The Unwind Tetralogy by Neal Shusterman

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Last year, I discovered a trilogy, soon to be a tetralogy, which kept me turning the pages thick and fast. On the cover, it stated ‘Before The Hunger Games, there was… Unwind’ and on the two subsequent books, ‘More chilling than The Hunger Games’. This is not what made me read the books. However, I have to agree that I enjoyed these books more than The Hunger Games. I thought the characters were more gripping and the books written better in general, although this is no slight against Suzanne Collins, who has done very well for herself and written a successful series. I just prefer this one!

Unwind is a fascinating premise. Dubbed as ‘science fiction’, I think the series are also thrillers, adventure and drama books all wrapped into one. The basic premise is this: in the future, after after a civil war (known as the Second Civil War or the Heartland War), fought over abortion, a compromise was reached. This compromise allows parents to sign an order to have their children aged between 13-18 ‘unwound’, in other words taken to ‘harvest camps’ and their body parts harvested for the use of others. In this sense, nearly 100% of the body is ‘used’ and lived on in others, therefore the children don’t technically ‘die’. Children under 13 can also be ‘storked’, which means that they can be left outside someone’s house if they’re unwanted and if no one sees the person dumping the baby, the family who find the baby must take care of it.

Still with me? Okay, it takes a little a few pages and perhaps a few chapters to really immerse yourself in the idea fully. I kept thinking, why would parents choose to do that, no matter how bad their kids are? Although, Shusterman managed to convince me with his characters and the situations they found themselves in. Connor was the hardest for me to understand as his parents signed the order voluntarily, mainly due to his bad behaviour, which he unwittingly discovers before he’s to be collected (then harvested) and decides to go AWOL. Risa, an orphan who is to be unwound because of cuts in funding and a lack of a ‘worth’ in the eyes of the state, was easier to understand. Lev, the youngest character, is a ‘tithe’, someone born to be sacrificed because of religious reasons. Lev is a true believer in his fate, whereas the others want to fight against it.

What follows is an intriguing clash of personalities and beliefs, all trying to find the best solution for themselves. What it develops into throughout the trilogy is an examination of the morals in society, a fight between ‘good and evil’ with the goalposts always moving, deep bonds being formed and lost, and a whole lot of questions. What is so gripping about it is that the premise only becomes more and more believeable as time goes on, and you find yourself worrying that this could be reality in thirty plus year’s time! The reason I also liked this series so much (and the reason I’m really excited about the final part) is that I loved the characters with their imperfections, insecurities, pasts, indecision etc…

I recommend this series to everyone who enjoys an exciting story with a good dose of moral questions and surprises. I just hope the ending is just as good as the rest, hopefully released this year!

You can visit Neal Shusterman’s site for more information about him and his books.

This tetralogy isn’t set in the UK but this is a post linked to #UKYA’s April Extravaganza!

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