The driver of the book is The Heartland War and its resolution, though only a small amount of backstory is in this volume. Pro-choice and pro-life factions fought a civil war to an inconclusive end, resulting in a compromise where abortion itself is illegal, but children may be "unwound" anywhere between the ages of 7 and 18. Unwound meaning dismembered and all parts used in transplants. Babies may be "storked"--left on someone's doorstep, and if the mother is not caught, it's the storkee's responsibility. Most questions are plausibly answered--transplantation has been made very easy with neurografting and preservation techniques, and people have convinced themselves that life goes on for the Unwound, just not as singular persons. We even get solid references to note that this is happening today in China. Some setup questions remain, for instance:
- There must be a LOT of babies. Normally it is not difficult to find a family to take a healthy newborn, they are in demand. Ending abortion would increase the birth rate, but by that much? Possibly birth control is illegal as well? This is not mentioned.
- What is the geography of the country after the Heartland War? Did all the states stay in the union? Maybe not important.
The characters in the book discuss whether or not it is really true that Unwinds retain some sort of distributed consciousness or identity. Some say yes, some say no. In real life? No, a transplanted heart does not ache for its old lover. But in Unwind, through either magical realism or willful ignorance, it is presumed to be true. Arms "remember" how to shuffle cards one-handed. Etc. So the basic delusion this society has adopted is--substantially correct. Hm. Where does this go? There are more books in the series, so possibly the question is taken up, but I am not sure I'll read them. I give it 3 stars, but only just. It could have been more, and kept its YA roots.