"In a perfect world, everything would be either black or white, right or wrong, and everyone would know the difference. But this isn't a perfect world. The problem is people who think it is."
-Unwind, Neal Shusterman
After Unwind, we find Connor, Risa, and Lev all in different states of working against the system of unwinding, slowly showing how Proactive Citizenry, the company at the heart of unwinding, is manipulating all of the players in order to keep the population afraid of teenagers and keeping unwinding in business. The further they get into the discovering the truth, the more dangerous it becomes. Will they be able to rid the world of unwinding once and for all?
So this is a series that I've been meaning to read for a while, and I finally actually finished it last night. And it was...interesting. There were parts I liked, and there were parts I didn't. There are four books in this series, so I'm going to give my thoughts on each one, and then give my thoughts on the series overall.
This was a good introduction to the world that Shusterman has created, with elements that are eerily similar to our world now. The idea of unwinding is chilling and unsettling, as is the complacency that the US population seems to have. Shusterman definitely has a distinct writing style when it comes to his narratives, never just focusing on the mind of one character but the minds of many (this also happens in Scythe). This helps the reader to be more thoroughly introduced to the world, giving a more general picture to what has happenedd in order to get us there.
As a dystopia, Shusterman's first book is effective, and I honestly think it could have just stayed as one book, as most of the story lines are wrapped up by the end of the book. However, Shusterman wanted to return to the world, so three books (and some short stories) follow.
This second book is my least favorite of the series. To me, it just felt like filler in order to get to the ending that Shusterman eventually wanted to have. Sure, things happen in this particular installment, but I've lost that sense of urgency that I had in the first book. The Graveyard might be raided by the Juvies. Risa and Connor are having relationship issues. Lev is basically a nomad (kind of?). I suppose I get why this book is necessary, but I think jumping to the events of the next book might have been more effective.
Despite the problematic elements that begin to creep up in this book particular (more on that in a minute), I read through this third book more quickly because the sense of urgency was back. Connor's on the run. Risa's on the run. Lev's on the run. Starkey is terrorizing the US, eliminating harvest camps with a violent, terrorist fury: killing everyone on the spot. What I liked about this installment was that we see more of how society got to the point of unwinding, and how propaganda played a heavy role in making people believe that they needed unwinding in order to stay safe. Because teenagers are scary.
I liked this final installment for the most part, but it felt a little dragged out at the end. Like, I kept expecting it to be done and it just kept going. I don't think this story necessarily needed to be told in four books, but by the end, it definitely makes the reader continue to think once it's over.
Overall, I think I can say that I enjoyed this series. Bonus points, it actually fits the theory that I outlined in my thesis for rebellion in YA dystopian novels, albeit in a more twisty way than other novels I've read. One of the things that I liked most were the advertisements that Shusterman inputs throughout the text, which helps to give a political context and are often based in reality. Additionally, I liked the way that he played on the idea of "feral teenagers," as society is quite often looking down on teenagers for acting out, for being rebellious, and for just being teenagers. Teenagers are often characterized as lazy, talking back, and always looking for trouble. Shusterman builds on these views of teenagers in a way that is chilling and creepy and makes you hope that the world never actually gets there.
There are problematic aspects of this series, specifically the way that Native Americans are characterized (and stereotyped) within this new world. Shusterman makes up a lot of new language in his new society, and any of it dealing with Native Americans is derived from stereotypes (ChanceFolk, The Rez, weapon of old, etc.). In the series, they didn't sign the unwind accord, so unwinds are safe there. While much of the story takes place within these reservations, I think Shusterman and his editors could have taken more care with the way that they were portrayed within the series.
Despite the problematic moments, fans of dystopia will enjoy Shusterman's series, though I wouldn't say that it's his best work. An enjoyable, action filled thriller that will leave you interested until the very end.