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Nessa's Thoughts

Just a British girl who reads a bit too much.

Currently reading

The Dead Zone
Stephen King
The Diving Bell And The Butterfly
Jean-Dominique Bauby
Clarissa, or, the History of a Young Lady
Samuel Richardson, Angus Ross
Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison
Piper Kerman
The Cuckoo's Calling
Robert Galbraith
Unwind - Neal Shusterman One of my favourite genres of all time is horror. More specifically, horror that really gets underneath your skin, makes you uncomfortable, gives you nightmarish scenarios your brain likes to remind you of just as you're trying to get to sleep... But I find my high expectations for horror are very rarely met when it comes to YA novels.Sure, there's horrible dystopias, such as the ones featured in The Hunger Games and Delirium, but neither of them have particularly scared me. I wouldn't want to live in that book's world, either way.Now, if I woke up and found myself as a teenager in the world of Neal Shusterman's Unwind series? I'd be sending a distress signal across time and space and hoping it would be picked up by the nearest TARDIS as soon as possible. MAYDAY! MAYDAY!Ahem.Unwind takes place in a world where, after a war broke out between pro-choice and pro-lifers, abortion is illegal. Newborns can be dumped on a doorstep, with the family who open the door suddenly becoming legally responsible for said baby. However, there's also been a law brought in that allows parents to sign off their dead-beat children for organ harvesting at the ages of 13 to 18.Sick of your stroppy teenager? Don't phone up the TV networks and beg them to be put on the next series of World's Strictest Parents, just sign the order, wait for the van to take them to the harvest camp, and feel free to have another baby. Better luck next time! Or, if you're religious, your tenth child will be a 'tithe', along with the other 10% of your earnings you give to God. Or, if you're a ward of the state, you'll be sent off because there's no more funding for you past a certain age.Also, there's been a bit of a medical revolution. Instead of doctors researching into cures for diseases and genetic conditions,they will simply use healthy transplants, all gained from these teenage donors. These transplants are also used for cosmetic reasons too, as in the case where a military guy talks about his girlfriend getting her eyes transplanted because she was bored of her own eye colour.Do you want another concept that will get under your skin? Shusterman likes to write about the great unknown that is 'the divided state', and kids who have cases of muscle memory from their donor dictating their actions. More on that later.It's a bit of an odd premise, but Shusterman takes this concept, and makes it work beautifully. Little societal details such as main character Connor seeing a baby left on a doorstep, and his outrage when he sees a little boy who opens the door and yells back: “Urgh! Mom! Dad! We got storked again!” All these different divisions, clever advertisements and off-the-cuff remarks that really ring home how horrible this world really is.The story is really about three characters: Connor, Risa, and Lev. Connor is a young boy who's a bit of a pain in the arse, so his parents sign the Unwinding order. Risa is a musical prodigy who is being sent for Unwinding due to cuts in funding for older children of the state, and Lev is a religious boy being 'tithed'. Connor and Risa both view what's happening as unfair, whereas Lev is happy to give up his body to help others.They are all brought together by an enormous car crash on a highway, and from there, they all go on the run. Lev eventually breaks away from them, and Connor and Risa manage to find help in unexpected places.As the story twisted and turned, it kept me on the edge of my seat, and really shook me from time to time.Now, let's return to Shusterman writing about 'the divided state' and muscle memory and all that horrible stuff.While Lev is separated from Connor and Risa, he meets another runaway boy named Cy. Now, Cy was a regular kid being raised by his adoptive fathers, but was unfortunately involved in a car accident, and needed healthy tissue to replace a large damaged section of his brain. Naturally, Cy was given brain tissue from an Unwind, and has made a full recovery ever since.Except, he hasn't.Cy has become a lot more rebellious since the surgery, constantly running away from home and trying to head out of state. He can't control his newfound urge to steal random items from any shop he walks into. It turns out, later down the road, that the Unwind whose brain matter saved Cy's life was a serial shoplifter. From another state. All he wanted was to confess his crimes to his parents and apologise. He didn't even know his parents had signed the Unwind order until the day he was shipped off to be harvested. It was so well done that it even made me cry a little bit when that particular subplot reached its climax. And you know you've done something well when a stony-hearted lady like myself bursts into tears.And coming back to the horror element, you know you've done something well as a writer when you made me put down a book and go and sit by myself for a moment to let the terror of what just happened sink in.Later in the book, we are introduced to Roland. He is an expert at social manipulation and a huge bully, so I presume one is supposed to feel happy when he gets sent off to the 'Chop Shop'. This was not the case.In fact, the truly disturbing element of Unwind has to be when the writer actually shows us what it is like to actually be Unwound. That is, surgically taken apart from the feet up. Roland likens it to a magic show he once saw, in which he saw a lady in a box being sawn apart, and sections of the box were then wheeled off the stage. That was the stuff of nightmares for me. Well done, Mr. Shusterman. You've combined just the right amount of dystopian/psychological horror, sociopolitical elements, and interesting characters. The story is a well-oiled machine that knows just when to frighten its readers, make us believe in its characters, and develop the world around them. 5/5.(This review is also available on my blog: http://book-wyrm.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/unwind-by-neal-shusterman.html)