This is one I kept looking at and my librarian friend talked me into. I don’t like dystopias and I read this one back to back almost with The Hunger Games . They share a theme, adults completely using and destroying teenagers. The truly disturbing thing about Unwind is that it’s almost plausible. The basic premise is the Bill of Life has been passed and parents can, if they wish, have their 13-18 year olds ‘unwound.’ The whole of America has convinced itself that unwinding their kids isn’t actually killing them since 100% of them will live on as donations to the injured and the sick. (the most salacious part of the novel is a chapter where you watch an unwinding and they keep the kid awake and tell him where all the parts are going and as a former surgeon and current academic in biology parts of the science made me groan at the misconceptions but I kept reminding myself this is YA, however disturbing that thought was.)
There are three very common ways to end up Unwound and while there are many pov’s (each chapter well labeled) there are three main ones. One path to being Unwound is to be a problem child, acting out, not doing well in school, you know, being a teenager. Connor represents this type. He got in fights in school, didn’t do his homework and it opens with him rubbing it into his parents. Connor accidentally found out he had been signed over to be unwound and his parents and brother are heading out on vacation the day after. Connor does things like bring up his grades, brings his mom gifts, all just to make them regret their choice (since it’s not undoable) Finally, he makes a break for it.
There are the wards of the state. The Bill of Life states life begins at conception (I.e. in the Heartland Wars, the right to lifers won and the pro-choice people did not). It doesn’t say if birth control is illegal (caffeine and cigarettes are) but it seems like it might be since kids are talking about all the babies they’ve storked, a practice of putting your newborn on someone’s doorstep and running. Whoever finds the baby must keep it but apparently most get turned over to the orphanages. If you’re not good enough to keep on feeding, the state unwinds you. Risa represents this type. A very good pianist, she’s just not quite good enough and is slated for unwinding. Connor’s attempt at escape wrecks the bus to Harvest Camp and she goes on the run with him.
The last type is the tithe and this one bothered me the most. We later find out that this practice is at best 2-3 generations old. I do not see the churches of all the major religions adopting the practice of tithing your kids, i.e. you have one with the intent of donating him as part of your tithe to the church. Churches change. I remember a lot of them in the last 40 years. I don’t see them accepting getting pregnant for the purpose of ripping the child apart, not within that same amount of time (more or less). That said, in this book, it’s real. Tithes are treated differently all their lives. They are considered sacred and pampered (reminds me of what we believe the Incan sacrifices of children might have been like). Lev represents that. He wants to be unwind. He believes he’s divine up until Connor kidnaps him during his escape.
The book is broken in four parts. The first is the escape and the ‘underground railroad’ which will take them to the graveyard where Unwinds are safe until they’re 18 and can’t be unwound. Connor and Risa remain together throughout the book. Lev’s life keeps intersecting with theirs. It follows them through their paths to the refuge (though Lev seems awfully coincidental to be honest, given the size of this country). Connor and Risa meet others, the belligerent and hateful Roland, Mai a young Goth girl, Emby the kid with breathing issues and Hayden who’s storyline was even more tragic (divorcing parents deciding they’d rather unwind their kid than see the other have him). Lev’s travels during this time has one of the most heartbreaking parts of the entire depressing book.
The next part is life at the graveyard which is a bone yard for decommissioned planes, run by the Admiral who was just that, a decorated admiral. His past regrets has made him start up this safe haven for the kids. However, things go a bit sideways. The admiral is the one who finally clarifies this world and gives the reasons for the war and the unwinding (which doesn’t really follow the Bill of Life and the right to lifers ideals when you get down to it). I don’t want to give too much of the last two parts away. Let’s call it, from bad to worse and finally ‘the future.’
This story is very well written but I didn’t love it. There were holes in the whys and hows this developed but none that were that bad. My hesitance in screaming love for this has more to do with my feelings on dystopias and hurting kids. I polled my flist which is filled with parents and their reactions to the idea of giving up their kids were interesting. Connor and Risa especially are sympathetic and likeable. I never really warmed up to Lev. I’m very glad there were adults who were not copasetic with the unwinding or I wouldn’t have been able to believe the setting. It’s good but this is definitely not for everyone.
D. Gray-Man #16 by Katsura Hoshino
This is easily one of the best volumes in a long time. Kanda and Lavi are trying to do battle with a level 4 akuma without their innocence while Allen is being almost puppeteered by his innocence thanks to his injuries. The akuma wants to kill Komui who is trying to evacuate the base and save as many as he can.
Lenalee finally becomes the strong character she started out as before she reverted to the simpering manga girl type. Her innocence evolves into a cool new form which sadly takes the shape of high heels…I would like to see Hoshino have to do everything Lenalee is supposed to in spike heels, just saying. At least Lenalee is fighting again and saving the day instead of sitting in the corner crying like she has for so long.
The final chapter which I thought was going to be a humorous blow off chapter wasn’t. You’ll see what I mean when you get there.
Bleach #29 by Tite Kubo
What’s left to say about Bleach? Every volume can be summed up with they fought a lot. Seriously, all that happens here is (broken into 3 parts), Ichigo, Uryu & Chad all fight a low level arrancar. Each one holds back, nearly loses then trots out their special new talent. They then clue in the reader by telling the enemy exactly what this new weapon is and how it works (not a very smart move) and proceed to kick butt. Nothing else of note happens. This is why I get this from the library and don’t buy it.