Today I’ll be reviewing my favorite series of all time, the Unwind dystology by Neal Shusterman. I have so much love for this series and I don’t even know how I’m going to do it justice with my review but I’m gonna try. There will be spoilers because you can be damn sure that I’ll be gushing like a waterfall throughout this review.
Unwind is a dystopian series about a world that is not so far from our own, where the battle between Pro-Lifers and Pro-Choicers culminated in a war that ultimately ended with the introduction of the Unwind Accord. The Unwind Accord lets parents retroactively abort their children when they are between the ages of 13 and 18 so that their organs can be harvested for other people. Already creeped out yet? The premise is definitely a terrifying one, but what makes the series so haunting is that it feels so close to our real world. It doesn’t feel like you’re reading a dystopian at times because the world is still the same as ours. Society hasn’t deteriorated into an authoritarian one and in fact, it’s the fact that it is still a democratic society that makes the story so haunting. People actually approved of the Unwind Accord and made it into a normal thing. I think this is what sets the series apart from other dystopians. It’s just the one small detail of parents sending their unwanted children to be unwound that makes the world different from ours. It makes for a fascinating commentary on the capabilities of human beings to be so callous and the lengths that people will go to maintain a way of life that they are used to.
Neal Shusterman is a master at portraying mob psychology and how society at large thinks. It works for the deterioration of society, and it also works for the “uprising”. What makes this series different from other dystopians is also in the downfall of the existing society, which is not so much a result of an uprising, but more of society collectively realising the horrors of what they’ve done or allowed to happen. I absolutely love the conclusion of this series because it’s done so realistically. Things are not fixed because of one person or one event or even with violence, but with a bunch of little incidents coming together like a perfect storm to make people realise what they’ve done. I love how Neal Shusterman wove all the pieces together, like the reveal of the organ printer, Cam’s takedown of Proactive Citizenry, Lev being shot by the Juvey Cops, the letters written by the Unwinds to their parents being sent out, and Hayden’s call for a march against Washington, which all came together before the next election so that the common people could take a stand against unwinding. If any of these events happened on their own, it wouldn’t have been enough to end unwinding once and for all, but all of them happening together made people sit up and pay attention. This was something I hadn’t realised my first time reading this series and Neal Shusterman is a genius for realising that this is how real change takes place, and for weaving the story so flawlessly.
Speaking of flawless weaving, Neal Shusterman also accomplishes that with multiple POVs. I’ve never seen multiple POVs done so well before. Not only does he take us into the mind of every character he creates, he also takes us into the mind of everyday people in society and even inanimate objects, like airplanes, to give us a complete picture of what’s going on. By doing so, he really fleshes out his world and gives us a high definition look at it. You get the story from every possible side so that you can make your own judgments about what is wrong or right, and so that you can understand everyone’s motivations. This is something I really appreciated because I felt like I knew every single character well, even if we only saw them in one chapter. He also plants little easter eggs here and there such that different characters’ stories intertwine in small and subtle, but fun, ways. Aside from his multiple POVs, Neal Shusterman’s writing also shines in some iconic and poignant scenes that will stay with me long after I close the book, like Roland’s unwinding and Connor killing Starkey. These scenes are so haunting and I had to put the book down for awhile after reading them because I needed to keep my emotions in check.
Neal Shusterman also writes his characters exceptionally well. Even though bringing us into the minds of every character allows us to see all their strengths and flaws, motivations and sympathies, he is able to make you feel exactly the way he wants you to feel about every character he creates. Admiration for Connor, empathy for Lev, horror and disgust for Starkey, love for Grace, amusement and sympathy for Hayden, and disgust, confusion, and finally, acceptance for Cam. It’s impossible to accuse any of his characters of being one-dimensional. I love them all so much (even the villains in an I-love-to-hate-them kind of way) and all of them add something to the story. You can definitely see a little bit of yourself in each character (even the dark sides you don’t want to admit you have) and Neal Shusterman’s writing really brings them to life on the page. The characters are definitely my favorite parts of the story and they were the reason that I found myself in a massive book hangover after I finished rereading the series. Connor has got to be my favorite protagonist of all time because he’s so capable and competent and flawed and morally upright and just wants to be loved by his parents. I just love Connor, Risa, Lev, Hayden, Grace, and everyone else and I just want them all to be happy forever. It makes me sad that I’ve finished reading all the books in this series but I know that this is a series that I will come back to time and time again, because even though the world is so horrific and the characters go through such a tough time, it really feels like home to me.
I feel like I could write a whole paper on this series but I shall refrain myself. Needless to say, I recommend that everyone in the entire world read this series. Please and thank you.
Cheers and happy reading!