Unwind: Unwind Dystology, Book 1

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
Unwind: Unwind Dystology, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Shocking sci-fi gives teens plenty to get wound up about.

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 32 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 135 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

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 & Representations

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.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Unwind is the first book in four-part science-fiction saga 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byLeelah August 17, 2011

The most distrubing book I've ever read

A review from my fifteen year old daughter:

I'm a fifteen year old girl who loves to read, especially science fiction, and this is the most disturbing you... Continue reading
Parent of a 11-year-old Written bymjramsey1713 November 25, 2009

Horrible, sick, and disturbing

My 11-year-old son heard about this book from his advanced Language Arts teacher (!!!) and brought it home. I often like to read the same book he is reading, so... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byA_Little_Bit_Darker March 25, 2015

A Mixed Angle

(Warning: Spoilers)

Neal Shusterman has outdone himself. The first thing you need to know is that this book is not science fiction, it's realistic. THAT... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byMISS [email protected] August 26, 2012

MISS [email protected]

Im not going to lie to you, this book is disturbing. I mean its all about taking apart a person to use them as parts. But this book is not harmful to your child... Continue reading

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? WhenConnor 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.

Talk to your kids 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
  • Publisher's recommended age(s): 13
  • Number of pages: 335
  • Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
  • Last updated: August 22, 2019

Our editors recommend

For kids who love science fiction and dystopian novels

Top advice and articles

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate