Connor is a 16 year-old boy whose parents signed the unwind order because of his constant fighting and getting thrown out of several schools.  He manages to escape, shooting the Juvey Cop with his own tranqulizer gun, thus being named the “Akron AWOL,” a legend-type from the eyes of many teenagers, with stories that continue to become more elaborate with each telling.

Connor journeys on to find a permanent way out of being unwound, and ends up in Arizona, where many of other kids set to be unwound are.  Connor changes from being an uncontrolled fighter to a person who contains his rage enough to rationalize and see what’s hidden in many dangerous situations. He finds an unexpected loyalty to the Admiral, the leader of the runaway unwind camp where he is staying, as well as a close bond with the girl whom he also helped escape, Risa Ward.


A ward of the state since birth, Risa spent the first 15 years of her life in State Home Ohio 23, trying to prove herself worthy of the life given to her and provided to by the state home, of StaHo for short. Mr. Durkin, her piano teacher for five years, is about the closest thing Risa has to a parent. He never puts Risa under any pressure and tries to assure her of her standing in the StaHo.

Unfortunately, during a recital of which she knows she has to do very well, if not perfect, she doesn’t.  That leads to the decision of her being unwound.  On the way to a harvest camp where the unwinding takes place, she finds an opportunity to escape and does so, running away with Connor and another boy, Lev.  She ventures on to try to find a life for herself where she doesn’t have to be unwound, and ends up with Connor in the runaway unwind camp in Arizona.


Levi “Lev” Calder is, at thirteen, the youngest of ten children. He is described as angelic, with blond hair and blue eyes. Unlike Connor and Risa, Lev has a good relationship with his family. They are a very religious family and very loving towards each other. Unfortunately, however, as the tenth child in the family Lev is a “tithe,” which means that he is slated to be unwound as a religious sacrifice. Lev’s family gives one tenth of everything—including their children—as a sacrifice to the church.

At the beginning of the novel, Lev understands his role as a tithe and is willing to give himself for unwinding. He always knew that he would be unwound, and understood that it was his life purpose.  On his way to the harvest camp, however, becomes an unwilling participant in Connor’s own escape from harvest camp.  The events which follow cause Lev to question every aspect of his life, especially his unwinding. As the story continues, Levi begins to feel more and more hatred towards his family for wanting to tithe him.  He also starts to steal things and begins to trust others, and also befriends another boy on his own journey, one that leaves Lev on a dangerous path.

Lev is also shown to be clever and honorable when he bargains a diamond bracelet for money. His honorable quality keeps him alive at the end of the story.


CyFi, a 15 year-old boy, is introduced just after Lev is separated from Risa and Connor.  He helps Lev learn to scavenge for food in the food courts of malls. Not much is known about him at first, other than he’s a proud Umber (dark-skinned).  CyFi was originally a storked child who was taken in by two fathers.

CyFi is not an Unwind. Rather, he ran away from his family because the thoughts from an Unwind’s temporal lobe, which he received after a car accident, spontaneously took over his own thoughts. CyFi’s case is unusual because brain transplants are normally done with tiny pieces from multiple donors, but he acquired one full piece of the temporal lobe.  This helps CyFi maintain his high IQ, but also results in compulsive orders from the donor. Cyrus constantly fights between the disorder he is now dealing with (kleptomania) and being himself.


His real name is not given at first, but he is a man who used to work for the military, giving runaway unwinds a safe haven in an airplane junkyard from the “Juvey Cops.”  It is revealed that he is in fact Admiral Dunfee, father of the supposed myth of Humphrey Dunfee, an unwind whose parents went insane and killed the people that had their son’s pieces in order to make him whole again.  In actuality, he was a good, though fierce, person who was determined to have each person who received a part of “Humphrey” Dunfee in one place to see his son again, though not technically together in one body.


Roland is a bully Connor and Risa encounter on their way to the airport graveyard in Arizona. Roland has a shark tattoo on his arm, and he and Connor clash on many occasions, since both of them like to run things their way and have strong personalities. Roland is malicious and doesn’t seem very smart, but this is actually a ploy in order to have things go his way more often- in actuality he manipulates situations in order to get what he wants.  He tried to force Risa to like him but failed.  He was unwound before Clappers destroyed the “Chop Shop”.  After being unwound, Connor, not having a choice, receives his arm with the shark tattoo.  Connor swears never to touch Risa with that arm, but Risa does not take this promise into account, saying that it is not Roland’s arm anymore as Roland would never be as kind and gentle as Connor could be.


Hayden is a boy Connor and Risa encounter along with Roland and Mai in Sonia’s basement. He is described as “… a lanky blond kid with a faint smirk that seems permanently fixed on his face. He has braces on teeth that don’t appear to need them.” Connor guesses that he is probably a kid that comes from wealth, which is later confirmed when they each share how they ended up in Sonia’s basement. Hayden’s parents, extremely wealthy, went through a divorce and decided to have him unwound, rather than the other parent having custody of him. It isn’t always clear whether Hayden is being sarcastic or serious, and he tends to make philosophical, “intelligent” comments. Connor also notes that he enjoys thinking “dangerous” thoughts. After they leave Sonia’s basement, Connor next sees him when they are transferred to crates on the way to the runaway unwind camp. Connor entrusts him to take charge of the camp near the climax while Connor goes to deal with more trivial manners. At the end, he is seen running the unwind camp alongside Connor and Risa.


Mai is an Asian girl Connor and Risa encounter along with Roland and Hayden in Sonia’s basement. She is described to be “nearly as tough-looking as Roland.”  She is known for her deeply dyed pink hair and spiked collar.  Mai is feisty.  She has a black eye, indicating that she must have gotten into fights – however, her parents were Unwinding her because they had too many girls in the family, she being the last one, before they finally got the son that they wanted.  She hates the world, and becomes a clapper, which is a terrorist who taints their blood with liquid explosives in order to blow themselves up and/or kill others for a cause.





Nicknamed Wil, he is a Native American who befriends Lev and has the talent for playing beautiful music through his guitar.


Wil’s fiancee


A boy in the tribe, about 10-years-old


Wil’s uncle


A person from Wil’s tribe


A girl in the tribe, about 10-years-old


Another kid from the tribe


Wil’s grandfather


Wil’s mother, also a medicine woman


Parts pirates, nicknames given to them by their appearance


Someone who has an interest in Wil’s musical talent

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