If you are a student of languages and how words are formed, then when you hear the word dystology, it should immediately evoke a reaction. “Dys” means bad or difficult and “ology” is associated with the study of something. So is the message Neal Shusterman, the author of The Complete UnWind Dystology, trying to send us is that this is a study of something bad and difficult? Is he trying to be clever and play on the words to form a dystopian anthology (can’t be a trilogy, since there are four books)? I don’t have the answer to that, but instead I am just going to tell you about the four books in this Shusterman series that my friend, Sarah Reinhard, introduced me to.
The entire UnWind story takes place in the future, a dystopian future. (Side note: Dystopian futures seem to be the latest trend in YA novels with Hunger Games; Divergent; and the one that started it all, The Giver.) In UnWind’s dystopian future, there was another civil war fought in the U.S. This one was fought over reproductive rights with the resolution being that life is considered inviolable from conception until age thirteen.
Pause and think about that statement for a minute. It sounds almost Catholic. Life begins at conception and you cannot abort unborn children. However, there is a catch at the end of the statement. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, adults can have their children “unwound.” The unwinding process takes all of the teen’s organs and transplants them into others. “Life” therefore is not terminated, in the coldest of technicalities and with no regard for the soul of a human.
In the first book, UnWind, we are introduced to three teens, who will travel with us throughout the rest of the series. They are Connor, Rissa, and Lev. Each of them are scheduled to be unwound for different reasons.
Connor’s family has given up hope on reforming the rebel. Rissa is a ward of the state, so she is basically a cost-cutting measure. And Lev comes from an extreme religious sect. His parents consider him a tithe, since he is the tenth child.
The book follows these teens throughout many adventures, including Connor and Rissa trying to escape to live, and Lev trying to turn himself in, because he believes being unwound is a great honor.
They soon find out they are not alone among teens trying to escape being unwound. There is a whole group of them at an airplane graveyard, which try to live out their existence until they turn eighteen and can no longer be unwound. The whole story has good pacing and will leave you fascinated and uneasy that a society like this could exist.
In book two, UnWholly, the three teens from book one (Connor, Rissa, and Lev) have brought light to the horrible practice of unwinding. Before them, it was just an inconvenient fact of life. Now the practice’s morality has come into question.
We are also introduced to a new teen, Cam, who is made up entirely of unwound parts. This leads to other moral questions, like is Cam really human? Does he have a soul, or is he just a being that is less than the sum of his parts?
Other teens are also introduced and become a part of the trio’s group. However, these characters are a little more 2-D and at times feel a bit of a carbon copy of some of the main characters, as there is another tithe teen. There is also the obvious villain, a lot more action and fighting, the inevitable angsty love triangle found in all books of this genre, and a lot less thinking.
UnSouled and UnDivided were supposed to be one book, but it was running long, so it was split into two books instead. UnSouled again introduces us to a new character named Grace, a teen with a simple mind in most regards but brilliant at strategy. There is also the character of Sonia, who the teens believe have the answer to stopping unwinding completely.
In this book, Lev gets a bit more of a prominent role and we see him develop more. Overall, the book feels like and does lead to a cliffhanger like when Hollywood split up Harry Potter 7 and Hunger Games 3.
Luckily, I received all the books at once so didn’t have to wait for the resolution. UnDivided ties up all loose ends but not before some final fireworks, conflicts, and DRAMA! I don’t want to give away too much and spoil the series and how it ends. You’ll have to read the series to see if there is a chance for peace and a world without unwinding.
As a whole, this was a very enthralling series. Most of the Young Adult dystopian future series start out really strong, and with each subsequent book fizzle more. While The Complete UnWind Dystology is not a perfect series, it is certainly one of the best I have read in a while.
If you are a super big fan of the series, there is also an e-book called UnStrung that takes place between the first two books and fills in some gaps.
As a Catholic, I don’t generally recommend the latest dystopian future series because they are trite and usually devolve into a girl having to choose between two boys. This book, though not Catholic, hits you over the head with Catholic themes. Pro-Life vs Pro-Choice. When does life start? It even makes you think about your views on life.
So many of us are pro-life, but only think about it in terms of abortion. This book reinforces (what should be a widely held belief) that all lives are valuable. This includes the unborn child and the prisoner on death row.
Overall, I give this series 4.5 stars.
Interested in reading any or all of the UnWind books? Please use our affiliate links in this post and you will pay no extra, but we will get a small royalty from your purchase. Thank you for supporting our work at CatholicMom.com!
Be sure to check out our Book Notes archive.
Copyright 2015, Stuart Dunn