Connor is an independent, impulsive sixteen year old. His tendency to act without thinking gives him a rugged charm but also gets him into a lot of trouble. His parents have decided to have him unwound. Connor chooses to flee and even manages to shoot a cop with his own tranquilizer pistol, which earns him a measure of anonymous fame as the Akron AWOL.
On paper, Connor is a deviant and has a dim future ahead. Yet among the unwinds, Connor is actually a compassionate kid who struggles to think before acting. Through his relationship with Risa, Connor learns to trust his instincts rather than his impulses. He learns to make decisions after considering all the options. Because of this, Connor becomes a leader and, ultimately, the hero of the novel.
In many ways, Risa is a foil to Connor. Where Connor acts without thinking, Risa always considers the options. Having grown up in a State Home, 15-year-old Risa has learned that she can best protect herself by analyzing the situations in which she finds herself. Although Risa is at first eager to escape from Connor’s influence, she comes to admire and even love him. Like Connor, Risa is a compassionate and talented youth. In addition to playing piano, she is a natural medic, and she willingly sacrifices herself to save the Admiral.
Lev’s story is quite different from that of Connor and Risa. Thirteen-year-old Lev is intelligent, athletic, and loved by his deeply devout family. However, he is a tithe and will be unwound. Thanks to Pastor Dan’s counseling, Lev is able to accept that he will be tithed and willingly departs for the Harvest Center. When Connor rescues Lev from the freeway, Lev is at first outraged that he has been robbed of his holy destiny as a tithe. However, Pastor Dan tells Lev to run while he still can. Having been raised to believe that tithing is God’s will, Lev is confused about his identity and purpose. Lev’s internal conflict is perhaps the most complex one in the novel, and he carries the spiritual weight of the novel’s thematic discourse.
After he is separated from Connor and Risa, Lev realizes that he made a mistake in betraying them. He luckily meets up with CyFi, a genius teenager who is also on a journey. After suffering brain damage, CyFi’s temporal lobe was replaced. Now, CyFi is haunted by the memories and impulses of another child’s (Tyler’s) life. Determined to stand by his new friend, Lev accompanies CyFi on his journey, even though he is putting himself at risk to do so. When CyFi finally meets Tyler’s family, Lev is shocked at their lack of compassion for CyFi’s, and ultimately their unwound son’s, distress. Lev is unable to reconcile the lack of compassion that he witnesses in both his and Tyler’s parents with his faith in God. He is disgusted with his parents for blindly following the rules of the church and wonders how God can condone unwinding people.
Spiritually lost and emotionally traumatized, Lev becomes a clapper and has explosives injected into his bloodstream. When Lev meets Risa again at the Graveyard, she quickly notices the change in him and ironically declares that she misses the old...
(The entire section is 854 words.)