Sunday, September 30, 2012

UnWholly, by Neal Shusterman

Title:  UnWholly
Author:  Neal Shusterman
Publisher: Simon and Schuster for Young Readers
Year:  2012
Pages:  416
Themes:  Social Justice, Morality, Survival, Identity
Age Range:  8th grade and Above

Summary:  from Goodreads
Thanks to Connor, Lev, and Risa—and their high-profile revolt at Happy Jack Harvest Camp—people can no longer turn a blind eye to unwinding. Ridding society of troublesome teens while simltaneously providing much-needed tissues for transplant might be convenient, but its morality has finally been brought into question. However, unwinding has become big business, and there are powerful political and corporate interests that want to see it not only continue, but also expand to the unwinding of prisoners and the impoverished.

Cam is a product of unwinding; made entirely out of the parts of other unwinds, he is a teen who does not technically exist. A futuristic Frankenstein, Cam struggles with a search for identity and meaning and wonders if a rewound being can have a soul. And when the actions of a sadistic bounty hunter cause Cam’s fate to become inextricably bound with the fates of Connor, Risa, and Lev, he’ll have to question humanity itself.
If you read Unwind, you know that Shusterman has created an alternate history for America that includes a violent war between pro-choice and pro-life forces that led to the Unwind Accords-abortion is illegal when the child is a fetus, but when the child turns 13 parents can decide to retroactively abort their child through a process called unwinding, and all of the teens organs and tissue will be donated.

When discussing UnWholly, Shusterman said that he never intended for Unwind to become a trilogy, but he just couldn't let the story go.  This novel continues the themes introduced in the first book.  At its most basic level, the unwind culture is about what defines being human.  Despite being set in a fictional future, Shusterman draws on the current debate about the power of corporations, both in our government and in society at large, as well as the debate about privatizing education (which in itself is at least partly also about corporate power).  The addition of Cam as a completely made up "person" brings a new level to the discussion of the morality of unwinding.  It's hard to argue that people's lives are saved by the constant flow of "donated" organs and tissue, but just because technology allows us to create new life from old, does that mean we should?  And if we do, then can there be such a thing as a "soul" as religious people define it, as coming from the divine?  This book would make a great choice for a book club discussion for teens (or grown-ups who love books for know who you are!).