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Unwind by Neal Shusterman

y Neal Shusterman

Publishing Information: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers: New York, 2007
ISBN: 9781599902494 / 9781599903774 (PB)
: 352 p.
Ages: 11 & Up

Connor, Risa, and Lev are three teens brought together by chance, but end up unlikely allies surviving the insanity of society, a society where unwanted teens are harvested for their body parts. This vicious process is called an “unwind” order, used on orphaned teens to cut costs and to rid society of troubled teens. Equally twisted is the “chosen ones” where an unwinding has been planned since birth by fanatical religious parents. Unless they can survive until their eighteenth birthday, three young lives will be cut short and harvested to more deserving people. Will Conor, Risa, and Lev survive their harrowing journey in an attempt to stay alive?

Book Talk:
Imagine a society in which adults pick and chose who is worthy of living and who is not? In some cases, your own parents have signed away your life so your body can be harvested and distributed to more “worthier” people? Or maybe you are the child of religious fanatics who believe this is an honorable destiny for their child, in the name of religion? Equally unfortunate are those who have no parents and are living off of society, and are handed over to be harvested so the cost of taking care of you can be cut? Would you be brave enough to escape? Do you believe you have the courage and instincts to survive and fight for your life? 

Subject Headings & Major Themes:

Family Relationships
Human Body Parts Trade
Troubled Teens

Awards & Reviews:
George Peach Award Nominees, 2010
Nevada's Young Readers' Award Nominees, 2010
Oklahoma's Sequoyah Award Nominees, 2010
Pennsylvania's Young Reader's Choice Award Nominees, 2010
Texas Lone Star Reading Lists, 2009
Texas Tayshas Reading Lists
Utah's Beehive Award Nominees, 2010
Virginias's Reader's Choice Award Nominees, 2010
Washington's Evergree Young Adult Book Award Nominees, 2010
YALSA Best Books for Young Adults, 2008
YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers

Booklist, October 15, 2007, p. 45
Bulleitin of the Center for Children's Books, February 1, 2008
Horn Book Magazine, March 1, 2008
Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 2007
Library Journal, October 14, 2008
New York Times Book Review, March 18, 2008
Publisher's Weekly, November 26, 2007, p. 54 (Starred Review)
School Library Journal, January 1, 2008, p. 126 (Starred Review)

Discussion Questions and Ideas:

  1. Compare our own society with the futuristic society in Unwind.  In what ways do we seem civilized, yet our own laws reflect a cold, cruel, and barbaric sense?
  2. What are your own ideas about harvesting organs, euthanasia, and abortion? Has this book changed how you previously felt about these issues?
  3. Imagine your reaction if you were the recipient of donated organs from unwound teens?  How would you feel? What about if someone in your family was about to receive organs from unwound teens? Would you feel differently?
  4. This story has many conflicts.  One such conflict is person vs. society.  Which characters, besides the main characters, represent this conflict?
  5. What if our own society put into effect a law in which criminals would be unwound.   Would you feel differently about the practice of unwinding?
  6. Unwind takes place after the second civil war in America. The real civil war was about slavery.  Research other countries and the civil wars that took place. 
  7. Which character do you think you are most similar to in the story; think  in terms of the character’s fight for survival and personal beliefs.
  8. What do you think the author’s own feelings  toward such controversial topics like abortion, organ harvesting/donating, and euthanasia are?  Explain your answer. 
  9. In relation to controversial subjects, which  issues in our own society could lead to a civil war in America? For example, do you think that abortion could divide our country as it did in Unwind?
  10. Which scene in the book haunted you the most? Why?

Related Websites:
Author’s Website:
Bioethics Resources on the Web - 
Bioethics Information Resources at the National Library of Medicine -
The President's Council on Bioethics -
EthicsMatters at CNN Health -
Online Bioethics Resources at the National Human Genome Research Institute -
The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Bioethics -

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Other Books by the Author:
Just for Boys Presents Guy Talk, 1987
The Shadow Club
, 1988
Speeding Bullet
, 1991
What Daddy Did
, 1991
The Eyes of Kid Midas
, 1992
Kid Heroes, 1993
Darkness Creeping
, 1993
Dissidents, 1994
Darkness Creeping II
, 1995
Scorpion Shards
, 1995
MindQuakes: Stories to Shatter Your Brain, 1996
The Dark Side of Nowhere, 1997
MindTwisters: Stories to Shread Your Head
, 1999
, 1999
Thief of Souls: The Star Shards Chronicles
, 1999
Mindbenders: Stories to Warp Your Brain
, 2000
MindStorms: Stories to Blow Your Mind
, 2002
The Shadow Club Rising
, 2002
Shattered Sky: The Star Shards Chronicles
, 2002
Full Tilt
, 2003 (2005 RITBA Nominee)
The Schwa Was Here
, 2004 (2007 RITBA Nominee)
, 2005
Dread Locks (Dark Fusion #1)
, 2005
Red Rider's Hood (Dark Fusion #2), 2005
Duckling Ugly (Dark Fusion #3), 2006
Everlost, 2006
Antsy Does Time
(sequel to The Schwa Was Here)

About the Author:
Mr. Shusterman was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. He began writing at an early age. He has degrees in both psychology and drama. His professional writing career began shortly after his graduation from college. At 22, Mr. Shusterman became the youngest syndicated columnist in the United States when he was picked up by the Syndicated Writer's Group. Besides just writing novels, he spends his time directing films, writing stage plays, and writing music. He, also, was a celebrity judge for Hasbro's Real American Hero Search. His books have won many awards.

| ©2004 - Rhode Island Teen Book Award Committee | Aaron Coutu, Chair