Reading Response #9

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

The theme for this week seems to be more disturbing than dystopia. Like Uglies, this is an idea that I’ve read before- in that case it was a short story about a criminal trying to escape from prison before he was condemned and forced to become an organ donor. The twist, of course, was that this dangerous repeat offender had been arrested for speeding tickets.

The Admiral’s story reminds me of Christopher Buckley novels- he takes an idea, has a rational character propose the logical extreme in order to shock people into thinking about the issue, but the extreme idea gets taken too seriously and plot happens. Sort of like Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal. Shusterman says in his acknowledgments “fiction is all too often one rationalization away from reality.” He’s right. This book scares me because I can see it happening, if we had the technology. I don’t trust people not to be that stupid.

What makes it worse is that I am pro-choice and pro-organ donation. This book made me think about the reasons for my opinions, to be able to articulate them. I think it’s about consent- the teens in the book have a mind and a voice, but it is being denied to them by the government and their parents. They have lives and history- they exist. They matter. To unwind is to undo that history- not only to destroy the future, but to undo the past like it never was. I think that’s worse than separating an unaware, unreasoning clump of cells. The chapter where Roland was unwound was especially hard to read.

I was also disturbed by Lev. He was raised by his religion not to value his life as his own life- he was raised with the idea that his only value was to others, as parts, and that he should be willing and even joyful to be able to sacrifice himself. When he loses his trust in his religion, he goes to the opposite religious fanatic extreme- he will sacrifice himself and take others with him. I liked the scene with Pastor Can at the end, when he tells Lev that there can be faith without organized religion. It gives Lev hope, with an idea he’s never heard before.

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