The Unwind Series by Neal Shusterman: Book Review


The Unwind Series is a roller-coaster ride through a future where people are even less able to think logically and make wise decisions than they are today.

Popular Young Adult Fiction author Neal Shusterman presents the reader with the unintended consequences of legislation that outlaws abortion after a second Civil War in America. When the war seem to be at an impasse, a radical proposal is put forth that no one expected to be implemented, but it passes and quickly becomes a reality.

The 4 book series is a look at what can happen when people behind the scenes create a false reality in order to profit off the misery of the masses. The titles are Unwind, Unwholly, Unsouled, and Undivided. shrsl_ShareASale_liveWid_Init(43575, 2860363, ‘shrsl_ShareASale_liveWid_leaderBoard_populate’);

As a a result of the Heartland war , abortion is made illegal, but newly discovered medical technology is put into use that enables incorrigible teenagers to be ‘unwound’, or cut into living pieces, to be used as a supply of replaceable body parts for people with diseases or injuries.

Because the entire body is recycled including the brain and heart and nervous system, and the body never actually dies, they do not consider it murder. The unforeseen result is a booming business for body parts and the decline of other kinds of medical treatments.

Unwholly book cover Book One . Order here.

Main Characters

There are quite a few central characters, both heroes and bad guys and some who become bad due to their circumstances. Risa, Connor and Lev are present in all four books. Throughout the story they do all they can to stop the business/policy of ‘unwinding’ even though all of them are on the run from the authorities.

Risa was on her way to be unwound after having been raised in a children’s home and then deemed dispensable. Connor’s parents ordered him to be unwound after numerous delinquencies. Order this book from Thrift Books

When Connor escapes from the authorities on the day he was taken from his parents to be unwound, he has an encounter with, Lev, another main character.

Lev is a boy whose parents raised him specifically to be unwound so that he could contribute to the greater good. He is one of many ‘tithes’ raised by religious families in order to honor God. These children are taught that their unwinding is a noble act.

But Connor prevents Lev from going to the unwind facility , or harvest camp as they are euphemistically called. Lev is not happy to be rescued because he has been brainwashed into thinking that giving his body to others was his noble purpose in life.

Other teens join the story as Risa and Connor try to survive and discover an underground railroad that tries to save the lives of AWOL teens.

These teens band together in hopes of staying AWOL until they get old enough to no longer be eligible for unwinding. Connor and Risa end up being moved along with the underground through safe houses and eventually living in an abandoned airstrip with old planes where AWOL kids are kept safe.

Lev goes his own way and has his own adventures when he meets up with a boy who was given part of the brain of an unwind. This boy can feel the emotions from the brain of the boy who was unwound and his actions help start a movement against unwinding.

Risa, Connor and Lev are all heroes and fighting against unwinding while risking being caught.

The good intentions of ending the killing of unborn babies has created an excuse to kill troubled teens. Throughout the book quotes from ‘news articles’ and ‘political ads’ that are nothing but propaganda to demonize teens and create a demand for body parts.

Later in the story we discover that there was another option to help those who need body parts, but it had been suppressed by those who are getting rich off unwinding teens.

Along with those trying to end unwinding are the ones who want to expand it and are making millions off the sale of the unwound.

These include a powerful corporation that secretly incites more teen violence to make the public beg for more teens to be unwound. They have a plan for the parts.

In addition to them there are the governmental authorities that enforce the laws by taking the kids to be harvested, and by hunting down the AWOLs.

We also encounter several teens who are more concerned with their own survival and gaining power over the AWOLs who cause trouble for Connor and Risa and the other good kids.

A few adult characters aid the teens in their efforts to end unwinding by secretly providing refuge and supplies for the AWOLS at their own risk. There are also many who do not support unwinding but feel powerless to change things.

The battle is for the dignity of human life and the soul of the country. Who will win? shrsl_ShareASale_liveWid_Init(43222, 2860363, ‘shrsl_ShareASale_liveWid_product12_populate’);</script

Should you read this series?

If you like futuristic, sci-fi, dystopian books, with a moral component, with young heroes, you will like this book! I enjoyed the story and the characters were well-developed and believable. I felt sympathy for the emotional pain of the teens who were maligned and rejected and anger at the injustice and blind support for a corrupt system. However at times it felt like the plot was becoming a bit too rambling and included some unnecessary scenes and characters. I think two or three books would have been enough to make this a good story. I kept reading to see how it would end even though I was ready to be done. As far as a parental rating, I’d say it’s fine for most teens. Not much romance or graphic description of gore or the occult, but it’s not a Christian book. Morals and ethics are discussed, but not sin or absolutes. The topic is thought-provoking and disturbing, so it might not be good for sensitive kids. The surgical process of cutting up the teens is described in detail.

There is another book called Unbound by the same author that I have not read that is a collection of short stories with the same characters. You can see that here.


I’m considering doing a podcast with more thoughts, but for now I will simply say that I do not think that outlawing abortion would lead to this conclusion, but it could have other consequences. We have to address the reasons for so many unwanted pregnancies, not just outlaw them. On the contrary, legalized abortion HAS led to the profitable sale of fetuses and fetal tissues for various purposes. https://


I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s