After the Heartland Wars divided the nation, the two sides (pro-life and pro-choice) came together to form a resolution. Abortion would be strictly banned, but parents could choose to “unwind” their children once they reached the age of reason, thirteen. Pro-lifers agreed to these measures, since the teens would not really die from the unwinding process. 99.44% of their body parts would be grafted into thousands of other people, and in this way they would continue to live on, only in a divided state.
16-year-old Connor has always been a troublemaker, but he never expected his parents to sign the orders to unwind him. Rather than be sent to a harvest camp and sold for parts, Connor runs away. Soon, fate leads him to meet state ward, Risa, a piano virtuoso who wasn’t quite good enough to warrant any more government funds, and 13-year-old Lev, a tithe, who has spent his entire life preparing for the day he might make the ultimate sacrifice to god.
Short chapters, a fast pace and an emotionally-charged theme make this a sure-fire hit for fans of Scott Westerfield’s Uglies or Shusterman’s Everlost. Though the story focuses on Connor, Risa and Lev, Shusterman includes chapters from a range of viewpoint characters, including a juvey cop, a boy who received part of an unwind’s brain and a former admiral who now works to save unwinds. Though the premise is hard to accept on first glance, this story of survival, teen rebellion and (in)humanity hooks readers fast and keeps them turning the pages till the bitter end. Along the way, Shusterman forces readers to consider profound issues such as the definition of life, the connection between our conscience and our body and the dangers of choosing the collective over the individual good.