So, my friend Speargun Jenna (her blog is empty right now, but if you visit it she’ll be forced to write something) suggested this book to me a while back. Goodreads says she read it two summers ago. She’s my go-to YA Lit girl. And once she told me the synopsis for this book I freaked a little bit. Guys, it’s amazing.
Here’s the basic gist: there’s a second American Civil War approximately in our time over abortion rights. The war is resolved because of The Bill of Life which makes it illegal to abort unborn children but makes it retroactively possible to “unwind” teenagers between the ages of 13-18. Unwinding is literally taking the entire body apart for use in transplants. The downside to this plethora of available transplants is that doctors no longer bother trying to cure diseases, they just replace the body part that ails you.
I love this book for so many reasons. It’s an easy, face paced read that acts a lot like a thriller. I think it’s really entertaining for teenagers to read. But in the midst of this lovely fast paced, summer blockbuster type story is a concept that is pretty serious. The sanctity of life, consciousness, as well as other social and religious issues are addressed in such a way that teenagers won’t be bored by it, but challenged by the questions. Two of the main characters, during the course of the novel, learn how to process their thoughts and make decisions based on their developing worldviews.
This is another thing I love. I’ve worked with and alongside teenagers since I was a teenager myself. By sheer amount of exposure to teenagers I’ve witnessed how awesome it is to see them develop a worldview, learn to think for themselves. I think this novel is useful in providing food for thought in an easily digestible form for said teenagers.
Above all it ends with hope. I love dystopias. I think it’s fascinating to see how one slightly stranger-than-normal opinion could drastically change how the world works. In Shusterman’s Acknowledgements (have I told you guys before how much I love Acknowledgements?) he said this –
I’d also like to thank Charles Pamment of the BBC, Jim Bremner and Joe Zentner of desertusa.com, and Dave Finn, for their help with the factual info between sections. The soul for sale on eBay, and the response, is real. The airplane graveyard exists and the chilling story of the Ukrainian babies taken for their parts is true, proving that fiction is all too often one rationalization away from reality.
The thing about dystopias is they usually leave you with the heebie-jeebies (like the rat gnawing toward your face in 1984). Or they’re vague and (if you’re like me) you imagine a happy ending is possible (but not likely, a la The Giver). This one is left hanging with a fairly positive note – music filling a desert.
Apparently, Shusterman is working on a sequel and a movie adaptation. The website leads to a bunch of fan-made trailers (some of which were school assignments, which were pretty cool). Shusterman is writing about some interesting topics. I’m not sure how closely I’ll follow his career, but this is definitely a great book.