In Unwind by Neil Shusterman, the Heartland War is a civil war which has taken place in a future, dystopian America and which has resulted in serious compromises culminating in the Bill of Life. Due to conflict surrounding abortion, the end of the war has come at great cost and the parents of unwanted children who would have been aborted had their parents been allowed to choose, now have the opportunity to "unwind" their children from age 13 to 18 or even give them away if they are under 13. The process of giving them away, known as "storking" is permitted as long as the parents don't get caught. Such children become the responsibility of the family upon whose porches they are unsuspectingly left. It is as if, for these children, "membership in the human race was just revoked."
Connor, Risa and Lev become unlikely friends and their attempts to escape are hampered at every turn. Even Lev, conflicted by his feelings of duty and responsibility, believes it is an honor to be unwound and tries to do the honorable thing, turning himself in and reporting the whereabouts of Connor and Risa, only to change his mind and help them get away. Even Lev himself, eventually manages to escape again. The children must now hide away until they are 18 and no longer in danger of being unwound. This is not the case however,and unfortunately, under different circumstances, they are all scheduled for unwinding. With the help of the ever- confused Lev, they avoid unwinding, although Connor has been given the arm with the shark tattoo from the unwound Roland.
The following quote sums up the problems explored in the book because it looks at the fact that life is no longer respected; children are commodities and emotional ties do not exist:
“The way I see it, it's got nothing to do with all of that. It has to do with love...A person don't got a soul until that person is loved. If a mother loves her baby--wants her baby--it's got a soul from the moment she knows it's there. The moment you're loved, that's when you got your soul."
Unwind is also an attempt to make the reader consider, in this age of convenience, where technology knows no bounds, when people will draw the line. The ability of scientists to make use of body parts has long been contentious and caused ethical dilemmas so the following quote really does reveal what happens when wants and desires are left unchecked:
"It didn't take long for ethics to be crushed by greed."
Another quote which is relevant because of the undeniable elements of truth in it and which reveals what Shusterman is saying is:
“The Bill of Life was signed, the Unwind Accord went into effect, and the war was over. Everyone was so happy to end the war, no one cared about the consequences.”
This serves as a warning that sometimes people do not even realize how their actions will impact others. The "bigger picture" has been lost in favor of something immediate and self-serving.