Tuesday, December 29, 2009

When organ transplants are in fashion

Neal Shusterman's Unwind brings up a lot of issues on pro-life versus pro-choice debate. It's a riveting young adult novel, despite this very controversial theme. In the future where Unwind is set, parents and adults can decide whether 13-year-olds have the talent, the intelligence, and the capability to go on living in society. If not, these children are set scheduled for unwinding -- a gruesome concept wherein their organs are harvested for other people. They still don't call unwinding killing though; they just say that these children will go on living, but in their separate body parts that end up in different people.

Unwind is chilling, and I loved it. Shusterman imagines a world where the government has proposed a compromise between pro-life and pro-choice advocates. Instead of allowing abortion and to pacify the pro-lifers, people are required to bring up babies until they are 13, and at this time, they decide whether they sign them up for unwinding or not. At the center of all this are three characters who have been chosen for unwinding: Connor, a street-smart 16-year-old who has been signed up for unwinding by his parents because of his unruly behavior; Risa, an orphan who is up for unwinding because of budget cuts in her state-operated home; and Lev, a 13-year-old, is a tithe, someone who has been brought up by his overly religious parents solely to be unwound.

I'd like to think of myself as neither pro-life nor pro-choice. But after reading Unwind, I realized that there's nothing good that can come out of ending the life of an unborn. Yes, people may say that abortion may be the best thing, rather than giving birth to unwanted individuals in a very harsh world, growing up bitter, angry, poor, and unloved. I think that's beside the point. We'll never know how these unwanted children would turn out. Yes, a mistake has been made by irresponsible individuals, but we can never correct that mistake by committing another through abortion, right?

I usually don't express my stand on certain issues here in this blog. But after reading Unwind, I can't help not to. Unwind is the perfect read for young adults to take a stand on this sensitive topic. Perhaps we've been too caught up in deciding whether abortion should or shouldn't be legal. Maybe what we can focus on is instilling responsibility to our children -- tell them what the consequences of their actions are. In Unwind, irresponsible parenthood is somewhat tolerated. Mothers can simply leave their unwanted babies on the front door of strangers' houses. This is called storking. When people are storked, they're forced to bring up the babies as if they were their own.

Shusterman's wonderful characters and how they change throughout the novel had me up all night reading. When I think about it, the concept of unwinding, while it may be barbaric, can become a possibility. Unwinding is a perfect compromise if you think about it, and it benefits people who need organ transplants as well. After all, wasn't it just 60 years ago when people were killing millions of helpless persons just because of their religious beliefs? People have done f**cked up things before, and we don't know if we'll screw up things again soon.

Read Unwind. It's a touching, heartbreaking, and well-written page-turner. Shusterman's writing is crisp and wonderfully nuanced. Connor, Risa, and Lev are multi-dimensional characters; I'm sure you'll recognize a facet of your personality in any of them. And when you get to the part where the process of unwinding is being done to one of the characters, you'll experience a whole gamut of emotions -- horror, pity, and anger. I guarantee you that it's something you haven't read before.

Read this book if:
  1. You feel very passionate about the pro-life and pro-choice debate.
  2. You love YA books that tackle controversial issues.
  3. You signed up for organ donation.
By the way, Neal Shusterman is also the author of one of my favorite novels of all time, The Schwa Was Here. You might want to check that out too.

22 comments:

Tina said...

WOW...that was a great review. I read this as well and it haunted me for days....I agree that highschool kids should read it.

Peter S. said...

Hi, Tina! Thanks for your comment! I just feel passionately about this issue.

josbookshelf said...

Wow, Peter, this seems to be a very deep, emotional read. You are right,the story's concept is one I've never encountered. It is appalling yet fascinating at the same time.

If presented with this book, I don't know if I would pick it up though. On one hand, I'd be so curious knowing the plot is unique. On the other hand, I'd be very wary and reluctant knowing it will make me very depressed.

theschmuck said...

Thats an awesome review.The book sounds interesting,chilling!omg.This reminded of the movie The 6th Day and Shock by Robin cook.I would love to pic this one up!

Peter S. said...

@josbookshelf: Actually, the mood of the book, especially towards the end, is hopeful. So, it's not really that depressing.

@theschmuck: Hi! Thanks for dropping by.

Charlie said...

One of your best reviews ever, Peter, and I respect your feelings about abortion. It's a tough, tough subject to write and talk about.

I'm going to read it, and I think the intended audience (teens who may face an abortion decision), should definitely read it too.

Dannie said...

I love every word this author puts onto paper...

Logan said...

How....Disturbing.

I really enjoy stopping by your blog; you have such a diverse selection of books to browse and learn about.

Thanks for writing and happy new year!

Peter S. said...

@Charlie: Thanks. One of the things I liked about Shusterman is he's not afraid to write about these sensitive subjects.

@Dannie: Shusterman is one of my favorite authors!

@Logan: Disturbing indeed.

Melissa (My World) said...

WOW! What a review! This book sounds very riveting. I don't know if I could handle it. I could not think of turning my son over in 3 years to be unwinded. I feel like I am just getting to know my son even though I gave birth to him and have raised him (and still are). But 13 seems like not long enough to make such a life long decision on. Sounds like a great book though to make such a strong point.

Great Review!

Peter S. said...

Hi, Melissa! Thanks for your comment!

Ryan G said...

I'm not sure if this is something I would want to read or not. Thanks for your review and your comments.

Peter S. said...

Hi, Ryan! Thanks for dropping by!

Alexia561 said...

Very passionate review! I've heard about this book before, but wasn't sure if it was for me. After reading your review, definitely want to read it now! Thanks Peter!

Peter S. said...

Hi, Alexia! Thanks! I just feel so strongly about this issue.

StephanieD said...

Although I am firmly pro-choice, I respect your stance and, even more importantly - I think I really want to read this book! It reminds me a bit about The Giver.

Peter S. said...

Hi, StephanieD! I haven't yet read The Giver, but I heard lots of good things about it! I'll go check it out.

mel u said...

This sounds like a very interesting book-may I ask where you were able to buy it?-great review

Peter S. said...

Hi, Mel! I bought it in PowerBooks.

C.B. James said...

You liked the book more than I did. I enjoyed it as a thriller, though I think the initial premise is frankly ridiculous once I got into the story it certainly works.

I wonder where the author actually comes down on the abortion debate. Here he portrays anti-abortion people as perfectly willing to "kill" a teenager simply because they don't quite fit in. None of the children who are unwound are all that bad, really. Ask anyone who teaches middle school like I do. I've seen much, much worse. The book even has a religious cult that raises children specifically to be sacrificed for their organs.

It was a very disturbing thriller, I'll give it that.

Peter S. said...

Hi, C.B. James! Thanks for posting your thoughts. Isn't it amazing how this book can stir up lots of thoughts, ideas, and feelings?

Mark David said...

I couldn't have said it better myself. Your thoughts reflect practically the same principles that I believe in with regards to this issue. Like you, I also usually avoid expressing my opinion on controversial issues in my blog, but I totally respect you for making a stand on this one.

By the way, this dystopian story reminds me of a book I read recently entitled The Unit. And as far as movies go, it's also kind of like Gattaca meets The Island.