Friday, January 13, 2012

As Creepy As It Sounds

I read Neal Shusterman's young adult novel, "Unwind," over the past day and a half, and I highly recommend it. Like "The Hunger Games" and "Divergent," this story takes place in a dystopian future in which a second civil war has been fought between pro-lifers and pro-choice supporters. To end the fighting they settle on a "Bill of Life" that prohibits all abortion, but once a child becomes thirteen, he or she can be "retroactively" aborted ("unwound"). The child is taken apart, limb by limb, organ by organ, at a "harvesting center." Those body parts are then given to cure the sick.

It's as creepy as it sounds. The narrative shifts between a number of voices, from a teenage boy whose parents are having him unwound because he's always been trouble, to a teenage girl who was raised in a state home and is being unwound because her piano playing isn't exceptional, to another boy who has been raised his whole life to be sacrificed as a "tithe" because of his parents' religion.

I was reminded of Kazuo Ishiguro's "Never Let Me Go" in which children are raised for the sole purpose of giving themselves up, as young healthy adults, for organ harvesting. Both books ask, what does it mean to be human? to have a soul?

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