Sunday, May 26, 2019

Neal Schusterman's Unwind Chapters 26 - 31

Schusterman has this book divided into 'parts,' and each part starts with a quotation he's found somewhere.

Part Four, which we have now reached, starts with a note from eBay. Apparently in 2001, someone tried to auction off their soul on eBay. eBay took the offering down, providing the explanation that either souls didn't exist, in which case this was fraud; or they did exist, and thus -- because auctioning off parts of the human body is against eBay's policy -- the auction violated the policy.

It's a clever bit of reasoning, and I guess Schusterman includes it because in Unwind, people's body parts get auctioned off? Maybe. Who knows?

Chapter 26

We're back with Lev, but this chapter comes from the point of view of the owner of a pawnshop. The one thing this chapter makes very clear is that Schusterman has never been in a pawn shop, and knows nothing about poor people and why they pawn items.

Here's why people pawn items, usually: it's two or three days until payday, and some emergency has come up. Maybe the car needs a water pump. Maybe the kid needs antibiotics. They need a couple hundred dollars, and they have no one to borrow it from. So they pawn something pricey that they own -- a nice shotgun, for instance, or grandma's wedding ring.

Mostly these things are reclaimed when the people get paid, though sometimes there's not enough money to get them back in time. Pawnshops are like the pay-day lender for people who are broke but have kept a few nice things around.

Schusterman thinks people come to pawn shops because they're junkies, and also I guess bums. It's illegal to sell things you don't own at a pawnshop, just FYI, and the pawnshop owner won't let you pawn things unless you have a valid ID.

ANYWAY: The pawn shop owner is impressed by Lev, since he's not a junkie bum. But he doesn't want to buy the fancy diamond necklace that Lev has to pawn (an item stolen by CyFi), since buying stolen goods is illegal.

Lev explains to him how he can get away with buying the stolen necklace. Lev knows more about running a pawnshop than the pawnshop owner does. Which makes perfect sense, given that he's the sheltered son of rich conservative Evangelicals. They always know about pawn shops.

Blah, blah, blah, Lev sucker-punches the guy and steals all the money in his safe, but he leaves the necklace behind, because he's not Evil, I guess.

Kind of a pointless chapter.

Chapter 27

Back in Conner's POV. Another sort of pointless chapter.

The Unwind kids at the Underground Railway stop get packed up in crates and flown out. The plane is being flown to an airplane graveyard. It's abandoned there with the kids still in crates, but don't worry, people come to get them out.

There is a very elaborate explanations of the details of all this, which is fine, except it makes no sense. Obviously the pilots are part of the Underground Railway, since they're loading this cargo into a plane that's going to the graveyard. Why not just load the kids in the plane and fly them out? Especially since it turns out that some of the kids die, suffocating in the crates.

Anyway, while he's in this crate with three other runaways, Connor and the other kids have a long discussion about whether being Unwound kills you or not, and also what happens to your soul when you're Unwound.

Hayden, one of the kids, suggests that people who are Unwound don't have souls. God always knew they'd be Unwound, he explains, so they were never given a soul. Like unborn babies, he says, except another kid is outraged, since unborn babies do have souls, from the moment they're conceived. It's the law, he says.

Connor says the law is an ass. He says unborn babies don't have souls. He says when they're born, that's when they get souls.

A kid named Diego agrees with him, though everyone else is outraged. Diego says that the mother loving the baby is what gives it a soul. Connor says what about Storked Babies, don't they have souls? Not unless someone loves them, Diego says.

I think this is the part that made people say this book was "balanced." Schusterman lets someone say that souls exist from the time the sperm meets the egg, but then he goes on to have our point of view character, and this Diego, say something different. The final answer, though, is given by Hayden, the rich kid whose parents got him braces before they shipped him off to be Unwound.

Hayden says he doesn't know when the soul enters the body. Everyone agrees that's the best answer.

Chapter 28

Risa's point of view. We're at the airplane graveyard -- which is just called the Graveyard -- and runaway kids are milling about, being organized by other kids, these kids wearing khaki clothing. "Army surplus," one of the kids tells Risa. "Stolen clothes for stolen souls."

So I guess we're going with Unwinds having souls then.

Blah blah blah, Risa hears some kids died during the trip, suffocating in one of the crates. She's afraid one of them might be Connor, and realizes how sad she would be if he's dead. Schusterman tries to build up some tension here, except we already know Connor survived to land in the Graveyard, so it's just dull.

She finds Connor. Surprise, he's alive. Risa doesn't fling herself into his arms, but she wants to.

A man named the Admiral shows up in a golf cart. He's clearly military, Risa thinks, though she doesn't tell us how she learned to recognize 'clearly military' guys. He's around 60, and was in the Heartland War, the one that led to the Unwind Amendment.

His uniform is blue. Risa can't remember whether that was the color for the Pro-Choice or the Pro-Life side, and then realizes it doesn't matter -- after all, both sides lost.

The Admiral says they will stay at the Graveyard until they are 18.

(After you're 18, it's apparently illegal to Unwind you, which really makes no sense. Why would they not -- for instance -- be harvesting organs from criminals of any age? If we've got a fat market in organs, why not profit off people of any age? I know it's because this is a YA novel, and Schusterman wants to make kids the victims, but this is some terrible world-building, frankly.)

The Admiral says running away, as they have done, is illegal, but the Graveyard isn't a law-free zone. They will follow the law -- his law.

“We are a community here," [the Admiral says] "You will learn the rules and you will follow them, or you will face the consequences, as in any society. This is not a democracy; it is a dictatorship. I am your dictator. This is a matter of necessity. It is the most effective way to keep you hidden, healthy, and whole.” 

I hope Schusterman meant this to be disquieting, because it is.

So far the Admiral seems fairly benevolent, and he does make sure the kids have water before he marches them off toward...somewhere.

Chapter 29

Back to Lev. He and CyFi are now entering Joplin, MO, which is the town where the kid in his brain came from -- the Unwind whose temporal lobe CyFi has. This kid is somehow compelling CyFi to come home to Joplin.

I hope there's something the kid wants done. Otherwise this will be a very pointless digression.

Lev is now in charge, by the way. The Magical Negro can't be in charge, obviously.

CyFi asks Lev why he hasn't dumped him, left him to fend for himself, and Lev says it's because he's here to bear witness.

I mean, that's very nice and poetic and all, but neither Lev nor CyFi know why they're in Joplin. I guess Lev read ahead in the book?

Blah, blah, blah. They get to Joplin.

Chapter 30

CyFi's point of view. He's pretty wonky, but he knows the kid in his head wants something. They wander around Joplin (I think Schusterman thinks Joplin is the size of Mayberry) until they find a place CyFi recognizes, an ice cream shop the kid used to eat at. He realizes the kid's name is Tyler.

Lev notices a police car is watching them. But CyFi knows where to go now. He stumbles off toward Tyler's house. Memories come to him -- apparently Tyler's parents are abusive assholes.

When they reach the house, Cyrus's two dads (the ones that got mmarried) are waiting outside, along with more police officers; but Cyrus screams at them that he has to do this, and they (and the police) let him. He goes up to talk to Tyler's parents who are (justly) horrified.

"Give it to me!" Cyrus screams at them. They don't have any idea what he means. He figures out he wants a shovel, and then uses the shovel to dig up a briefcase filled with jewelry, that I guess Tyler stole from his parents? Or from people around town.

CyTy, as he's now calling himself, flings these jewels at the feet of Tyler's parents, saying they can have it all, they can take it all, he doesn't want it, just please don't unwind him.

Cyrus realizes Tyler doesn't know he's been Unwound.

This is a pretty good scene, I have to admit. Good for Schusterman.

Chapter 31

I was going to stop at Chapter 30, but Schusterman has us at a cliffhanger, so I went on.

This chapter is from Lev's point of view, and he's screaming at Tyler's parents. Tell him you won't do it! he screams. Say you won't unwind him! Promise!

Tyler’s parents still huddle together, comforting each other instead of comforting Cy. It makes Lev even more furious. “TELL HIM YOU WON’T UNWIND HIM!” he screams. 
Lev threatens Tyler's parents with the shovel, promising to bash their heads in if they don't tell Tyler want he wants to hear. They say it, and Cyrus collapses into the arms of his two dads. They tell him everything will be all right now, and Cyrus agrees.

Lev runs away. For some reason the police do not stop him.

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