Unwind - Neal Shusterman
This book was intense. I think it may have been a bit to ambitious for one novel, but it still wrapped me all up and captivated me till the end.

Firstly, let's talk characters.
Immediately, this is what drew me into the story. Immediately, I felt for each character introduced, even though they were all so different and they all reacted differently to the same fate (ultimately, being marked for Unwinding). Shusterman really has a talent for painting real-like people on a page, instead of characters. Connor, Lev, and Risa all have flaws and strengths that aren't necessarily spelled out at the beginnings of their introductions. I love the way they influence and change each other, the way, though they were randomly thrown together, their thoughts kept going back to each other. It's beautiful. There's even a line Connor says (forgive me it it's not exact, this is from memory), "I'm a better person because she's in my head." That nearly melted me. There is some spectacular dialogue and lines in this book.

spoiler-ish stuff below:

Not to mention the topics and concepts this book explores! Especially the "risky" topics, such as abortion (which incited a huge war!) and racism and it's fantastic to have no fear about writing about these subjects. Which reminds me of Cy-Ty, who was probably the highlight of the book for me. This was when the whole concept of Unwinding starts to really make sense in horrifying clarity (and which leads to one of the endings; ugh it's so brilliant). Cy's a kid who has a brain implant, part of an Unwind. There was this bit of dialogue that really struck me:

"'There's people out there--like the lady in the Christmas store--they see an umber kid like me and they automatically assume I'm up to no good. And now, thanks to this kid in my head, they're right. And you wanna know what's funny? This kid was lily-sienna, like you. Blond hair, blue eyes.
. . .
But other people--they don't see HIM when he steals. It's me they see. My hands grabbing."'

Not to mention the "ending" of Cy's story in this book, using his point of view. I was about in tears.

And mentioning point of view, this book explores it all: major characters, minor characters, characters only seen once, even points of view from a completely objective standpoint, like the point of view from a school, or a crowd of people. It actually works somehow.

But hands down, the absolute coolest part about this book was that Unwinding was everything. We learn bits and pieces about the concept of Unwinding, and then we learn more. And stuff happens that makes us realize a bit more, etc. At the end, we totally get it: at the VERY end there's a scene, and I won't go into it in detail because of spoilers, that wraps up the concept and answers a question that we've all been burning up with during the whole book. It's gorgeous and it's sad but it's also perfect.

And don't even get me started on that one scene. That ONE AMAZING YET HORRIFYING SCENE. I definitely cried. It was something I didn't think Shusterman would actually have the courage to show us in detail, step-by-step, but he did, and it broke my heart. Dang, this book really left a mark on me.

So yeah, I loved this book. Every little subplot mentioned in the beginning comes back, every concept introduced comes back in the end or near the end, even if you've forgotten about it. This book is well-written, chilling, and beautiful.