Unwind is set in the semi-near future from what I could gather. At one point several of the main characters find themselves in an antique shop where there are items like iPods from their grandfathers' era and plasma screen TVs. Yeah, like those would still be working! I was thinking about this yesterday as I was shopping for a new digital camera. Ours finally went out after 6 years and approximately 8,000 pictures. That's not so bad, I guess, but wouldn't it be nice if ANYTHING were made to last anymore? There are still phonographs and Brownie cameras out there in use, items that have been handed down through the generations and cherished (or at least not abused) by their owners all these years. What is our generation going to have to hand down to future generations, our iPod playlists? But I digress.
After the Heartland War, which basically pitted the Pro-Lifers against the Pro-Choicers, a compromise was reached which, true to real life, seems to have been in nobody's best interest. The Bill of Life was passed and the gist of it is: Abortions are no longer legal. If you are pregnant, you must have the child and raise it until age 13. If, by the time the child reaches age 13, you still are not interested in raising him, you can have him unwound. Unwinding is sort of the biological equivalent of selling a car for parts except that the children just get taken, you don't have to sell them. Anyway, they are taken apart, piece by piece, and all of their parts must be given to others in need, so it's organ donation on a large scale. In this way, the child is not killed-all of him is still alive in some form or fashion (the Pro-lifers are happy) and the child's parents no longer have to raise an unwanted child (the Pro-choicers are happy). See? Everybody wins! Oh, um, except the kids. It kind of sucks to be them. They have lost both the right to life and the right to choose what happens to their bodies. Kids between 13 and 18 are subject to unwinding. Once you reach 18, you are considered an adult and can no longer be unwound.
Of course, the well-intended Bill of Life resulted in a lot of babies in dumpsters because there were still plenty of mothers out there who just did not have the desire or perhaps the means to raise a baby. In response to this "Storking" laws were put into place. If you had a baby that you didn't want, you could leave it on someone else's doorstep. Whoever finds the baby is legally responsible for it's upbringing. If you get caught in the act, however, you have to take the baby back. Most of the time this works out ok, but there is an ugly underbelly to this as well, which we find out about as the book goes on.
Most of the time, kids don't know that they are about to be unwound. The cops just show up at their door one day and no one ever hears from them again. This isn't always the case-there are special circumstances in which some kids know from the get go that they are destined to be unwound. The book follows 3 main characters who have found out through various means that they are going to be unwound and their subsequent attempts to avoid this fate. The reasons for their unwinding and their reasons for not wanting (or wanting) to be unwound are diverse, as are the stories of all the characters they meet on their journey.
Unwind falls into the Young Adult category, and the story kept my interest and was a pretty easy read, but it brought up some fairly heavy issues, issues which are certainly translatable and pertinent today like:
What constitutes being alive? If you have a soul and you are unwound, what happens to your soul? Does it get chopped up and doled out in various amounts to the recipients of your body parts, does it reside in a single body part, or is it stretched like a web around the globe when your body parts get distributed to others? If everyone has a soul, when do we get them-conception, birth, when somebody loves you? Does God give souls to unwinds? It also introduces some tough issues like murder, terrorism, and attempted rape.
This is one of those books that you read and think, boy that's crazy stuff! I'm glad this is just fiction! If I had read this book any other time, I think that would have been my reaction as well, but I've got to tell you, I don't see this as being that far out there right now. The thing that puts this out of the realm of possibility for me right now is the technology, not the moral climate of our country. I'm not much on politics, but the fact that Sarah Palin is thisclose to being in the White House scares the crap out of me. The fact that women are willing to vote for her just because she is a woman scares the crap out of me. That's like people with moustaches voting for Hitler because he has a moustache. Hey, I've got a moustache, he's got a moustache, he must have the same values I do! Gaaaaah! Come on people! Don't vote for Obama because he's black. Don't vote for Palin because she's a woman. Don't vote for McCain or Biden because they are old white dudes. Find out at least a teeny little bit about your candidates and make somewhat of an informed decision. You don't have to be able to recite their entire voting record, but pick SOMETHING, anything upon which you can take a stand and say this is why I support or don't support this candidate.
(Okay, unscheduled mini political rant over.)
If you've been reading regularly, A)thank you! and B) you know that I have become mildly obsessed with finding coincidences between what I'm reading and what's going on in my real life, and this book is no exception! So, in that vein, I am claiming the Heartland War/crazy political climate coincidence and the Banned Books Week coincidence which I explain thusly: I didn't actively "celebrate" Banned Books Week by going out of my way to read any banned books, but I may have participated without really meaning to. I will be shocked and amazed if this doesn't make it onto next year's list of banned or challenged books. There are plenty of issues for people who don't have anything better to do to freak out about in this book. On that note, I hope lots and lots of people read this book, and I hope that parents and children are actually able to have some meaningful conversations as a result of it.