Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers: NY, 2007.
The crux of the matter is a ceasefire agreement between pro-life and pro-choice forces in the The Heartland War. Unwinding is the compromise. Abortions are no longer legal, but unwanted children can be disposed of in two ways. As babies, they can be left on doorsteps, and the finder is required to raise the baby, though complications have been known to occur. The next choice comes when the children turn thirteen. Parents or guardians can choose to have the child unwound, surgically divided with parts sold as transplants. Parts are in demand, so once a choice is made it cannot be unmade. Oddly, unwinding is not considered death, and there is some evidence to support the theory.
Three children are separately being transported to the harvest facility. One's attempt to escape touches on the other two's situations. Connor runs from his parents' home before the guards arrive. He kidnaps Lev, who chooses the unwinding for religious reasons. The kidnapping causes traffic problems, and Risa's bus crashes in the process, leaving her free to run. If they can survive until eighteen, then their unwinding status will end. They runaway together, and eventually become part of a program for saving unwinds.
There are several aspects of the story. The issues - unwanted children, donors and transplants, remnants of essence of the person captured by the body parts, and runaways. Mystery - a secret community developed for saving the runaways, the murder of five organizers. Civil disobedience - hiding fugitives, power struggle.
Shusterman confronts adult issues in an intriguing way.
The ideas are shocking at first but put the arguments into
perspective. The story is captivating and intense, the
characters' paths separate but connected through and
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