Sunday, April 27, 2008

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

The premise: the US has lived through another civil war, this time over abortion. Now abortion is illegal and all pregnancies must come to term, however, when a child is between the ages of 13 and 18 parents or guardians may decide to have the child "unwound." Unwinding is the process by which a person is dismembered but each of their separate parts is kept alive and distributed to the sick or the injured. The person is not really "dead" because each part of their body is alive, but they're not really alive, either. They are, as the book so chillingly puts it, "in a divided state."

Unwind is the story of three runaway teens: Collin's parents were having him unwound because they couldn't quite cope with their unruly teenager. Risa was to be unwound because the orphanage she lived at was facing budget cuts. And Lev has known he would be unwound all his life: he is a Tithe, a way for his ultra-religious parents to give 10% of everything they have in service to God.

A truly disturbing book, but one that will prompt discussion among readers.

I was sucked into this book pretty quickly and had some trouble tearing myself away from it, despite the fact that the grim future evoked was putting me in a terrible mood. The book gave me nightmares.
This story may be good for sci-fi fans, lovers of the distopian future, kids who want a look at a world where kids are even more misunderstood than they are now, and people on both sides of the "abortion debate" who want a terrifying story about where extremism can lead.

Keeping Corner by Kashmira Sheth

Set amid the social unrest of Mahatma Gandhi's India, Keeping Corner is the story of Leela, a pampered girl from a loving family. When her young husband dies, Leela discovers that the life of a child widow is neither easy nor fair. Part of her culture's strict mourning procedures require her to keep corner, which means not leaving the house for a year. During this time she is tutored privately and, as social unrest spreads from the cities into the countryside, the newspaper stories she reads of Gandhi's struggle begin to give her hope for the future and cause her to question her own role in society.

I enjoyed this book as a historical novel but would have liked there to be slightly more focus on the political aspects of the time period. The characters and setting are well-evoked and the ending is uplifting.
This book may be good for anyone interested in historical settings, India or Indian and Brahman culture or anyone who is looking for something a little different from the usual coming-of-age novel.