Literature Thursdays: Unwind

(Note: I’m currently out of the country, so I’ve composed some blog drafts and will publish them when I happen to have wi-fi. I’ll be back at the end of July!)



Prepare yourselves, readers! Today I’ll be discussing another YA novel. Just a warning, it’s my favorite genre, and it’s summer, so I’ll be getting my fix before I’m forced back to Coleridge and Milton for the fall.

Today, I’ll be discussing Neal Shusterman’s Unwind, a book that recently gained a number of new followers. Also, with all the recent abortion debate going on, this is a powerful read that will provoke both sides of the issue to sit back and think on the consequences that may result if this debate intensifies.

Shusterman paints a post-war United States that has picked up the pieces after its Second Civil War that was fought over the issue of abortion. A compromise in the form of the Bill of Life results in deeming human life as absolute until the age of thirteen. If a child is unwanted, too troublesome, or if the government cannot afford to care for so many wards, the bill provides two ultimatums:

  1. Storking: Abortions are no longer legal, so mothers are permitted to abandon their newborns on the doorstep of any home they choose. The family in that home is required to take the baby in and care for it as their own.
  2. Unwinding: When a child reaches the age of 13, they qualify for a procedure called “Unwinding.” If a parent or guardian believes the child proves to have no potential in society, or a state is trying to care for too many wards, they are allowed to surrender the child to the government. Afterwards, the child will be sent to a harvest camp, where they will undergo a surgery that will collect nearly 100% of their body and donate it to people who need corrective procedures (blood transfusions, prosthetic arms, spinal cords, heart transplants, etc.) This way, the child is successfully done away with yet technically still alive through the recipients.

There are extremely religious families who believe in a life of tithing. Money, food, and children all qualify. These families strive to have a tenth child that may be given to the government and unwound on their thirteenth birthday as a sort of duty to the country.

The novel is told through varying perspectives, but the main three are

  • Connor Lassiter, a rebellious 16 year-old who discovers that his parents plan to unwind him on the day they escape to the Bahamas. Connor refuses to give in so easily and runs away.
  • Risa Ward is a 15 year-old orphan and ward of the state. She has just given the piano performance of her life… literally. She knows that this concert will determine whether or not she is fit to live and join society, but she makes five mistakes during her Sonata. The bad news she expects is immediately delivered to her, and she finds herself on a bus bound for the nearest harvest camp.
  • Lev Calder, the tenth child of the Calder family, is turning thirteen, and his parents throw him a tithing party before he embarks on the journey to fulfill his duty. He is peaceful about the future, thanks to guidance from his pastor, yet his older brother disrupts the party by expressing his dismay and anger over unwinding. Nevertheless, Lev is as willing as a lamb to the slaughter (an appropriate metaphor, since he is dressed in all white for the occasion.)

Call it fate, destiny, whatever, but these three paths cross in an instant of chaos, panic, and split-second thinking, and the three teens find themselves on a terrifying, fast-paced road to escape, freedom, and life. The adventure, however, does not end well for some as they find themselves being escorted into the operation room…

This terrible, horrible book had me up at 2am sobbing and unable to sleep. I was terrified and happy and mournful all at once, but mostly terrified.

Yes, unwinding is a fictional procedure. However, I believe this book scares me so much because the concept was created by a human mind. Who’s to say this idea won’t pop into someone else’s head, and the world perceives it as a brilliant compromise?

No matter if you’re pro-choice or pro-life, I believe anyone who wants perspective on the issue should read this series. The second installment, UnWholly, was just released (and I’ll be reading during my plane rides), and UnSouled, the conclusion, will be released in October 2013.

Meanwhile, check out this video for a fan-made trailer for the book. I almost couldn’t finish it!

Until then!


Literature Thursdays: Paper Towns

(Note: I have a few of these saved and queued to publish on their proper days. I’m currently in Cambodia, so I won’t be able to do my scheduled blogs. I’ll be back at the end of July though!) 



Ah, yes, here we are. Literature Thursdays.

What? Oh, right, it doesn’t have a ring to it. Well, Mondays are taken for the Pick-Me-Ups, Tuesday would be too soon, Wednesdays are busy, and I’d like to have my weekends tied a bit less to my laptop. You know, trying to explore the world beyond the screen and whatnot.

And I can’t have Book B__day because there are no days that start with a B. So, unless I receive an insanely creative alliteration for a certain weekday when I do literature reviews, please, indulge me!

So, I thought we’d begin this series with my favorite author, John Green. If you’re tied in any way to the literature world yet have not heard of this man… Yowzers. We’re getting that fixed immediately.

A quick bio: John Green is an English/Religious studies major who currently resides in Indiana with his wife, two kids, and a dog named Willy or Fireball Wilson. He’s a part-time author and vlogger and recently became an educator of sorts with his new web series, Crash Course. He co-founded the VlogBrothers with his brother, Hank Green, and together they formed incredibly influential groups such as the Nerdfighters, VidCon, Project for Awesome, and the aforementioned Crash Course. His debut novel, Looking for Alaska, was a major success that was followed by An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns, and The Fault in Our Stars. He has co-written novels such as Will Grayson, Will Grayson and Let it Snow: Three Holiday Romances. 

Alright, now that all the technical stuff is out of the way, we can get to the fun stuff! Thus far in his career, Green has published only young adult novels. He is often asked if he will branch out into more “mature” genres, or perhaps even the children’s genre. In his vlogs (I couldn’t find the exact one), John explains that he adores YA literature and disagrees with anyone who finds it too enchanting, too basic, etc. He admires teenagers because adolescence, despite its hardships, is quite a wondrous experience. John often re-tells stories from his younger years; in fact, Looking for Alaska is based off his misadventures in boarding school.

Paper Towns is his third novel of four, and the story is told by Q, a quasi-geek who does his best to trudge through each day of high school with his best friends Radar and Ben and silently gaze at his beautiful childhood friend, Margo Roth Spiegelman, who has moved on to become the most popular girl in school. One night, Margo sneaks up to Q’s window and convinces him to join her in a series of vengeful pranks against her friends and boyfriend, all who have wronged her. After their night of shenanigans draws to a close, Q fantasizes about Margo abandoning her friends and rejoining him throughout the rest of their senior year.

However, Margo doesn’t show up to school the next day. Or the next. On day three, her parents file a report to the police. Q refuses to believe Margo would disappear without leaving a note or clue. Through persistence and clever snooping, Q and his crew discover a trail of clues that lead to Margo’s hideout, but no Margo. Instead, Margo has left a message for him:


A devastated Q assumes that Margo has committed suicide and begins to look for her body, but days of searching throughout the city prove fruitless. On the day of his graduation, he makes a connection with a map left behind in the hideout and Omnictionary, a site similar to Wikipedia that publishes articles and allows anyone to contribute sources. In a moment of spontaneity, Q, Ben, Radar, and Margo’s former friend Lacey forego their graduation and hop in Q’s new-used van to pursue Margo’s clue.

I won’t ruin the ending for you, promise! At 3am, I was shocked as I read the final words. It had not ended as I assumed it would; John Green is a sneaky little man. I should warn you though, this is, by no means, a romance novel. A typical YA novel has the boy-meets-girl, something goes wrong, the story ends with their first date or whatever. In my opinion, John Green has revolutionized the young adult genre with normal, relative people who are not extremes.

Q is not a socially awkward, extremely intelligent nerd who cannot make friends or talk to girls if his life depended on it, yet he’s not known and admired by all. He has friends, he talks to girls comfortably, and he has the same opinion of school that any average teenager would. Margo is not completely popular and bubbly; she reveals a deep, dark side to her during her night of adventure. John Green does not rely on stereotypes or extremes to convey his point; rather, he uses reflective dialogue, intense inner-thoughts, and quirky humor (white wall of cow, anyone?).

What I love about YA literatures is that it’s for anyone. There’s no age limit for this genre because you’re either experiencing what the characters are going through at this moment, or you’ve been there, and these books are a drug that provides you with an overwhelming amount of nostalgia and joy as you look back on your high school days. At least, that’s the way it is for me.

If you haven’t already read Green’s work, I strongly recommend you make yourself familiar with them. The novels do not overlap or connect, so the choice of your first novel is completely up to you. Personally, I chose to read them in the order they were published so I could watch John’s writing style and voice evolve through the years. It’s fantastic, really!

Until then!