First Chapter Fridays: Unwind

First Chapter Fridays continues with entry #4, Unwind by Neal Shusterman.

To see the entire series of First Chapter Fridays, click the link at the bottom of this post.

Unwind (Neal Shusterman)

I read Unwind way back in 2009, and it is still one of my favorite books to recommend to MS and HS readers, especially the reluctant ones. My 16-year old son read this last year. He reads superhero comics like crazy, but he rarely reads YA novels.

He sucked this book down into the wee hours of the morning.

I’ve read Unwind aloud so many times in book clubs, and it continues to be a hit with students. It may be out-of-print or going out soon, but it’s still available in e-book and audiobook formats. I haven’t read the audiobook, so I can’t comment on its quality.

The first chapter for Unwind is lengthy at 18 pages. I would not personally read the entire first chapter aloud for a First Chapter Fridays. Instead, I would stop at the “pause” on page 10, where it says “From the moment his parents signed those papers, Connor was alone.”

Unwind has three sequels. I read the second book, Unwholly, which was good but nowhere near as compelling as Unwind. The action in Unwind just does not stop. This is a title that I read in one-sitting, as did my husband and my 16-year old son. I had it in my middle school library and promoted it often, but the theme (using unwanted children as forced organ donors) can be a bit intense for some middle schoolers.

Before Chapter 1, there is a short prologue that explains (sort of) what unwinding is. You can read this part aloud, but it isn’t necessary to understanding the first chapter. It does not really explain unwinding in a way that students will understand if they haven’t read the book. It’s intentionally ambiguous.

  • Recommended for: Grades 7-12
  • Genre: science fiction
  • Keywords: abortion, organ donation, human experimentation, rebellion, unwanted teens, being on-the-run
  • Protagonist: there are three, and if I remember correctly, all are white: Connor, age 16, boy. Risa, age 15, girl. Lev, age 13, boy.
  • Length of Chapter 1: 18 pages (see my note above about where to stop on p. 10)


Read more about First Chapter Fridays (includes criteria for my selections)

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Do you do First Chapter Fridays? What titles have been popular with your students? Add your favorites in the comments below (don’t forget to add grade levels)!

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