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March 17, 2009

’Unwind’ and the imagination

Unwind As I was looking at one of my favorite book blogs recently, my eye was caught by this review of Unwind by Neal Shusterman.

Generations from now, after the Heartland War, life is protected from the moment of conception until age thirteen.  Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, the parents or guardians of the now-teenaged child have the option to "unwind" -- to retroactively abort -- him or her.  If the parents choose to do so, the teen is sent to a harvesting facility where their body is taken apart and reused. . . .

Unwind was outstanding.  Really freaking outstanding.

I was impressed by, well, everything.  It deals with abortion without ever ever ever feeling preachy -- I didn't once feel that Neal Shusterman revealed his opinion on the issue.  It was action-packed and exciting (I read the last few chapters with my heart in my throat) yet that there was so much to think about -- the characters have conversations about the soul, whether it exists and where it is, and about when life begins.  There are things that can be interpreted in different ways -- some people will attribute those events to science whereas some may attribute the same events to something less tangible. 

The three major characters have distinct personalities, and the character development (especially of the two boys) is very well done and the secondary characters never blend together or into the background.  The unwinding scene is as stomach-turning as anything I've ever read by Stephen King, but without being graphic or gory.  While exploring different visions of our future world, I look for a couple of things beyond the future-stuff:  to see enough of the familiar to make it still seem like our world and to see how our language and stories have evolved.  In Unwind, I found both.

I haven't read Unwind, so there's not much I can say about it off my own bat. (While it sounds intriguing, I'm not certain I have the stomach for it.) And there's plenty of room for debate about the appropriateness of Stephen-King-like scenes in a teen novel; that's an area where I sometimes find myself in disagreement with this blogger.

But it strikes me that when Christians talk about the need for fiction that captures young imaginations, these are some of the elements we need to be looking for: good writing, exciting high-stakes storylines, a willingness to tackle the tough issues, a lack of preachiness. I'm not condemning, just stating a fact, when I say that young secular bloggers are by and large a religiously and politically closed-minded lot. When a novel is good enough to get a member of this group even to admit that there are two sides to an issue like abortion, and to give it some serious thought (even if, as I suspect from doing some research, the book's handling of the issue and the people involved in it sometimes stretches credibility), that's pretty darned good.

(Image © Simon & Schuster)

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I would strongly recommend "Unwind" as a thought-provoking book for teens. The reviewer was correct- the author doesn't reveal his opinion, but certainly clearly depicts that abortion is a very complicated issue.

One especially difficult scene to read takes place inside the mind of a teen being unwound. *shiver* Another idea brought up in the book is that unwilling parents can legally abandon their infants on the steps of a home, and the family inside is legally bound to adopt the child. Sadly, many choose to continue to pass the baby anonymously until the inevitable occurs. . .

Parents of younger teens will, of course, want to read the book themselves to decide if it's right for their children. It's pretty intense.


I think you'd like the book and find it thought-provoking. Here's a link to my review:


Gina Dalfonzo

Thank you both. I really am interested in reading it -- I just wish I could find a way to do so without insomnia and/or nightmares. Sometimes I can be absurdly sensitive to this kind of thing. I wish I weren't, because it keeps me away from quite a few worthwhile books and films.

Mike D'Virgilio

I look forward to reading this. I think the only way we will capture the next generations for the Right and more traditional view of reality is through their imaginations. God made us in his image and the universe and all that is in it is the work of his hands. No matter what the left, secular or religious, does they cannot escape that. This is why we need more Christians and other traditional conservatives in professions that capture the imagination.

The intellect and intellectual pursuits are critical as well, but larger culture creates the plausibility structure into which people's basic assumptions are formed. Stories and the imagination are at the forefront of creating that plausibility structure. Younger people are in fact more pro-life and ambivalent about abortion because of Juno and ultrasounds.

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