The Cost of Freedom
At the end of Unwind, all our protagonists survive (yay) but the costs for everyone are steep.
First up, Connor. After Roland is unwound, Connor is next. But before the procedure can began, Lev's little band of chaotic clappers blows up the unwinding chamber…with Connor inside. He miraculously survives and ends up with the ID of a blown-up guard in the process. Pretending to be this older boy lets him escape Unwinding.
This all sounds pretty good, except for the fact that Connor's arm was blown off in the explosion (ouch) and he gets his rival, Roland's, arm as a replacement. Yikes. That would be like the Dalai Llama getting an organ transplant from Hitler. Okay, it's nothing that extreme, but it's still shocking, plus Connor now sports a shark tattoo that he would never in his right mind have chosen.
Second up, Risa. She's on top of the unwinding chamber when it blows up, and her spine is crushed. (Double ouch.) Luckily for her, disabled kids can't be unwound, so…victory? At least her hands survive undamaged, allowing her to sit in her wheelchair and explore her true passion—playing piano. She helps Connor understand that just because he has Roland's arm doesn't mean he is anything like Roland: "The shark has been tamed by the soul of a boy. No—the soul of a man" (7.67.28). Ooh la la.
Finally there's Lev. Lev didn't blow himself up like he was supposed to, instead saving Connor and Risa from the wreckage. That's mighty generous of him. Still, even though he's a "a clapper who didn't clap" (7.68.31)—in other words, a suicide bomber who ended up saving people—and ends up on the cover of a magazine, he still ends up in prison.
For Lev, though, this is a good thing because he, too, is exempt from Unwinding. The explosives in his system can never be fully extracted, meaning he can never be unwound.
All three characters appear in future book in the series, so by staying alive, their journey has just begun.