Three Teens. One terrifying process.
Remember, the examiner ALWAYS wants to know how the Author showed, or convinced you of something. The ONLY WAY THE AUTHOR CAN DO THIS IS THROUGH HIS USE OF LITERACY TECHNIQUES. Messages don't get to you without them.

Click below to go to old exam papers for Extended Text. Scroll to "External Assessment"


Chapter One - we meet Connor.

Shusterman uses the literary technique of foreshadowing (giving us a hint about what could happen later in the story, or what the story is about) in the VERY FIRST LINE. He does this through the character Ariana's dialogue, Connor's girlfriend at the beginning of the novel, when she states: "There are places you can go...and a guy as smart as you has a decent chance of surviving to 18". Further, in Chapter One, Shusterman uses internal dialogue through the first person thoughts of Connor to tell us that he is expecting not to be living by summer, when he thinks:" He tries not to think about the fact that he'll never see the summer again. At least not as Connor Lassiter. He still can't believe that his life is being stolen from him at 16." Finally, Shusterman completes the foreshadowing and moves to create the social and poltiical context for the novel - that the society lives with the consequences of "Unwinding", retroactive abortion of teens between the ages of 13-18, being part of law and social normality. He does this through the continued first person narrative and internal dialogue of Connor when he states: " Once more he [feels] he is just a marked, a week short of unwinding."

WE LEARN THAT CONNOR IS SCARED OF RUNNING AWAY FROM BEING UNWOUND ON HIS OWN THROUGH THE USE OF first person narrative and internal dialogue: "The idea of kicking AWOL by himself terrrifies him. He might put up a tough front, he might act like the bad boy at school - but running away on his own? He doesn't know he has the guts."

SHUSTERMAN TELLS US WHAT CONNOR IS LIKE THROUGH THE USE OF LANGUAGE/LITERARY TECHNIQUES/FEATURES OF narrative: "Ariana's paretns don't like Connor. 'We always knew he'd be an Unwind," ...'You should have stayed away from that Lassiter boy'...They think that just because he's been in and out of disciplinary school they have a right to judge him." SHUSTERMAN TELLS US WHAT CONNOR THINKS ABOUT HIMSELF WITH THAT SAME QUOTE. SHUSTERMAN ALSO TELLS US HOW THE WORLD SEES HIM AND HOW HE ACTS BY THAT SAME QUOTE.

SHUSTERMAN INFORMS US OF HOW CONNOR FOUND OUT ABOUT BEING UNWOUND through the use of narrative.: Connor's parents don't know that Connor knows he's being unwound. He wasn't supposed to find out...he found airplane tickets to the Bahamas. They were going on a family vacation over Thanksgivering...there were only three tickets. His mother, his father, his younger brother. No ticket for him. So Connor went looking a little deeper when his parents were out, and he found ...The Unwind Order."

SHUSTERMAN LETS US KNOW HOW ANGRY CONNOR IS WITH HIS PARENTS through the use of dark humour and first-person narrative when Connor thinks: "...the pink copy [of the Unwind Order] would stay with his parents, as evidence of what they'd done. Perhaps they would frame it and hang it alongside his first-grade picture."


"I...don't know what you mean." The trucker rolls up his sleeve to reveal that the arm, which had done the tricks, had been grafted on at the elbow. "Ten years ago I fell asleep at the wheel...Big accident. I lost an arm, a kidney, and a few other things. I got new ones, though." "So," says Connor, "you got dealt a new hand."

SHUSTERMAN USES AN ELEMENT OF SURPRISE to shock readers about the consequences for families and teenagers of the Unwind Order. He conveys this through his use of narrative, internal dialogue and dialogue when Connor hears a knock on the truckers door and is told to come out. At first he thinks that it is just the trucker [Josiah Aldridge] telling him his ride has come to an end "but when he swings open the door and steps out to thank the man...Aldridge is a few yards away being handcuffed, and in front of Connor is a policeman: a Juvey-cop...Standing ten yards away is Connor's father,...'It's over, son," his father says. It makes Connor furious. I'm not your son! He wants to shout. I stopped being your son when you signed the unwind order! But the shock of the moment leaves him speechless." This has a huge effect on the reader. We are left shocked, angered and experiencing the helplessness of Connor. It all sounds like a bad dream.


He had been scared to run away from being unwound by himself but Shusterman shows us that Connor's character has got braver when he runs away from the Juvey Cops shooting at him into the road and into the path of a Cadillac. "Connor, stop!" he hears his father yell...He feels the impact...but the bullet embeds in his backpack...Connor climbs over the center divider, and finds himself in the path of a Cadillac that's not stopping for anything."

RISA. We learn that Risa has been a ward of the state at Ohio State Home 23. And that not every StaHo kid has had been as lucky as her to have had such a good relationship with their teachers. She has a very good relationship with Mr Durkin her piano teacher. We meet Risa at a recital and she is feeling very nervous. She makes mistakes in her piano recital and knows that Mr Durkin would would tell her to "Relax...No one is judging you."

WE LEARN THROUGH INTERNAL DIALOGUE that Risa knows that her future is on the line in some way... "...he can afford to believe it. He's not 15, and he's never been a ward of the state." THIS INTERNAL DIALOGUE IS ALSO FORESHADOWING. We are alerted to the possibility that Risa's life may be about to change.

SHUSTERMAN INFORMS US ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF THE IDEA OF UNWINDING when we learn the consequences of the concept for Risa. We learn this through the literary techniques of dialogue and internal dialogue when Risa is called into the headmaster's office and faced with a "tribunal" of adults sitting in judgement. Again SHUSTERMAN USES DARK HUMOUR when we learn through Risa's internal dialogue that the adults were lined up like the three little monkeys:"hear no-evil, see-no-evil, speak-no-evil". This is because they judgement and their ability to judge Risa's right to life, is completely evil. Evil, unfair and inhuman.As readers we are shocked to read the woman adult saying: "Let's see... you've been a ward of the state from birth. It looks like your behaviour has been exemplary. Your grades have been respectable, but not excellent...your performance ...good." This is a female adult; perhaps a mother herself. We are shocked when Shusterman writes from Risa's first-person perspective to tell us that "but Risa can tell she's not really looking. Whatever's going on here was decided long before Risa walked through the door." Finally when Shusterman switches back to dialogue to tell us that Risa is about to be unwound, we are stunned with: "We feel you've reach your potential here". We feel Risa's dismay and disempowerment when we learn through the use of Shusterman's dialogue that the reason why she is being unwound is for financial reasons. That they can't afford to resource her life as Risa anymore because there are budget cuts and babies being born all the time: "The money only stretches so far...educational standards could be compromised...we only want what's best for you , and all the other children here...our hands are tied...we have to make room for every new ward...which means cutting 5 percent of our teenage population...Change is always scary."

The reader's emotions echo Risa's shock and anger when Shusterman uses dark humour, short sentences and dialogue to inform us of Risa's reaction to the comment about "Change is always scary":

"Change?" yells Risa, "What do you mean 'change'? Dying is a little bit more than a 'change'."

Shusterman informs us of the impact on unwinding on the headmaster when he describes how the headmaster is feeling uncomfortable (for good reasons) by comparing his neck tie to a noose. :"The headmaster's tie turns into a noose again, preventing blood from getting to his face."

Shusterman conveys with cold ridiculousness, the logistics of being unwound when he writes that the Lawyer reaches into his briefcase and hands Risa a colourful pamphlet of "Twin Lakes Harvest Camp" and says that "it's a fine place...our facility of choice for all our Unwinds. In fact, my own nephew was unwound there."

SHUSTERMAN USES REPETITION AND SHORT SENTENCES TO CONVEY THE MOOD OF LEV, the other boy destined to be unwound as a tithe. He does this when he opens Lev's chapter with: "The party is big, the party is expensive, the party has been planned for years...there are at least two hundred people in the country club's grand ballroom...Lev got to pick the band...choose the food..." The mood for Lev is upbeat and excited. It is a "party" mood. We are picturing the innocent and relaxed atmosphere of a "Country Club" where people enjoy themselves. As the reader has no idea what the party is for as yet, our emotions are left high and exposed for when the shock of what the party is about is dumped on us through Shusterman's use of short sentences loaded with double meaning: "This party is all for him. It's all about him. And he's determined to have the best time of his life."

But Shusterman's shock tactics don't finish there. Just when we are trying to work out what it is that Lev isn't good enough for or what it is that he has done to offend society, we learn that his parents decided to make him a tithe (10%) of the family. So as readers, we are left scrambling to absorb the idea that parents are willing to donate their child as body parts. Not just money, old clothes, books and toys or bedclothes. But children as body parts. Shusterman conveys this with dialogue and again dark double meaning: "His grandmother gives a toast. An uncle he doesn't even know gives a toast. 'To Lev: It's been a joy to watch you grow into the fine young man you are, and I know in my heart that you'll do great things for everyone you touch in this world." The double meaning of "'ll do great things for everyone you touch in this world." is not lost on the reader. It just makes us feel a gut revulsion to see Lev, the good boy, and his life, being reduced to useful body parts to touch.

Shusterman convey's Lev's panic as time starts to run out for him. The party is nearing an end and Shusterman lets us hear Lev's thoughts through first person narration: " It feels wonderful and weird for so many people to say so many kind things about him. It's all too much, but in some strange way it's not enough. There's got to be more..."

Shusterman uses dialogue to give the reader someone to voice their opinions and disgust at what is happening to the character, Lev through the conversation between lev's brother, Marcus, Lev and their father. This conversation is loaded with dark humour, sarcasm and reflects Marcus' pain and disgust at the charade: "Congrats, little bro...Today you're a man. Sort of. ...What do you think of all this?" he asks Lev. "It's great." "Of course it is! All these people here for you? It's an amazing night. Amazing!" "Yeah," says Lev...I'm having the time of my life." "Damn right!. The time of your life! Gotta wrap up all those life events, all those parties, into one-birthdays, wedding, funeral...very efficient, right, Dad?" "That's enough," their father says quietly..."What? I'm not allowed to talk about it? Oh, that's right - this is a celebration. I almost's to my brother, Lev,...And to our parents! Who have always done the right thing. The appropriate thing. Who have always given generously to charity. Who have always given 10 percent of everything to the church. Hey, Mom - we're lucky you had ten kids instead of five otherwise we'd end up having to cut Lev off at the waist!...I love you, bro... and I know this is your special day. But I can't be a part of this." ...Lev finds he doesn't want to dance anymoore.

Shusterman uses dialogue to explore and illustrate Lev's fear and the guilt he associates with that fear: He does this with the conversation that Lev has with Pastor Dan, the family's religious mentor and Lev's supporter: "Are you getting scared?" Pastor Dan asks... Lev nods. "I thought I was ready. I thought I was prepared." But it doesn't ease the disappoint Lev feels in himself. He's had his entire life to prepare for this-it should have been enough. He knew he was a tithe from the time he was little....'I've been having a lot of wrong thoughts... I've been feeling jealous of my brothers and sisters...I know it's an honour and a blessing to be a tithe, but I can't stop wondering why it has to be me....I know tons of people with big families...but lots of those people don't tithe at all - even families in our church - and nobody blames them."

Shusterman uses this dialogue to show us that even the Pastor does not feel comfortable about Lev's parents decision to give their son away as body parts as part of a tithe to the church. "Pastor Dan, who was always so good at looking people in the eye, now looks away.'It was decided before you were born. It's not anything you did, or didn't do....there are also people who tithe their first, second, or third child. Every family must make the decision for itself.

Shusterman uses dialogue and Lev's first person reflection to explain the belief system of Lev's parents so that reader's can consider this idea in relation to the whole interesting/important idea of a society that condones the retroactive abortion of teenagers. He does this with the conversation that Lev has with Pastor Dan, the family's religious mentor and Lev's supporter. "You're special," his parents had always told him. "Your life will be to serve God, and mankind."

Shusterman uses Lev's first person reflection to tell us that Lev considered his unwinding to be vastly different to the unwinding of "naughty' teens. He referred to them as the "dirty unwinds". "...It did bother him ...when kids called him things like "dirty Unwind". As if he was like those other kids, whose parents signed the unwind order to get rid of them. That couldn't be further from the truth for Lev. He is his family's pride and joy. Straight A's in school...Just because he's to be unwound does NOT mean he's an Unwind....He was a "true tithe." With five natural siblings, plus one adopted, and three arrived by Stork, Lev was exactly one-tenth. His parents had always told him that made him all the more special.

Shusterman discloses Pastor Dan's true feelings about unwinding to Lev when he tries to climb back in the car.: "Run! Run as fast and as far as you can. RUN!"

Shusterman helps readers to understand the physical process of the idea of unwinding. He does this through dialogue, repetition of banal phrases, internal monologue, extremely short sentences, medical jargon, bizarrely colourful and innocent similes and metaphors, and dark humour. Shusterman chooses the scene where Roland gets unwound to explore what this idea's process might be like if it were true. Roland is an unpopular bully character in the novel and so it makes it more emotionally bearable for readers to cope with the vivid images created by Shusterman's unwinding scene. Shusterman mixes phrases associated with routine procedures of care and reassurance in a hospital operating theatre and recovery room, with the short, sharp sentences of medical procedures and Roland's own internal monologue of awareness. The effect of this is to take the reader on the bizarre, slowly-paced section-by-section journey with Roland as he is being unwound. Shusterman mixes images of normality with abnormality seamlessly. Your parents might compare this to the "Live Organ Donor" scene by Monty Python in the movie "The Meaning of Life". But we become aware of how disempowered Roland is. That any teenager going through this process is feeling helpless and alone. We also learn that the unwinds memories are slowly peeled back to their earliest recollections. We also learn that they may feel that this is extremely unfair and that whatever they did in their young lives, it certainly didn't deserve this procedure.

We learn that "by law" the medical team dismantling the teenagers are required to keep the "patients" conscious at all times. We are given the opportunity, through dialogue between Roland, a medical assistant and the nurse, to explore the absurdity of this. "By law we are required to keep to you conscious through the entire procedure....You have a right to know everything that's happening to you, every step of the way." "What if I don't want to?" "You will," ways one of the surgical assistants, wiping Roland's legs down with brown surgical scrub. "Everybody does."

Examples of Banal and day-to-day phrases - jargon - repetition and platitudes (stuff that is trite (overused so less effective and believable) , polite but meaningless) that contrast hugely with what the reader's view of what is actually "unwinding" excuse the pun - might be

"We've just inserted catheters into your caratoid artery and jugular vein," says the nurse. "Right now your blood is being replaced with a synthetic oxygen-rich solution." "We send the real stuff straight to the blood bank," says the assistant at his feet. "Not a bit gets wasted..." "The oxygen solution also contains an anaesthetic that deadens pain receptors." The nurse pats his hand. "You'll be fully conscious, but you won't feel a thing."

And when Roland replies that he hates them all the nurse simply replies, "I understand."

"You may feel a tugging sensation near your's nothing to worry about."

"I want you all to go to Hell." "That's natural."

"I'm scared." "I know," says the nurse.

"You'll feel a tingling in your jaw. It's nothing to worry about."
"You'll feel a tingling in your scalp. It's nothing to worry about."

The use of stating the time that has been spent on the procedure. This is just another routine for surgeons but in this case the readers are kept in touch with the time Roland has been on the operating table, fully conscious, for by Shusterman's inclusion of it.

Shusterman helps us understand the character of Roland by uncovering the source of his anger through his conversation with the nurse. And he also continues to intersperse the normality of an operating theatre scene and procedural instructions throughout the dialogue: "I think it's horrible what your stepfather did." "I was just protecting my mother." "Scalpel," says a surgeon. "She should have been grateful." "She had me unwound." "I'm sure it wasn't easy for her." "All right, clamp it off."

...When I was three, I had a babysitter. She was beautiful. She shook my sister. Real hard. My sister got wrong. Never got right again. Beautiful is dangerous. Better get them first...

The use of short sentences towards the end of this chapter starts to build pace and tension: As if time is running down for Roland.
Memories tweak and spark. Faces. Dreamlike pulses of light deep in his mind. Feelings. Things he hasn't thought about in years.
A clang of metal...

Now Roland feels discomfort in his gut. Discomfort, a tickling sensation, but no pain.
then the surgeons lift things away.
He tries not to look, but he can't help it.

Two hours, five minutes.
'Blink twice if you can hear me."
Blink, blink.
"Did we get the auditory nerves?"
"Not yet. Getting them right n-"
I'm alone. And i'm crying...And I'm mad. I'm so mad.
Left frontal lobe.
I...I...I don't feel so good.
Left occipital lobe.
I ...I ...I don't remember where...
Left parietal lobe.
I ...I...I can/t remember my name, but ... but ...
Right temporal.
...but I'm still here.
Right frontal.
I'm still here...
Right occipital.
I'm still...
Right parietal.
I'm ...

Shusterman uses disturbingly normal phrases, said by the surgeons, to show just how much the unwinds have lost their identity as humans and have become merely interesting specimens. These are conveyed through the language technique of dialogue.
"Strong abdominal muscles, " says a doctor. "Do you work out?"
"Splitting the corpus callosum"
"Nice technique"
"Well it's not brain surgery." Laughter all around.

Shusterman uses metaphor to paint vivid images of Roland's experience.
the memories bloom, then they're gone.

Simile for the same reason:
Everyone's so close around him now. Yellow figures lean all around him like flower petals closing in. Another section of the table is taken away. Back to metaphor The petals move in closer.

Themes for Unwind from Celia and Nick

The Value of Human Life

This theme is explored indirectly in Unwind through the parents and guardians who make the decision to unwind children in their care. For whatever reason, each unwind is the result of an adult's decision that the individual in question would be more valuable as an organ donor than the sum of their parts. The novel presents several reasons for adult's to sign away teenagers for unwinding: Disciplinary issues (Connor) Limited potential (Risa) Religious (Lev) These reasons are also related to the changes each of the main characters goes through in the novel. For example, Risa is being unwound for not meeting her potential in the eyes of her superiors but over the course of the novel she learns how to value herself and measure her own potential according to her own values.
In Connor's instance, his parents have decided (without consulting him, of course) that his behaviour is so unmanageable that he would be of more value to society as an unwind.
It is implied that Connor's parents believe their son's greatest contribution to the world is to be harvested for organs to heal the sick and disabled.
This may seem like a noble endeavour, however Connor himself criticizes a world in which surgeons and replacements have replaced doctors and cures.
Connor suggests that if there was more emphasis on preventing disease, there wouldn't be such a demand for organ replacements. Find a cure rather than simply slapping a band-aid over the problem.

Other aspects of the theme to explore: Storking - The Lassiter Baby
When you are unwound you are alive, just in a divided state.

Government Control

Although the government are an unseen force in the novel, not represented by any particular character, their power and influence is felt by every character in one way or another through the different initiatives created to put an end to the Heartland War.

The Unwind initiative was created by the government as a compromise between the warring Pro-Lifers and Pro-Choicers. As a result of this initiative, once a teenager has been signed away by their guardian to be unwound, the individual is now government property.
This results in Connor and Risa becoming felons as by going on the run they are actually stealing government property: themselves!
The Storking Initiative requires a household to become the legal guardians of any child successfully storked on their doorstep. This Initiative can potentially place a huge burden on a family by making a new life their responsibility. However the limits of the government's power are shown in how little control they have over what people do with storked babies. For example, the Lassiter baby which is passed from household to household in Connor's neighbourhood until it eventually dies of neglect.
Other aspects of the theme to explore:

-The government regulates people's lives in many ways:
->Juvey cops - influence them whilst they're young! Equals control.
->State homes and unwinding - the government chooses which state children get unwound.
->Changing recorded history to cast the pro-lifers in a more positive light.
->Abolishment of abortion and forcing people to take the babies of others.


Through doing everything possible to stay alive as one person - and not in a divided state - each of the main characters learns something about themselves. Survival is the main vehicle for character change. Throughout the whole text the 3 main characters are fighting to stay alive, it is the responsibility of having to fend for themselves that each of them learns something new about themselves.

If survival is the vehicle for character change, the way in which they value their own lives is the object of this change.

Poses the ethical question, is your survival worth more than your values? Would you do anything to keep yourself alive even if it meant doing something you disagreed with?
Risa playing piano at Chop shop versus Lev willing to die for his cause. Similarities to loads of real life examples. . . Other aspects of the theme to explore: Surviving in the wilderness/on the streets.
Learning skills to be seen as useful. Risa nursing, Connor being a leader.


Unwinding, as an idea, stems from disagreement over whether people have the choice to be parents or not. E.g. Pro life vs Pro choice.

Currently, people can decide they aren't ready to be a parent and get an abortion. However in Unwind, you are forced by society to give birth to your child. If you don't feel you can look after your child your options are to stork it - hope that someone wants to provide a nice life for this kid - or bring it up - if you don't like it by the time it turns 13 you can unwind it.

In reality, parenting is hard. In Unwind, if parenting gets tough because your teenager is rebellious, you have the option to unwind them, you have the option to give up. This is what Connor's parents do. When you have a child you are making a commitment to that person for life. In reality, if you realise you can't fulfil this commitment you may opt to abort. So is abortion worse than unwinding or storking? Is this what Shusterman is wanting us to think about? He never tells us what is right or wrong, Shusterman simply provides a scenario for us to think about issues like parenting and abortion. As Connor says "in a perfect world everything would be either black or white, right or wrong, and everyone would know the difference. But this isn't a perfect world. The problem is people who think it is."

Storking as an idea is tough, it seems unfair that the government can force you to be a parent - considering what is written above about it being a life long commitment. It is a poor solution to a problem, there don't appear to be any checks as to whether these people are going to be good, or suitable parents.

Other aspects of the theme to explore:
Examples of bad parenting: storking, Connor's parents, Roland's mum, Hayden's divorced parents.
Examples of good parenting: that the Admiral and his wife realised they had made a mistake unwinding their son, so the Admiral takes on the responsibility of looking after (parenting) all of the unwinds that escape. Connor and Risa looking after Didi. Cyfi's parents are examples of supportive parents.