Unwinding has never been so scary

It was one of my New Year’s resolutions last year to read at least one book every month. At the beginning of this year, I was lucky enough to get a week off work during which I finished one book it seemed I’d been reading all of last year – the last Harry Potter novel – as well as one I’d seen countless recommendations for around the blogosphere – The Lovely Bones. [Sidenote: do not, I repeat, do not see the movie – it was the Time Traveller’s Strife all over again!] Since then, with Sweet being on board with rediscovering our mutual love of reading, we’ve found a system that seems to keep us both on track: a Read-Off. We will each read as many books as we can in 2011, and the loser has to buy the winner a gift voucher to Chapters. And possibly ice cream. 🙂 Current status: I am being thoroughly thrashed, having read a measly three books to his seven [!]. But since I’ve always enjoyed sharing absolute corkers when I come across them, whether that’s in song, on screen, or in literature, I thought I’d add a review here and there throughout the year; share the good, the bad, and the ugly, and keep track of my standing along the way. 🙂

I was a bit of a n00b to GoodReads, but once I’d signed up, it rapidly became one of my favourite things on the Internet. I could so easily read reviews, see ratings, and collect favourite quotes from beloved authors – it was like Rotten Tomatoes for books! One that quickly caught my attention was Unwind – though considered a teen novel, I’d heard such great things about stories in similar categories that I thought I’d give this one a go – especially with such an incredibly captivating premise. The book is set in the not too distant future, after the “Second Civil War” over reproductive rights during which America was divided into pro-life and pro-choice armies. The “Bill of Life” that ended the war stated that though traditional abortions were forbidden [the mother of an unwanted child could simply leave her baby on somebody’s doorstep; if she was caught, she would have to keep it, but if not, it was legally the responsibility of the unsuspecting homeowners], parents can have their child “unwound,” whereby all of the child’s organs are harvested for transplant into different donors, so life “doesn’t technically end.” How deliciously sinister!

The story begins with Connor, a 13-year-old, slightly troublesome boy who stumbled across three tickets for a Caribbean vacation in his parents’ study, bearing the names of his mum, dad, and brother. At first, he thinks his has been misplaced, but soon comes across the signed forms for his unwinding. Their holiday is scheduled for the following day. Instead of flipping out, as would be expected of him, he spends the next couple of weeks being the best son and brother he could possibly be, in an attempt to make his parents feel terrible for the decision they had made, before escaping one night while everyone slept. On his journey to get away, he meets a girl named Risa, another Unwind, a talented piano player who wasn’t quite good enough, and a boy named Lev, a tithe, one of 10 children whose parents’ definition of “give 10% of everything to the church” extended to include him, and who thoroughly believes his own unwinding is his life’s purpose, and is quite looking forward to it.

The story follows a roller coaster journey of betrayal, of desperation, of horror, of survival, and of revolution, though including perhaps one of the most disturbing scenes I’ve ever come across in fiction – a chilling description of a living dissection. The plot is ingenious, thoroughly imaginative and clever, however the author really should have invested in a better editor – I can’t stand it when I come across a typo in a published book, let alone a full on plot mistake, and I found the errors so irritating it immediately smashed my suspension of disbelief. The annoyance didn’t last long however – and though I don’t think I ever quite got used to YA-style writing, I found myself thoroughly glued to every page by such a riveting storyline.

I could go on for paragraphs, but there is simply too much action and too many spoilers. I probably would’ve loved this when I was a kid, and I think if it had been written for adults, I would have absolutely no reservation in giving this book 5 stars. It definitely gets 4 though, not for the strength of writing in the slightest, but for strength of imagination, for evoking a reaction in me, for the gripping plot and the brilliant twist at the end. This would make a fantastic movie – with the right director, of course. Steven Moffat, if you have a wee opening in your schedule post-DW:S6, I reckon this one’d be a right corker to add to your repertoire. 🙂


    1. Excellent – I think I’m just not used to the simpler language of YA novels, which threw me a little – but definitely a great premise, if a frightfully scary concept for kids! I saw one review of it on Amazon – “if you find your child reading Unwind, be sure to tell them that you love them and give them a big hug.” lol 🙂

    1. Me too! Although GoodReads has helped me organise my proverbial pile and keep track of those I add in passing but would probably forget about otherwise 🙂

  1. Ugh, I also hate it when I encounter errors in a book – whether grammatical or related to my the plot. A friend told me that if you contact the publisher & alert them to the errors, they will reimburse you for the cost of the book?? I have never tried this, though!

    1. I heard that the other day when I was telling Kyla about this book! I sent the publishers an e-mail, but I haven’t heard anything back – will keep you posted!

  2. I read the book and saw the movie of The Lovely Bones – it was okay but “inbetween” was too solid – it was supposed to be more dream like. I think a lot of films that are made from books don’t live up to expectations. (HP and Twilight are good examples – just waiting to see if The Hunger Games gets killed too)

    1. I wasn’t too upset with the HP adaptations – they did change the odd thing, but I think they were successful in keeping with the overall theme of the book and maintaining a thoroughly captivating movie – too often I find myself watching movie adaptations of brilliant books like TTW or TLB, and being more frustrated than anything that they changed and omitted SO MUCH of what made the books so good!

  3. Ooooh you definitely have me interested in this book! Sometimes I really enjoy young adult fiction. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the “good-guy-always-wins” simplicity of them, or something. I’m not sure! But right now I am loving Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series. It’s so good! If you haven’t read them, you totally should. 😀 Anyways. I should add this to my line-up! Thanks for the review, Em. ❤

    1. I do have those – I inherited them from my mum years ago, but I’ve only read Northern Lights (and seen the Golden Compass movie, which I thought was fabulous!)

  4. I LOVE books!! And I’m so happy to read about your review. 🙂 I also have signed up for a GoodReads account, but have yet to really get into it. After your glowing review, I’m going to start it up.


    1. You of ALL people should be on GoodReads!! We can buddy up and I can see what you’re reading – every time I pass a copy of “One Day” (I think that’s what it’s called? With the black and white cover with the silhouettes of faces on it?) I still think of you!

      1. EM! You NEED to get that book!! I promise you won’t regret it.

        Also! A movie just wrapped up filming based on that novel. Starring Anne Hathaway and the ever GORGEOUS Jim Sturgess.


        Offically going to get my GoodReads put together this weekend. 🙂

  5. I loved the book “The Lovely Bones” but didn’t see the movie (I’m a wimp!). “The Time Traveller’s Wife” is one of my all-time favourite books, but still haven’t seen the movie…doesn’t sound like I missed much!

    I love the idea of reading with your husband (Jim doesn’t read much but photography magazines and technical books!).


    1. DON’T see the movie! They leave out all the important and interesting parts, just as they did with the Time Traveller’s Wife (also one of my all-time favourites!) – and both just leave you kind of feeling like punching somebody, lol

  6. Organs seem to be getting more popular, lately.
    This plot definitely feels new and intriguing, but it sounds like something done right that’s been done before (in film, at least, and with that Jodi Picoult novel & film My Sister’s Keeper). I don’t think that takes away from it, but rather the book sounds more exciting for being better-put-together than the films with a similar concept (e.g. Repo! The Genetic Opera, and Repo Men).

    BTW, I’d be more than happy to send you two a copy of my book at any time (either regular old paper or electronic) if you’d be willing to review it where you added it on Goodreads. Not to blatantly advertise, but if any of your readers were similarly interested I’d love to talk to them about it, too.

    1. W00t for organs, haha 🙂 I haven’t read My Sister’s Keeper, but I looked into the synopsis after reading Unwind and it does sound similar, but less sinister, I think. And I’m a big fan of sinister. 🙂

      I would love to read your book! I have trouble with electronic forms of reading (I could never do a Kindle!), but a paper copy would be more than fantastic! I’d totally review it for you too 🙂

  7. I am going to agree with Todd–organs seem to be big internal (ha) storylines these days. But this one does sound interesting and like a good read. Maybe goodreads will pick me up as visitor today…They should pay you for the traffic you are sending to their website from this post : )

  8. Noticed the book challenge last week. Very cool idea. I’m a list-maker, so I’ve attempted to start multiple Word documents with lists and cross the books out as I read, but then life happens and they get pushed to the back of my brain. You didn’t like The Time Traveler’s Wife? I loved the book, wanted to love the movie since I love Rachel McAdams, but it didn’t quite happen. There’s only one thing that’s stopping me from completely discounting seeing The Lovely Bones. I read the book and feel obligated to see the movie, because much of it was shot within miles from my house. Some of the scenes actually on roads I drive down every week at home. So I want that whole feel of knowing ohmygosh that’s my town, you know?

    1. I did love The Time Traveller’s Wife – in book form, it’s one of my all-time favourites, but on the screen, they left out absolutely everything that made the book great – and changed the ending!! It was awful 😦 I can definitely see why you’d want to see The Lovely Bones if it was filmed so close to where you live – just be prepared for it to be atrocious 🙂

  9. Wow. You’ve got me interested despite the fact that I am not very crazy about novels describing dissection. Thank you for a wonderful review here.

    I so hate it myself when there’s a typo in the book. It leaves me uncomfortable and I start having second thoughts about the book. Too bad your read had them. But good that you still enjoyed.


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