 and 18 – can be unwound. Unwinding is like organ donating. They take your organs and give them to people who need them – cancer patients, car-accident victims, sick, mangled or disease ridden people. The question in the book is: what value is whose life? Yes, I worded that right. Can your life have different value depending on who you are, who loves you, what you’ve done, if anyone actually wants you the way you are? We can laugh and shrug off those kind of questions, but, in this day and age, I think it’s a real thing. And if you think this book is based entirely on speculation: you’re wrong. Unwinding does happen. Illegally. But it has been known to happen. This book is just about a world where it’s legal.

Another theme that runs through the story is the phrase: “Someone else’s problem”. Stop and think about that for a second, eh? After you read this book, you will never (I repeat, never) say that phrase again. No matter what you do, hoisting a “problem” off to someone else will never solve anything.

I have to add in here, too, that the writing of this book is brilliant. It’s written in present-tense-third-person, which is something new for me. Considering I want to write a little like that, I was excited to try it out. While it’s awkward at first, after you grow used to it you forget it’s different to past-tense. The flow of sentences, the dialogue, the humour, the plot, the character development: it’s perfect. I don’t say that lightly. The author hooked me in with his brilliant, real characters. Next his style of writing. Then his plot. Then the themes of his book. Between all that, there was no way I could avoid some serious thinking.

That’s what I love about this book. It makes you think. About unwanted children, and futuristic governments, and the horror of mind-manipulation. One thing that really struck with me was the unwanted children part. So many children are unwanted. In our day-and-age, babies are aborted. Why? Because they’re unwanted. So what happens when a child grows up unwanted and turns into societies’ “problem”? Whose fault is that? How do we treat them? This book throws questions in your face and demands you think about them. I think that’s the mark of a true, talented author. Don’t feed a reader the story. Lay it out before them, blunt and cold and cruel, and say “Now think about it.” A book that makes you think is one of the best books of all.

I loved the characters (Connor and Risa best of all; Lev kind of annoyed me until the end). They were real and tangible and they developed with such ease that I was left feeling gobsmacked. The author has an implicit way with crafting characters. And the plot was breathtaking – full of twists and turns. You’re always getting surprises. Description? It wasn't so much the description, but what wasn't described that left you reeling. And the ending…saying it was brutal and torturous and so effortlessly written would be an understatement. As you read, you may think it’s not that “horrific”. The ending will change your mind. You will be moved. You will be challenged. You will cry (if not outside, inside).

This is a disturbing book. It will play in your mind for days. But you know what? I think books like these are important – extremely important. If people are just fed interesting (but light) books, where they don’t have to work or think or question moral values – how will people be aware of the issues in the world today?

It’s so intensely important to think for yourself.

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