From Unwind by Neal Shusterman
The Bill of Life
The Second Civil War, also known as "The Heartland War," was a long and bloody conflict fought over a single issue.
To end the war, a set of constitutional amendments known as "The Bill of Life" was passed.
It satisfied both the Pro-life and the Pro-choice armies.
The Bill of Life states that human life may not be touched from the moment of conception until a child reaches the age of thirteen.
However, between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, a parent may choose to retroactively "abort" a child . . . ... on the condition that the child's life doesn't "technically" end.
The process by which a child is both terminated and yet kept alive is called "unwinding."
Chapter 1: Connor
Connor's parents don't know that Connor knows he's being unwound. He wasn't supposed to find out, but Connor has always been good at ferreting out secrets. Three weeks ago, while looking for a stapler in his dad's home office, he found airplane tickets to the Bahamas. They were going on a family vacation over Thanksgiving. One problem, though: There were only three tickets. His mother, his father, his younger brother. No ticket for him. At first he just figured the ticket was somewhere else, but the more he thought about it, the more it seemed wrong. So Connor went looking a little deeper when his parents were out, and he found it. The Unwind order. It had been signed in old-fashioned triplicate. The white copy was already gone—off with the authorities. The yellow copy would accompany Connor to his end, and the pink would stay with his parents, as evidence of what they'd done. Perhaps they would frame it and hang it alongside his first-grade picture.
The date on the order was the day before the Bahamas trip. He was going off to be unwound, and they were going on vacation to make themselves feel better about it. The unfairness of it had made Connor want to break something. It had made him want to break a lot of things—but he hadn't. For once he had held his temper, and aside from a few fights in school that weren't his fault, he kept his emotions hidden. He kept what he knew to himself. Everyone knew that an unwind order was irreversible, so screaming and fighting wouldn't change a thing. Besides, he found a certain power in knowing his parents' secret. Now the blows he could deal them were so much more effective. Like the day he brought flowers home for his mother and she cried for hours. Like the B-plus he brought home on a science test. Best grade he ever got in science. He handed it to his father, who looked at it, the color draining from his face. "See, Dad, my grades are getting better. I could even bring my science grade up to an A by the end of the semester." An hour later his father was sitting in a chair, still clutching the test in his hand, and staring blankly at the wall.
Connor's motivation was simple: Make them suffer. Let them know for the rest of their lives what a horrible mistake they made. But there was no sweetness to this revenge, and now, three weeks of rubbing it in their faces has made him feel no better. In spite of himself he's starting to feel bad for his parents, and he hates that he feels that way.
Chapter 5: Cop
Officer J. T. Nelson has spent twelve years working Juvenile. He knows AWOL Unwinds will not give up as long as there's an ounce of consciousness left in them. They are high on adrenaline, and often high on illegal substances as well. Nicotine, caffeine, or worse. He wishes his bullets were the real thing. He wishes he could truly take these wastes-of-life out rather than just taking them down. Maybe then they wouldn't be so quick to run—and if they did, well, no great loss.
The officer follows the path made through the woods by the AWOL Unwind, until he comes to a lump on the ground. It's the hostage, just dumped in the path, his white clothes smudged green from the foliage, and brown from the muddy earth. Good, thinks the officer. It was a good thing this boy took that bullet after all. Being unconscious probably saved this kid's life. No telling where the Unwind would have taken him, or what he'd have done to him.