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. 🙂