In the future, a terrible war is fought over abortion. It ended with a compromise: that once a child had been conceived, that child was legally alive and illegal to terminate, but between the ages of thirteen to eighteen, a child's parents could sign him or her over to be unwound. It's not technically killing a child, they claim, since every part of the child is bound by law to be reused for someone else. The Unwind is still alive, just in many parts.
Connor Lassiter discovers that his parents have signed him over to be unwound, and resolves to run away. During his escape, he turns a tranquilizer gun on a juvey-cop (police assigned especially to Unwind runaways) and earns the nickname of "The Akron AWOL", and so becomes a legend among Unwind runaways.
He also meets up with Risa Ward, a ward of the state of Ohio, and Levi (Lev) Calder, a tithe. Tithes are children raised to be Unwound. They grow up hearing about how they're "special" and are a tenth of the family, so they are given to God. Trying to save Lev, Risa and Connor kidnap him and they end up on the run.
First of all, this is Neal Shusterman we're talking about, so of course it's going to be awesome. What I forgot about when I started this book, though, is that Neal Shusterman is also creepy as heck when he wants to be. This book was puh-retty disturbing at times.
In the beginning, none of the characters are all that awesome. Connor has a bit of an angery issue, Risa's just meh, and Lev is annoying. But as the story progresses, they all gain more depth and I think they actually mature as they continue on their journey. I have to applaud Mr. Shusterman on not only making his main characters round, but giving orotundity to the less important ones as well.
At first I really couldn't see where the plot would go. It seemed like the trio would just wander around eternally and never get anywhere, but there's a reason they call Neal Shusterman "The Storyman". Several points in the story felt a bit strange, but other than that, it was all smooth and perfectly paced, never dragging out boring scenes or rushing over something too fast to figure out what was going on.
I don't want to say too much about the ending, because I really don't want to ruin it, but let's just say it was fantastic. About three quarters of the way through, I had no idea how it was going to end. It was all set up for an unhappy ending, but... well, I'll let you find out for yourself.
It's also written in present tense, which can be confusing at times. After about two seconds, you get used to it and it's fine, but sometimes it'll abruptly pop out at you and you'll have to pause to orient yourself. In my opinion, only really good books can get away with present tense, so thumbs up to Neal Shusterman.
This isn't my favorite Neal Shusterman novel, but a not-as-awesome Neal Shusterman novel is still really awesome. It's one of those science fiction/futuristic novels that's not the space kind of science fiction (in case you didn't get that from the summary), so I wouldn't recommend it to fantasy or hard sci-fi fans. Also, I wouldn't put it in the hands of anyone under thirteen.
Now, you might remember a Wednesday Scrolls (http://persyandarty.blogspot.com/2010/08/persy-wednesday-scrolls.html) mentioning Unwind being made into a movie. It's still set to come out in 2012, but I haven't found any new news about it. You can still check out the movie website (http://unwindmovie.com/UNWINDMOVIE/UNWIND.html) for various contests, links, and such.
After reading the book, I'm not sure if it'd make the kind of movie I'd really enjoy. I can certainly see it as a movie, but it seems like there's a bit too much thoughtfulness in there to make anything other than a "meaningful" movie without a lot of diologue, if you know what I mean. So I'm a bit apprehensive... but still hopeful. I guess we'll just see in 2012.