It's been almost a month since I finished this and I'm still processing how I feel about it. The big problem is that I don't entirely buy the set-up. I'm a parent and, like most parents I know, I would lay down my life for her. Having her 'unwound' is simply unthinkable. I discussed this with a friend and she (nicely) said I was a bit naive and that a) not all parents feel this way towards their children, particularly during the teen years and b) larger cultural approval goes a long way in making unsavory practices acceptable to the individual. Put this way, I have to agree a bit. Take female genital mutilation. The parents who condone this activity don't believe they are harming their children, and in fact they are convinced by their culture that it is the right thing to do - that they are actually protecting their child. There are a lot of other examples even within our own culture if you give it enough thought.
All that said, I still don't buy it 100%, but ultimately that's okay because Shusterman builds his world well and I was happy to go along for the ride. The plot is fast paced, the characters are interesting and I was always a little surprised at where the story took me. I didn't love Shusterman's overall writing style, but there is one scene near the end that is one of the most chilling and memorable pieces of writing I've read in a long while. All in all, I can see how this would be an incredibly powerful book for a teen reader - so much here to ponder and discuss. I don't feel particularly inspired to continue with the series myself, but I'm glad series like this exist for teen readers.