In a society where unwanted teens are salvaged for their body parts, three runaways fight the system that would "unwind" them.
Connor's parents want to be rid of him because he's a troublemaker. Risa has no parents and is being unwound to cut orphanage costs. Lev's unwinding has been planned since his birth, as part of his family's strict religion. Brought together by chance, and kept together by desperation, these three unlikely companions make a harrowing cross-country journey, knowing their lives hang in the balance. If they can survive until their eighteenth birthday, they can't be harmed--but when every piece of them, from their hands to their hearts, are wanted by a world gone mad, eighteen seems far, far away.
Wow. I have to say, I was really surprised by this book. I've been reading a fair amount of sci-fi-future YA books lately (Uglies, Hunger Games) and this one pleasantly had less of the government control that is prevalent in other books. We do hear a lot about the law, government, and so forth of course, but it didn't seem as pervasive which was a nice change for me.
The book raises some interesting questions and viewpoints on life, abortion, religion, and souls without ever getting off-topic or turning into a political or theological debate. Things that come up are usually the kids asking themselves questions that even they don't have answers for: Does your soul go the Heaven if you're "unwound" (literally taken apart and every piece of you is used for organ/etc. transplants) or not, since you're technically still alive? Is being killed before birth--abortion--just the same as being taken part after? Makes you think about the society, too, where parents would unwind their kids for being too unruly, or as a tithe to God.
Don't be put, off, though, it's not a political book. Although that's definitely a central part of the book, at no time did I feel like it was anything more than important to the story; in fact, I wish that some parts had expanded on those views and why people believed them (such as literally tithing 1/10 of your children), and on the Heartland War that apparently started the entire thing.
It was interesting to watch the three main characters change during the story in different ways, although I will admit that I was disappointed when Risa, the lone main girl, was not treated to the same level of attention and character development the two boys had. Whether this was because her personality didn't need much changing for the story to work out or if she just got the short end of the stick is probably dependent on what you think; her presence definitely faded a bit toward the end of the story when the boys' stories took charge, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Beware, here start spoilers. My main complaint with the story is that I felt a lot more could have been added, either backstories or on the current society, but wasn't. It's not like the book was devoid of explanation--on the contrary, every major thing was eventually explained, such as the Clapper terrorists, the unwinding process, the tithing, and the harvest camps. I just wanted more insight into the religion of Tithing in particular, and maybe more on how unwinding was viewed or referenced in everyday life and the current society or government. But these are minor things and I'm an explanation-geek, so I know a lot of people won't mind.
Verdict: Get it from the library at the very least. I don't think it's got a lot of re-readability, but the story is excellent and shouldn't be missed: I could never figure out what was going to happen ahead of time and it was nearly impossible to put down.