Common Sense Media says

Shocking sci-fi gives teens plenty to get wound up about.





What parents need to know

Educational value

This book will give teens a lot to discuss, including big questions about the soul and consciousness, as well as the ethics of abortion, organ donation, etc. Our "Families Can Talk About" section can give you some ideas, or check out the publisher's discussion guide to delve more deeply into the plot.

Positive messages

This novel touches on a range of hot-button issues. The central conflict -- the act of unwinding -- is a terrifying concept, but it's shown as such and will help readers think about a range of topics. The main character eventually becomes a leader who helps others, and other characters grow as well. 

Positive role models

Connor is a brave hero who works hard to save himself and others from potential "unwindings."


Parents condemn their child to death. An intended rape is foiled. There's a disturbing, though not graphic, scene of dismemberment while the victim is conscious but unable to feel or see what's happening. Some fights; a man is beaten to death. Deaths due to highway accident, suffocation, and terrorism. Spousal abuse mentioned. A man is knocked out with a blunt object; a near strangulation.


Several kisses.


A few "hells" and the like.


An Old Navy store is blown up. Mention of iPods and Spam (the meat, not the mail).

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Drinking and drunkenness; mention of illegal drugs.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this science-fiction tale is set in a society that kills teens to obtain body parts for transplants. Amid other violence, there's a very disturbing (though not graphic) scene of dismemberment that makes this book a better choice for teens mature enough to handle this difficult content.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

In the future, a war has been fought between the pro-life and pro-choice armies. Their final settlement: the Bill of Life, which ends abortion but allows parents to choose to have their children "unwound" between ages 13 and 18. "Unwinding" is the transplanting of every part of the teens' bodies; since every bit of their bodies is still "alive," they haven't technically been killed, right? When Connor discovers that his parents have signed an order for his unwinding, he tries to escape. Eventually meeting up with Risa, another escaping Unwind, and Lev, whose life has been tithed to the church, Connor tries to keep them all one step ahead of the police. But Lev may have other ideas.

Is it any good?


Once readers have managed the huge suspension of disbelief that UNWIND's premise requires, they'll find the story exciting and thought-provoking. Raising issues that range from abortion, organ transplant, and euthanasia to the rights of parents, children, and society, Shusterman does what he's done many times before -- takes an idea and runs with it far beyond where most authors are willing to go.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the future world presented here. How does it compare to other books, movies, or other media set in the future? Why is it important to read books set in imagined futures? What do we have to gain from this story?

  • More generally, what is the point of science fiction? Why do you enjoy reading these books? Do you choose them only for entertainment -- or do they improve your critical thinking? 

Book details

Author:Neal Shusterman
Genre:Science Fiction
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Simon & Schuster
Publication date:November 1, 2007
Number of pages:335
Publisher's recommended age(s):13

This review of Unwind was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 13 years old Written byst8ergirl2324 August 12, 2010

I'm in-between the ages of 10 and 15 and I loved this book!

This is my second time reading it, and I loved it! I wouldn't recommend it for people under the ages of 10. It is a little disturbing because of the 'unwinding' part, but it's NOT real, its FICTION.

What other families should know
Educational value
Great role models
Kid, 11 years old Written byMasterLuke November 25, 2010


First of all commonsense you don't know nothing about kids. I've heard worse language in my school. The book is amazing with twists in the plot. I read it in a day, I coundnt put it down. The thought about unwinding is unique. The thought you could be going to school one and to harvest camp the next is scary and thrilling. And a new play on terrorism just makes it my faverate book yet! Take that commonsense!

What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Teen, 13 years old Written byChristopher K August 8, 2009

A Great Sci-Fi for Teens

This book, although packed with messages--good ones, was very intriguing. The present-tense writing style and interesting plot made it hard to put down. I suggest it.


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