The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

June 5, 2009

Book review: Sci-fi titles highlight young-adult offerings


By Neal Shusterman

(Young adult)

In a futuristic society, The Heartland War has devastated the United States of America and the peace settlement negotiated between the two sides is known as The Bill of Life. This bill ends abortion, but allows parents the option to have their children between the ages of 13 and 18 “unwound.”

A teen that has been unwound means that every part of the teen is harvested and their body parts are given as transplants to the sick or injured. According to the law, they are not being killed since, technically, every piece of them is still alive, just “in a divided state.”

When sixteen-year-old Connor finds out his parents are having him unwound, he runs away and in the process meets up with Risa and Lev.

Risa is an orphan who is being unwound because she is not a gifted enough pianist. Lev is the tenth child of a wealthy, religious family who is voluntarily having him unwound as a “tithe” to God.

Connor’s plan is to keep them all alive until they turn 18 and can no longer be unwound. However, Lev is morally conflicted because of his religious beliefs and he makes Connor’s and Risa’s journey especially difficult.

Author Neal Shusterman skillfully manages to explore both sides of every issue, using a matter-of-fact approach to broach sensitive subjects. While the idea of being unwound is deeply terrifying, when Shusterman details the process it is with a methodical approach, lacking blood or gore.

Despite the straightforward descriptions, this is definitely a teen and adult title because of the complex subject matter. Shusterman has written a gripping piece of literature that will have readers questioning whether this futuristic society could one day become reality, and if so, what would they do to survive.


By Lisa McMann

(Young adult)

Seventeen-year-old Janie Hannagan has more than her fair share of problems.

Her mother is an alcoholic. She must work full-time at a nursing home to support herself. She lives on the wrong side of town. She longs to attend college, but hold little hope, despite how hard she works.

And her major problem is dreams. Not her dreams, but those of anyone who falls asleep in her presence. Janie has a supernatural gift that causes her to be sucked into dreams and she cannot pull herself out until the dream ends.

This bothersome gift announced itself to Janie at age eight, but as she gets older it is becoming increasingly harder to hide the seizure-like state she goes into while other people dream.

Janie is fed up with not being able to control herself and people are starting to become suspicious. And things get even more weird after she falls into a particularly gruesome nightmare where someone is dreaming about her.

Lisa McMann has written an intriguing and suspenseful read. Janie is a likable character and readers are sure to quickly devour this title and search out Fade, the second book in the series.

Jeana Gockley is the children's librarian at Joplin Public Library.