At the core, this book is about the value of a human life, but it touches several other topics. Shusterman doesn’t shy away from hard topics, and he doesn’t let his characters, either. Connor, Risa, and Lev are all asked hard questions and find ambigious answers. The reader is asked to ponder questions, some directly, such as “how do you measure life?” and “what is really the difference between a hero and a villian?” There’s plenty of desperation in this book to go around, let me assure you.
The world that’s created is real and frightening. The characterization is deep, subtle, and dynamic. In Shusterman’s world, no hero has completely clean hands and no villian is a caricature of evil, which makes it all the more frightening. Connor is quickly becoming one of my favorite protagonist ever, and it’s because his characterization is clear throughout the story.
The premise of the story is a little far-fetched, and at first, doesn’t seem believable, which is the only aspect that had me skeptical of giving this book 5 stars. However, in the book it’s out-righted stated that the “Bill of Life” was meant to be a shocking suggestion to make both sides see how far and wrong things had gone. It was never meant to be taken seriously, but both the “pro-life” and the “pro-choice” sides did take it seriously as a viable solution, and by that point, it was too late to change anything. After reading that, I gave a thumbs-up to the world-building.
Another unique aspect of the book is the different points of view. Each of the three main characters are so different from each other and engaging in their one way, though Lev’s thoughts have to be the most intriguing and at times, darkened, thoughts in the book. At various times, we cut away from the main three’s point of view for the chapter and go to someone else, like “The Guard”, or “The Teacher”. I saw a few reviews in which people were frustrated with this format. I think the frustration is understandable, but it’s worth it. Getting all those different points of view just once again outline the fact that the world and situations are complicated.
A final note: the creepiness factor in this book is sky-high, and it’s incredibly uncomfortable at times. Even though I thought it was an amazing book, it’s not something I’ll want to pick up again any time soon. A viewing of a insanely happy TV show is highly recommended after reading this.
Final Impression: This is such a solid book. Between the characters, writing, plot, and world-building, I was absolutely blown away by the setting and premise of Unwind. 5/5 stars.