Book Review Wednesday: Unwind (5 stars)

Posted: February 19, 2014 in Book Reviews
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I think this book gets my vote for creepiest idea I’ve ever read. More than anything that’s because some of the attitudes in the book are very present in today’s society. I’ll let you read the blurb before I carry on:

Connor, Risa, and Lev are running for their lives.

The Second Civil War was fought over reproductive rights. The chilling resolution: Life is inviolable from the moment of conception until age thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, however, parents can have their child “unwound,” whereby all of the child’s organs are transplanted into different donors, so life doesn’t technically end. Connor is too difficult for his parents to control. Risa, a ward of the state is not enough to be kept alive. And Lev is a tithe, a child conceived and raised to be unwound. Together, they may have a chance to escape and to survive.

Most of the chapters begin with a quote, and a scary amount of them are from recent news headlines. There was a survey not so long ago on british teenagers. News stations picked up the results and spread them everywhere. For a good few months I couldn’t go anywhere without seeing or hearing about the state of british youth. ‘Teenagers are yobs’ the headlines said, and the newscasters went on to say that the survey had found most of british teenagers to have committed an act of violence. I forget the percentage, but it was something huge like 80 or 90 percent of teenagers. The newscasters then went on in dramatic voices discussing how this was a terrible generation, the world was doomed, cheery stuff like that.

Scary stuff huh? Not really. I don’t like accepting facts at face value, so I dug a little deeper. You want to know what the question all those ‘violent’ teenagers had answered yes to? It was this:

Have you ever felt angry after being provoked by someone?

Nothing about violence, just did you feel angry. Really I’ve surprised the percentage isn’t higher. We have some pretty laid back teens that they don’t even feel a little angry after being provoked.

Not long after I studied the Rwandan genocide at school. There are certain stages a culture must go through before it is able to alienate and kill a group of people like that. Reading through them I found a scary amount could be applied to how society treats teenagers:

1. CLASSIFICATION: Simple categorising: teenagers. We see them as different from other groups.

2. SYMBOLIZATION: We give them names and symbols or distinguish them by dress or color. Such as teens, and some less savory names for teenagers. And I’m sure some people have a mind’s eye picture of what teenagers look like: hoodies or skimpy clothing.

3. DEHUMANIZATION: This is where things like the above study comes in. “They aren’t like us, they’re violent yobs.”

4. ORGANIZATION: Not so much for the killing front, but I’m sure everyone has heard adults group together and talk about the state of todays youth. A television campaign was launched to counteract the negative stereotypes of teenagers when people on several social networking sites grouped together to talk about the ‘teenage problem.’ They described teenagers as ‘animals’ and ‘yobs.’ Some even suggested that they needed to be locked up or killed.

5. POLARIZATION: Extremists drive groups apart by broadcasting hate speech and propaganda. See the above study.

6. PREPARATION: Victims are identified and separated out because of their ethnic or religious identity. Rights are denied, etc. Think about that a moment. When I was a teenager most shops treated me terribly. Employees would serve other people first even if I was in front of them, staff would follow me around, glaring at me as if I was doing something wrong just by existing. Most shops had signs on the windows, and a lot still do a decade later. These signs said ‘no more than one school child at a time,’ and various variations of that. Where have we seen signs like them before? How about the signs around the second world war saying ‘no jews,’ or ‘no colored.’ Mothers used to hurry their children away from me. One of my younger sisters hated going into shops as a teenager because she was shy and the adults were always rude toward her, even shouting when she hadn’t done anything wrong. They would make her cry.

7. EXTERMINATION. We haven’t reached this stage yet. There are news reports of teenagers killed by adults, but none on a genocide scale that I know of.

I’d say we’ve been hovering between stages 3 and 6 the past decade. Sometimes like with the yob incident the whole country seems to jump up to stage 5 and 6. It took a very visible advertising campaign using those same news stations to diffuse that situation. I’ve met quite a few people with stage 6 mindset, but thankfully they seem to be unorganised.

Unwind takes this type of mindset and pushes it further. The premise is that a war between pro lifes and pro choices ended in a truce. Abortion is illegal, but between the ages of 13 and 18 the parents or guardians can sign up their kid to be unwound. When I first started reading it I comforted myself with the idea that something like this could never happen, but I’ve read book two now and the more you read the more realistic it seems to become.

Some people hate teenagers, there’s no denying that. And if this did happen then it would be difficult to undo. In a world where organ transplants are commonplace, and not much can kill you except old age, it would take a lot to go back.

One of the biggest attitudes in the book it ‘someone elses problem.’ While babies can’t be aborted, they can be left on another’s doorstep for them to raise. The attitudes of some of the adults reminded me of stories of jews in world war two. Some viewed runaway unwinds as inhuman, and there is a lot of propaganda to support this. Even the ones that didn’t seem to support unwinding didn’t want to be involved and turned their backs on them. The few that helped did it in secret, and it’s very visible that they are going against the core of society at cost to themselves.

This is one of those books that stays with you, and makes you think differently about the world. Go read it.

And in case you still aren’t convinced, check out more reviews on this book here:


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