When I first saw Unwind on a website, and read the description, my first reaction to the premise was “Pff. That’s so ridiculous.” But the concept would not leave me, and I started thinking. And remembering. That once upon a time there were people who sacrificed others, including their sons and daughters. That there were people who used to watch people fight to the death for their entertainment. That there were people who owned other humans, and considered them to be property and not people.
That even today, there are places where girls are being killed because they were simply not boys. That even today there are people who believe it should be a woman’s right to commit infanticide within the first 24 hours of birth if she does not want the child – and that this is a fate preferable to being adopted. That there are people who think the best way to counter what they see is murder is to commit more murder, just aimed at different targets.
Unwind is a very thought-provoking book, about so many subjects: life and death, abortion, adoption and so much more. But I think what Shusterman does best is not come firmly on either side of the issue. There is no one easy answer here, and so Unwind does not attempt to give us one. It is more a warning than an answer, and that is where its strength lies. If it was the other way around, Unwind would not have been anywhere near as effective as it is.
I would not call Unwind an enjoyable book, but I would definitely call it one worth reading. It does not entertain so much as provoke thoughts – and horrify, oh boy does it do that – and afterwards I was unable to ‘disconnect’ and have peace from certain scenes and images from the novel. It has been a few days, and Unwind is still very much at the front of my minds, and that is what a good book does.
And Unwind is a very good book. Every scene – indeed, every word – is powerful and purposeful, with some that will knock you in the gut even as it knocks its target out of the park. Each character is well-formed and, like the issue that Unwind presents, are very complicated. And the little things that are mentioned in passing, that many would neglect, turn out to be far more important – yet perhaps different – than a reader might suspect. Together Unwind is a book that is made better by all the parts it is made of and put in the right order.
As much as I recommend this book, I will attach a warning: some scenes – and those who have read Unwind will most likely know which one in particular I am speaking on1 – are very, very likely to disturb. It may not be gory, but it is still very horrifying. So while I am recommending it, do have a think about it all.
But whether you think before, or after, or both, Unwind will definitely have you thinking, and about so many things.