Wow. Wow. Woooooooooooow. And also whoa.
Unwind was outstanding.
I know I'm one of the last to read it, but for those few who are even more far behind than me:
Generations from now, after the Heartland War, life is protected from the moment of conception until age thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, the parents or guardians of the now-teenaged child have the option to "unwind" -- to retroactively abort -- him or her. If the parents choose to do so, the teen is sent to a harvesting facility where their body is taken apart and reused.
According to the authorities, to the adults signing the order and to most of the rest of the population, the unwindee's life isn't technically ending because every part is reused in someone else's body. That isn't necessarily much of a comfort to the person who is to be unwound.
Connor screws up one too many times, so his parents sign the unwind order.
Risa is a ward of the state and is being unwound as a cost-cutting measure.
Lev is a tithe: his unwinding has been planned from birth.
When chance brings the three together, they end up on the run. If they manage to stay hidden until they turn eighteen, they'll be free to re-enter society, no questions asked.
I say again: Unwind was outstanding. Really freaking outstanding.
I was impressed by, well, everything. It deals with abortion without ever ever ever feeling preachy -- I didn't once feel that Neal Shusterman revealed his opinion on the issue. It was action-packed and exciting (I read the last few chapters with my heart in my throat) yet that there was so much to think about -- the characters have conversations about the soul, whether it exists and where it is, and about when life begins. There are things that can be interpreted in different ways -- some people will attribute those events to science whereas some may attribute the same events to something less tangible.
The three major characters have distinct personalities, and the character development (especially of the two boys) is very well done and the secondary characters never blend together or into the background. The unwinding scene is as stomach-turning as anything I've ever read by Stephen King, but without being graphic or gory. While exploring different visions of our future world, I look for a couple of things beyond the future-stuff: to see enough of the familiar to make it still seem like our world and to see how our language and stories have evolved. In Unwind, I found both.
I'm so glad I finally read it. Highly, highly recommended if you'd like a page-turning actionfest that is ALSO original and thoughtful. It'd make for a great (if possibly loud) book discussion.