UnWind – A story of humanity


„You can’t change laws without first changing human nature.”

“You can’t change human nature without first changing the law.”

Nothing’s been the same since the Heartland War, when the Life Army and Choice Brigade battled over women’s reproductive rights. In the end, the Bill of Life being passed settled their debate, but not without drastically – and horrifyingly – changing the world as it was.

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. From the ages of thirteen to eighteen, however, the parent may choose to ‘abort’ a child and liberate themselves of the weight of being a parent, while that child also technically remains alive. The process by which a child’s life is both terminated and kept is called ‘unwinding’, a common and accepted practice in modern-day society, which nobody even knows what is or how it works.

Three children, however, are about to find out. Connor Lassiter, a troubled teen, who always seems to get into mischief, Risa Ward, a girl cut from the state home she’s grown up in after a piano recital gone wrong, and Lev Jedediah Calder, a ‘tithe’, who will be unwound for religious reasons, all happen to cross paths when Connor makes his escape from the police. Now on the run together, the three’s incredibly different goals and views must align if they want to stay in one piece.

In a world of madness, in which a child’s life means little to nothing, who can be trusted on these dark alleyways? Is it true that this stranger wants to help, or are they just hunting runaways for a bounty? Can Connor, Risa and Lev persevere and find safety, or will they never live to tell the story whole?

That’s what law is: educated guesses at right and wrong.

A dystopian novel set in the USA of the 2000s, UnWind is, above all, a story about life and human nature. It explores the ugliness of the human mind that not many authors can take on as well as Shusterman. The intertwined stories of Connor, Risa and Lev, among other recurring characters, show the lives of people in a world where abortion is illegal. Day-to-day moments can range from a single, desperate mother leaving her newborn on the doorstep of a stranger – a common, legal practice called ‘storking’ – to a terrified teenager running for their life from the government.

Shusterman creates memorable and believable characters that are not only witty and amusing, but also intelligent, great leaders, critical thinkers and skilled team players that will do anything to ensure their freedom. Above all, these characters are still capable despite their age, and choosing youngsters as the main characters is a statement that we are more than just hormonal teens who don’t know about the world; UnWind is a metaphor for our greatness.

The novel is not a standalone – it is a five-book dystology (a word Shusterman invented to describe his series), one of which a collection of ten short stories: UnWind, UnWholly, UnSouled, UnDivided, and UnBound. I highly recommend reading it if you’re into dystopian worlds, skilled and witty characters, thought-provoking and funny quotes alike, as well as believable teenage characters, who try to change the world rather than comply with society’s standards.

There’s not much that can be said about Shusterman’s ability to create powerful works of art that he hasn’t already said with his craft; so, instead of continuing to read my words of praise to him, go read his work yourself! The UnWind dystology can be found at the American Corner of the Public “Octavian Goga” Cluj County Library to borrow.

I’d rather be partly great than entirely useless.