Unwind by Neal Shusterman

Last night I was up until 1:46am.  Why?  Because I could not put down Neal Shusterman’s creepy dystopian novel,   Unwind. My classes just finished The Giver as a read aloud and I can not wait to booktalk Unwind. tomorrow.  It’s deliciously creepy and I could not put it down.  I carried it in my purse all day, even reading on the car ride down to Easter dinner.  Due to the holiday, I didn’t get a ton of reading in, which resulted in my 2am bedtime.

Unwind is set in the future.  The second civil war took place sometime between now and then, between those who were pro-life and those who were pro-choice.  The peace treaty enacted was meant to satisfy both sides- The Bill of Life.

From The Bill of Life:

“The Bill of Life states that human life may not be touched from the moment of conception until a child reaches the age of thirteen.

However, between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, a parent may choose to retroactively ‘abort’ a child…

…on condition that the child’s life doesn’t ‘technically’ end.

The process by which a child is both terminated and yet kept alive is called ‘unwinding.’ “

When a teenager is unwound, the law is that every part of them must be used to help someone else.  It’s like nonconsensual organ donation at its absolute worst.  It’s better to be divided and accomplish something great than to be whole and do nothing, right?

There are three protagonists which was a brilliant writing decision on Shusterman’s part.  Connor, Risa, and Levi are all about to be unwound but for very different reasons.  The only thing they have in common is their status as unwounds, and even in that aspect they aren’t equals.  By having all three characters alternate in telling the story we get three very different viewpoints.  I found myself alternately rooting for and hating each on at different points in the story.  These aren’t perfect kids by any means.  They make stupid decisions many times and I just wanted to shake them!  But what a testament to Neal Shusterman’s character development because I felt like I knew each character and I was rooting for each one.

This is one of the most terrifying dystopian novels I have read because the society isn’t all that different from our own.  In the big picture it seems impossible, but Shusterman includes real events from the present-day as reasons for the Bill of Life.  And his reasons don’t seem over-the-top.  In fact, the sequence of events sounds eerily possible.  I found myself folding down pages and marking passages to go look up later.

This would be a phenomenal class read-aloud or book club choice.  The conversation possibilities are almost endless.  The story will disturb you and fascinate you and reader’s won’t be able to put it down.  It’s perfect for readers who have outgrown Margaret Peterson Haddix’s Shadow Children Series.

Tween Book Buying Guide for the Holidays- Post Apocalyptic and Dystopian


I am a dystopian fiction fanatic.  Hand me a dystopian book or a post apocalyptic novel and I am forever in your debt. My students always fall in love with these dystopian/post apocalyptic novels!

Life As We Knew It and the dead and the gone never fail to hook my most dormant readers. Both books tell the tale of two teens whose lives are forever altered when an asteroid crashes into the moon, moving it closer to the earth.  Because of this, every conceivable natural disaster occurs. Life as we knew it forever gone and the dead are piling up all over the world.  Soon, humanity begins turning on itself!

Maybe you know a tween who has read Lois Lowry’s The Giver? Did you know there are two companion novels? Gathering Blue and Messenger wrap up the story of Jonas and Gabe. They are a must-read for anyone who read The Giver and couldn’t wait to find out what really happened to both of them.

Hasn’t every teen and tween wished away their parents at some point? But what if everyone over the age of 14 disappeared in the blink of an eye, leaving behind only kids to run the world? Gone explores this “dream” scenario with frightening results!

What if your parents lied to you, under the guise of protecting you? In a moment of panic over a nuclear attack, Eli, and his family rush into an underground bunker built by Eli’s eccentric father. Unfortunately, his grandmother and twin brother don’t make it into the bunker. For the past six years, life has been fairly routine. But with 9 years left, some things just aren’t adding up. Eli is starting to have doubts about his father’s motives, explanations, and sanity. The Compound is a fast-paced must read for dystopian/post apocalyptic fans!

Finally, what if all of the adults in your life were brainwashing you? Candor is a model community, but Oscar knows that parents bring their teenagers to Candor to make them “better”–through subliminal Messages that carefully control their behavior. Can he give up the girl of his dreams to escape the Messages?

Finally, there is the ever popular The Hunger Games. Talk about a page-turner!

What are some of your favorite dystopian or post apocalyptic tween/teen books?

Big News from Susan Beth Pfeffer!

Be sure to check out Susan Beth Pfeffer’s blog to see the recently-released cover of her newest novel, This World We Live In.  It is a follow-up to her NY Times best-selling books Life As We Knew It and the dead and the gone.

Both books are always hot, hot, hot in my classroom so I can not wait to read This World We Live In. And the cover is AWESOME!

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