Unwanted Youth for a Good Cause

Unwind by Neal Shusterman


In a not too distant future, America’s age-long debate on abortion reaches a disturbingly balanced agreement. Though every life is protected from the moment of conception, between the ages of thirteen  and eighteen parents have the option to “unwind” their child for whatever reason they deem justifiable. To be “unwound” is to be retroactively aborted where life continues  vicariously through their disseminated and distributed body parts; every organ is used, or so they say.

Although most unwinds take their order with begrudging, reluctant obedience, a few make a run for it. Once the unwind order form is signed, there is no going back. With a far-reaching task force, those bold enough to try and dodge it are almost certainly caught or killed. Unwind follows the story of three teens on the lam from juvey-cops and their ensuing struggle to survive until the age of eighteen. The main protagonist is Connor, a restless teen who constantly finds himself in trouble with authority. “Thinking ahead has never been one of Connor’s strong points,” but his heart is in the right place as he is frequently unsettled by injustice (Shusterman, 11). His counterpart is Risa, a no B.S. orphan deemed no longer valuable or promising by the state. Then there’s Lev, the innocent and naïve tithe, whose every waking breath has served to last him until thirteen when he is to be religiously unwound. The thirteen years of his life have been “all lines, structure, and rules, never changing” (80). The book follows these three unorthodox companions as they try to escape their imminent unwinding, encountering enemies everywhere they turn and living “in a constant shadow of betrayal” (84).


Unwind – fake movie trailer – – > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SLyJSnhPoXA




Neal Shusterman

Links to Author’s Page or other sites of interest:




(# of pages, chapters, and pages in chapters)

335 pages, 69 chapters, varying chapter length

Ideal Audience & Why:

(cultural relevance, maturity, geographic relevance)

12+, open audience

Genre & Medium:

Science fiction novel

Story Context:

(setting/time period/biographical information)

Not so distant future in the U.S.

Main Characters:

Connor, Risa, Lev

Main Elements, Topics and Themes:

Scientific ethics, value of human life, survival, friendship, betrayal, love

What drives this book?

(plot, characters, themes etc.)


Possible Teaching Points:

(about the book or taken from the book)

Self-identity, friendship, family, hope vs. despair, conformity

How would you use it? Why? (Independent, Whole Class, Literature Groups, Read Aloud, Library, Good Books Bin)

Independent, whole class, literature groups, read aloud, library, good books bin.The book offers many interesting discussion topics that would engage most readers in a debate on ethics and societal values. The text is written in easy enough language that it could be read independently by readers of varying skill levels without much difficulty. The chapters are set up by character which could offer and interesting structure to have groups follow specific character development throughout the text or spark a discussion on narration and POV

Possible “Permission Slip” Worthy Topics or Topics with Recommend Sensitivity for Particular Students:

Possible discussion generated about abortion and religion.

Significance of the Title:

The title is the name of the process that the characters are fated to undergo.

Other Comments/Notes:

Ratings (5 best)

Rate each statement below. 5 is strongly agree and 1 is strongly disagree. Include explanations for ratings. (What developmental theory are you using? What critical lens is that decision built on? What details from the book contribute to the rating?):

1 2 3 4 5

Literary merit (please describe):

1 2 3 4 5

The author employed literary devices (i.e. well-written).

1 2 3 4 5

There was a driving plot. Describe the pace:

The book is fast paced, and action-packed. However, not so much that students would become lost.

1 2 3 4 5

The characters were well-developed.

1 2 3 4 5

The theme(s) made the readers think.

1 2 3 4 5

The book good for read aloud. Describe the narrative voice:

There are a lot of characters and voices involved in this story. Using this book as a read aloud would leave room for getting a lot of students to read aloud together.

1 2 3 4 5

Manageable plot/setting/characters other elements. Describe items of note:

The plot, setting, and characters are constantly changing and moving from place to place.

1 2 3 4 5

Young people would be able to make connections.

There are many characters for students to relate to.

1 2 3 4 5

Anyone with invested interest would enjoy reading this.

1 2 3 4 5

The readers identified with the characters and even discovered themselves (again).

1 2 3 4 5

There is both hope and despair. Describe:

There are many points during this story in which you feel both hope and despair for the characters. Hope that they will survive and often despair for their outcomes.

1 2 3 4 5

The book stimulated imagination.

1 2 3 4 5

We will be thinking about this book tomorrow.

1 2 3 4 5

We learned new knowledge.

1 2 3 4 5

Text accurate reflected teenage life.

Although this is a dystopian novel in a distant future (so some aspects aren’t too believable), there are definitely character traits that teens could relate to.

The following subject areas content could be addressed with this book. Check all that apply and type/write in any specifics:

Social Studies: No.

Math: No.

Art: No.

Science: No.

Career and Technology Education: No.

Healthy Lifestyles: Yes. Dealing with grief.

English Language Arts: Yes. Themes, point of view, characterization, and literary techniques.



Contributors: Keegan, Kathryn, Meera, Hannah