Unwind: A Book Review

Book: Unwind (Unwind dystology #1)

Author/Authoress: Neal Shusterman

Unwind (Unwind, #1)

Cover: 4/5

Right away the cover sets the tone for this book. Creepy, disturbing and dark. Just looking at the cover gave me chills. However, for those for you who are worried, the book is not as ghastly as the cover implies. The characters are very human. It’s just the world they’re placed into that is disturbing. One thing I love about the cover: the fingerprint identation. Identity is a major aspect of this book and what better way to represent that then by a fingerprint?

Plot:5/5

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.

Yes the plot is actually as creepy as it sounds.

Unwind by Neal Shusterman is a novel about a world gone insane (to a frightening degree) in which children between the ages of thirteen and eighteen can be legally signed over by their parents or guardians to be put through a harvest camp so that others can take their organs, tissue and blood. Yes, you heard me. Organ harvestation camps.

In these camps, ‘problematic’ children and tithes (people who are brought up for the express purpose of being donors) have all of their organs harvested (or at least 99.44%) so that they can be reused. To make this world even more screwed up, transplants are pretty common in the world. You have less than stellar vision? No problem, you don’t need to get glasses. Glasses are so pointless when you can just get a new eye. Going bald? Ouch! you better cover that spot up soon. You can always use the lustrous locks of some poor teen.

“I’d rather be partly great than entirely useless.”

This is what a boy about to be unwound says. And it reflects pretty well what society seems to think. Entirely useless children have no real place in it. They are more valuable in parts than as a whole.

So what’s the history behind the organ camps? Well apparently there was something called the Heartland Wars in which people fought over the issue of the legality and morality of abortion. The verdict? Abortion is illegal when the child is a foetus but you can always have all of their organs harvested while they are  between the ages of 13 and 18. How’s that for morality? And if you just can’t wait to get rid of the child, you could always use the ‘storking’ method. People can leave infants on other people’s doorstep and thus legally handing over their responsibilities of the child. And they’ll be forced to take it in. Perfectly legal and moral. As long as you don’t get caught of course. The problem is usually the storked families don’t want the infant anyways.

Anyways, as much as the plot creeps me out, you can see the sheer potential Neal Shusterman has created in this world. And he doesn’t disappoint. This book is crazy good in a creepy sort of way.

Characters: 5/5

The book is told in multiple POV’s. Thus, giving us a good feel for the thoughts and emotions of each character. I’ll write about them in chronological order.

Connor: He’s a troubled teen. Not particularly good but not particularly bad. He’s not vicious, spiteful or difficult. But he has quite a temper, goes looking for trouble and mostly lazy.  But his parents are also lazy and selfish. Bought in by all the unwinding-is-good propaganda, they sign him up to be unwound. And this is where the story starts. Understandably, Connor is not really into the idea. So he runs away in the middle of the night. He’s tracked by a Cop. To get away from him, he uses Levi as a hostage.

Lev is a tithe, a child born and raised to be signed off as an Unwind as soon as he turns thirteen. There’s no polite way to say this. But Lev is … brainwashed. His oldest brother is vehemently against the process, but his deeply religious parents have convinced Lev that being tithed is a great honor that he must follow through to the end. And Lev is not happy that the end will come later rather than sooner.

Disturbed by the chaos of an AWOL Unwound holding a tithe as hostage, Risa makes a plan to escape. She’s a ward of the state whose piano playing skills weren’t enough for her to make the cut. The budget cuts. And so she is signed up to be unwound. Unsurprisingly this doesn’t fit in well with her ambitons.

When these three meet, they make a plan to stay off the radar of the Cops (in the book the cops incharge are called juvenile authorities) who plan to take them to the harvestation camp (Okay, Risa and Connor do.)  Lev, who feels he was deprived of the purpose and honour of giving up his life, gives them up but immediately feels remorseful (frankly, that part really annoyed me). Thankfully, all three of them escape (there wouldn’t be much of a story if they didn’t). Risa and Connor end up in the basement of a safe house and Levi ends up in the company of an interesting kid called CyFi who suffers from something like dual personality because half of his brain was a transplant from another kid.

In the basement of the safe house Risa and Connor end up in the company of several children. One of them is Hayden. His parents divorced but were unable to decide who received custody. In pure spite, each of them signed the papers agreeing to let Hayden be unwound so that the other wouldn’t get custody. Talk about priorities. Another is Raymond. Raymond is a violent, psychopath who attacks Risa in an effort to get to Connor. He’s also a traitor. But even he doesn’t deserve the fate he receives. He’s unwound at Happy Jack Camp (that name is revolting, isn’t it?). That chapter is one of the most disgusting, horrifying scenes I’ve read. Scratch that. It is the most horrifying scene I’ve read. I almost puked. His unwinding takes place with him strapped to a table, conscious and under anaesthesia. The whole time, a nurse talks to him and warns him that he’ll lose ability and feeling in each of his limbs as they get harvested. Definitely not a scene for the faint hearted.

All three main characters grow and change so much in this book. Connor becomes responsible and trustworthy. He starts thinking before he acts (Risa’s influence no doubt). But his rough around the edges personality never truly goes away. Risa is the character who changes the least. She was never naïve, but I think her experience makes her a little jaded. Still she remains clever and full of life throughout the book. Holy Hell! does Lev change a lot? It was heart breaking to see him go from annoying little tithe to angry suicidal bomber to loyal and regretful friend. I predict that Lev’s a character to be watched throughout the series.

Romance:5/5

The romance in this book was like a little sidenote to the whole story. But you should feel assured that it was a good sidenote. The romance between Risa and Connor was sweet and intense but it didn’t take over the entire story like romance tends to do in most dystopian novels. Hello, Divergent or The Hunger Games? The character were willing and able to put the needs and necessities of other Unwinds before their own romance. And thank god each thought of theirs wasn’t nauseatingly sweet thoughts about the other.

Ending: 5/5

On a scale of 1-5 for cliffhangers, I’d put the book at about 2.5. The ending was pretty bitter sweet with each character having lost stuff important to them. <spoiler> Risa loses the use of her legs, Connor loses his arm and it gets replaced by an organ from an Unwind (which is something he feels is morally irreprehensible) and Lev gets put in jail trapped in a suit which doesn’t allow him to move at all. </spoiler>

Plotholes:5/5

This book really makes you think. It’s the type of dystopian book which has quite a few political undertones (and overtones too). I mean, pro-life or pro-choice- that’s quite a difficult decision to make. Maybe that’s why it’s so sensitive.

It speaks about identity and at points it even gets a little spiritual. Like if you are divided into parts and not really dead, would your soul disappear or would it just be spread. After reading this book you’ll practically be forced to deliberate on topics like morality and ethics of organ harvestation and how much control parents/guardians should really have.

Overall Rating: 5/5

It’s rare enough for me to give one book a 5/5 rating but two in a row? The sky must have fallen. But Unwind deserves this rating. Deep, interesting and unique characters, a twisting and new plotline. Plus it really makes you think. I’d recommend this book to everyone over the age of 13 because there is one chapter that is particularly revolting (Raymond’s unwinding). That chapter is not terribly descriptive but it is the stuff of nightmares, so beware.

 

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Three (Article 5 #3):A Book Review

Book: Three (Article Five #3)

Author/Authoress: Kristen Simmons

Note:

You may (or may not) have noticed that I’ve always tried to stick to reviewing the first book in the series. I’m not completely sure of my reasoning, but I think part of it is because I want to get new readers hooked onto a series. But I recently got Three by Kristen Simmons which is the third and final book in the Article 5 series from Net Galley (Thanks, by the way NetGalley) and I  just couldn’t hold myself back from reviewing it. Part of the reason is sentimental.  Article 5 was one of the first ‘good’ dystopias I read. It got me hooked onto this whole genre which I grew to love enough for me to actually start a blog about.

Cover: 5/5

This cover brings back lots of nostalgia. The same red, white and grey theme that was used in the past books is used again in this one. Personally, I think the colour scheme is perfect. Patriotic, dark and a little hopeless. Besides, what Article 5 cover would be complete without the city scene? But even from the cover, we can see that Three is not the type of book to lean on the success of it’s predecessors. The bright red slashes on the top add an edgy look to the cover and a whole new meaning to the title “Three”

Three (Article 5, #3)

Characters: 5/5

These books have seen the characters change and grow a lot.But what I love most about these character is the fact that they never lost their integrity. No OC’s in this book. If I didn’t know for fact that the American government wasn’t taken over by a bunch of crazy wackos who implemented several Articles, then I would have seriously thought that these characters were real people. There were no iffy decisions made by the characters for the sake of the plot and no ‘I have no idea what’s going on’ moments just so Three could have a few extra chapters.

Ember: She’s no longer naive and idealistic. By the end of this book she’s no longer in a position to judge other people. Nor does she.

Chase: Chase has grown in a way completely different from Ember. Something about the events he’s witnessed and the things he’s gone through have turned him into a more hopeful person and someone who’s willing to fight for humanity instead of against humanity.

Tucker: I knew that this guy would be an amazing character. Even though Three is not in his point of view, we can still almost feel the tumultuous roller coaster of emotions that Tucker rides through.  Who does he owe his loyalty to? Is he a traitor? Does he deserve redemption? It’s all explored in this book. I won’t tell you why he hates Chase or why he killed Ember’s mother. But I will tell you that Ember grossly underestimated him while other characters grossly overestimated him.  I’ll give you a slight spoiler. This book doesn’t give him his  happy ending (does any character in this book truly get one?) but no one will turn the last page of this book without being a Tucker Morris fan.

Chris’ Uncle: For some reason, Chris’s Uncle has an almost ‘Sirius’ like character. He’s the playful, un-serious,slightly secretive  trouble making sort of guy who is not really fit to be in any sort of parental position.Hotheaded, angry and rebellious he’s willing to sacrifice his life for the sake of his goal. And willing to sacrifice much more for Chase’s sake.

Plot: 4/5

Kristen Simmons’ fast-paced, gripping YA dystopian series continues in Three.

Ember Miller and Chase Jennings are ready to stop running. After weeks spent in hiding as two of the Bureau of Reformation’s most wanted criminals, they have finally arrived at the safe house, where they hope to live a safe and quiet existence.

And all that’s left is smoking ruins.

Devastated by the demolition of their last hope, Ember and Chase follow the only thing left to them—tracks leading away from the wreckage. The only sign that there may have been survivors.

With their high-profile, they know they can’t stay out in the open for long. They take shelter in the wilderness and amidst the ruins of abandoned cities as they follow the tracks down the coast, eventually finding refugees from the destroyed safe house. Among them is someone from Chase’s past—someone he never thought he’d see again.

Banding together, they search for a place to hide, aiming for a settlement a few of them have heard about…a settlement that is rumored to house the nebulous organization known as Three. The very group that has provided Ember with a tiny ray of hope ever since she was first forced on the run.

Three is responsible for the huge network of underground safe houses and resistance groups across the country. And they may offer Ember her only chance at telling the world her story.

At fighting back.

After I finished reading this book,  I was kind of surprised to find tears (actual tears!) running down my cheeks. I can’t believe this  is over. I just can’t. I loved this series and I have to say a huge part of it is because of the plot. It’s full of plot twists which seem to come together in the most beautiful of ways.

Action:4/5

This book takes the action up another notch. Heat seeking missiles, fist fights, guns, batons…This book has it all.
Not to mention the traitor (three guesses who it is) and all the suspense that mini-arc brings along with it.

Romance:4/5

The romance in this book is hot but tasteful. A good quarter of this book is spent on kissing (and more) and funnily enough I loved  the romance in this book. I have no idea how this  works but Kristen Simmons somehow managed to allude to everything without saying it flat out. It sounds annoying but trust me, it’s not.  The romance was sweet but not cloying. At the same time it was passionate without being hormonal.  Folks, that takes talent.

Overall Rating:4.5/5


This is one of the few books (and series) that I just wish would go on forever. New, intriguing plots. Realistic, exciting characters. Interesting worlds and fast-paced action. I really hope Kristen Simmons does some mini-stories or something that relates to this series. It goes without saying, that I’ll read her next book.  But I guess all good things must end.

Article 5 : A Book Review

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Book: Article 5 (Article 5 #1)
Author: Kristen Simmons

Cover: 3/5
The cover’s a bit chilling. You can see a girl and a guy just surveying the ruins of what must have been a great city. Initally, I thought they would be one of the few survivors of the city. However I was wrong. Either I came up with something completely random or the cover’s misleading. Assuming the second, the cover gets only 3/5. Sorry.

Setting:3.5/5
It’s set in future USA. The time’s not specified but  USA is effectively being run by a military regime whose head was a voted President. The President was voted in hopes of stabilization after a war between the rich and the poor broke out. Instead he threw the entire country into a harsh dictatorship which is based on 8 moral conducts. Failure to submit to any of these rules result in imprisonment and execution. Religion, the definition of a family and the clothes you wear are all changed by these articles.  The protagonist of our story gets locked into a detention center after her mother violates article 5 (thus giving us the title of the book). She spends most of the book trying to escape it and it’s violent head. When she finally does escape, she’s in a crazy car trip with her fugitive ex-boyfriend. Kristen Simmons does a great job of showing how chaos and panic have set in. Big cities have been deserted and smaller cities are overcrowding. Everyone has to stand in lines at the soup kitchen. Although it’s not explicitly stated, it’s heavily implied that there’s been a high rate of inflation. Food, water, gasoline, etc.  are all hard to get. But this is more because nobody has any money, than about any real shortage.

Plot:3/5
(Taken from goodreads.com)

New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., have been abandoned.

The Bill of Rights has been revoked, and replaced with the Moral Statutes.

There are no more police—instead, there are soldiers. There are no more fines for bad behavior—instead, there are arrests, trials, and maybe worse. People who get arrested usually don’t come back.

Seventeen-year-old Ember Miller is old enough to remember that things weren’t always this way. Living with her rebellious single mother, it’s hard for her to forget that people weren’t always arrested for reading the wrong books or staying out after dark. It’s hard to forget that life in the United States used to be different.

Ember has perfected the art of keeping a low profile. She knows how to get the things she needs, like food stamps and hand-me-down clothes, and how to pass the random home inspections by the military. Her life is as close to peaceful as circumstances allow.

That is, until her mother is arrested for noncompliance with Article 5 of the Moral Statutes. And one of the arresting officers is none other than Chase Jennings—the only boy Ember has ever loved

Characters:4/5
Ember’s a bit of a damsel in distress. Even though she tries rescuing herself several times, she’s forced to depend on others for help. She has a bit of a holier-than-thou attitude (which kind of pissed me off but characters shouldn’t be perfect) but will do anything for the people who she loves and trusts. That’s why I think the blackmail fit her character really well. I know a lot of people were horrified by it, but I think the blackmail is the second best part of the book. Here she reveals exactly how desperate she is to save her mother. That was another unique thing- the mother had to be saved. In most books, it’s a younger sibling or best friend who has to be saved. Kristen Simmons made the plot more refreshing by making it necessary to save the mother. The mother is a bit outspoken and is brave (braver than the heroine,) yet sometimes these qualities are what gets the mother into trouble. It doesn’t really seem like she need saving, but the heroine is convinced she does need saving. And I think that’s what helps make this character most human: she thinks she knows what is best for everyone, but don’t we all?

Rachel was the kind of girl who I was sure I would hate at the beginning. She was the fake candy-floss sweet girl. But then we find out it’s all a cover. I was surprised- but this was  definitely a good surprise . She turns out to be the loyal friend and even more loyal girlfriend. It’s heartbreaking what happens to her. I hope we see more of her as the series progresses.

Sean…I think I almost prefer Sean to Chase. He’s so sweet, even when he has been blackmailed. Loyal too. I think his story is the saddest in the series, yes this includes his girlfriend’s.  But through it all, he still remains funny and lovable. Towards the end of this book, he’s almost like a brother to both Chase and Ember. I really love the banter between the trio.

Chase is swoon worthy. I’m not joking. He’s the best friend who grows up to be more (in most YA books, only the guy wants the friendship to become more). Then he becomes the dangerous, hot soldier who is such a cliche in these type of books. (look under romance for more).

Brock is the first villain. She’s like a muggle umbridge; she inflicts corporal punishment while pretending to be sweet and lady-like. There’s not a single redeemable quality in her. Gah! I intensely hated her throughout the course of the book. She didn’t bite the bullet yet, but I still have hope. There are two more books left in the series.

Tucker is the villain of the piece. And he’s Kristen Simmon’s masterpiece. From the very beginning, he seems to have a perverted, sleazy interest in Ember.

“His green eyes blazed with desire; such a different look than I’d known before. Chase had studied me, reading my feelings. Tucker was only trying to see his own reflection. Disturbing on several levels.”

But before you groan about love triangles, let me tell you that he’s only interested cause Ember is Chase’s girl. Jealousy and ambition seem to be his driving forces but eventually they lead to his downfall. Is it just me or does he sound brainwashed here?

I’m a damn good soldier. I did what needed to be done.

Romance 3.5/5
I love how the authoress takes a cliche like a love triangle with the bad boy and the sweet guy and puts both guys into one. Confused? Yeah Ember is too. She refers to the pre-soldier Chase as ‘her’ Chase and the soldier as ‘a stranger’. In the book Chase deals with PTS and this just makes him more humane To be honest, before that, the soldier kind of freaked me out too. He not only deals with Post Traumatic Stress, he deals with guilt too (you’ll find out why by the end).

“I wondered what he’d done that had been so terrible that he wouldn’t accept even an ounce of kindness from another person. It seemed impossible just then that I could ever hate him more than he hated himself.”

Both of these things put a serious dampener on the relationship for quite a while, but when it get’s going…it get’s steamy quickly.  Too quickly for me, but then to each their own.

Action: 2/5
Although there’s action in the book, it’s not very well described.  The author says stuff like he kicks, he punches, he breaks his arm. And it’s good but it’s not great. The motions are all  very vague and it takes effort to picture them. Kristen Simmons tries but in the end, it doesn’t play in your head like it does in Gone or in Angelfall.

Plotholes:
There’s a lot that is left to be explained. But I understand that this is a series and that there are two more books to go. I’m dying to know what Three is and who Roy was. Chase’s uncle is another character who I think will have an interesting story. I have high hopes for Tucker too; I predict his story will be one of redemption.

Technical terms/Worldbuilding:4/5
Though there are a couple of new terms, they instantaneously stick. I think the hardest part to get over, for me was the sisters of salvation. They are treated so badly by men, yet women are supposed to look up to them as role models? Ah well, it’s a twisted world.

Overall recommendations: 4/5
There’s something which makes this book click. I don’t know if it’s the awesome characters or the moving plotline or just the flowing writing style. Maybe it’s a combination of all three. Whatever it is, this story works and I would definitely recommend it to anyone.