Study Guide

Unwind Setting

By Neal Schusterman

Setting

Akron, Ohio, sometime in the future

The book might be set in Akron, Ohio, but only vaguely so—Akron isn't a major player in its own right. And Akron isn't nearly as important as the time period the book takes place in…which isn't very well defined, either. All we know is that it's in the future, because in the antique shop, Connor spots "a display of iPods and other little gadgets from his grandfather's time" along with "an antique plasma-screen TV" (2.19.14). We're never told what the technology looks like in this time period, though, so again—not well defined. We're just generally in Ohio in the future.

The Graveyard

Perhaps Akron isn't described because Connor, Risa, and Lev are trying to get the heck outta there. The A in AWOL (part of Connor's Akron AWOL nickname) stands for "away" after all. And where they end up is much more interesting. The Graveyard is a junkyard for airplanes where the Admiral is hiding hundreds of Unwinds. It's appropriate for the Unwinds to be held in a place for cast-off planes that would otherwise be broken down and sold for parts, isn't it?

The Graveyard operates like a twisted reality TV show: While the Admiral chills in Air Force One, a group of teens known as the Goldens run the place. "Every new arrival is required to face a tribunal" (5.33.2), too, including Connor and Risa, where they're assigned jobs and tasks to perform unsupervised.

The Admiral does give us a little bit of context, at least. He fought in the Heartland War, so, even though we don't know when that was exactly, we know that it was in his lifetime. He tells us, "there was the Life Army, the Choice Brigade, and the remains of the American military, whose job it was to keep the two sides from killing each other" (5.34.206). Sounds like this whole unwinding business didn't come about without a fight.

We're not sure how well the Admiral did then, though, because he sure does a poor job now. The kids go all Lord of the Flies, killing Cleaver and burning Air Force One with the Admiral inside, forcing Connor and Risa to take the Admiral to a hospital. Which leads us to our final setting.

Happy Jack Harvest Camp

The Harvest Camp, formerly known as Unwinding Facilities (6.51.2), is located amid scenic grounds with calming interior colors—light blue, green, lavender, and pink. It's like like a nursing home for teenagers, except they actively murder their residents. Perhaps this part of the setting is best described as "Harvest camp is Hell masquerading as Heaven" (6.52.4). Yikes.

Oddly, there are similarities between the Harvest Camp, which will kill the kids, and the Graveyard, which while ironically named, attempts to save them. Specifically, in each place every resident is assessed for skills and put to work. While the Admiral is training the teens to survive, though, the Harvest Camp is searching for the best use for its residents' body parts. It's the one place where if someone says, "Are you done with that leg?" in the cafeteria, they're probably talking about yours.