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Thursday, May 10, 2018

Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Book Stats:  

Reading level: Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction
Hardcover: 448 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release date: November 22, 2016

Series:  Arc of a Scythe #1

Source: Library

Reviewed by: Kara

Order: Amazon | Book Depository

Two teens must learn the “art of killing” in this Printz Honor–winning book, the first in a chilling new series from Neal Shusterman, author of the New York Times bestselling Unwind dystology.

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery: humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now Scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.


Scythe is the first novel of a thrilling new series by National Book Award–winning author Neal Shusterman in which Citra and Rowan learn that a perfect world comes only with a heavy price.
I've never read anything by Shusterman though I know he's had success with Unwind and it's series. Plus, last year they were planning the Unwind movie, but February 2018 the production company decided it would do better as a tv series and have started reformatting. 

I recently listened to this on audio, and the whole story and worldbuilding was very intriguing. In fact, I thought it super interesting that while I was listening to this audio, I was also re-reading the Red Rising series. So the "Reaper" was a connecting theme for both of them.

Whatever you kind of expect about this book based on the blurb is probably wrong. In fact, it's a very thought-provoking and philosophizing sort of book, but without pushing a bias or agenda. What it really seems to put into perspective (thank you, humanities education) is the idea of being human and what that entails when one's job is to "glean" or, in other words, murder people -- take lives -- euthanize, whatever you want to call it.

Citra and Rowan have been taken from their normal lives and asked to be scythe apprentices after their unusual responses to Scythe Faraday's recent gleanings. After their one year apprenticeship, one of them is expected to become a scythe but the other will return to normal life as if nothing ever happened. Neither Citra nor Rowan want the responsibilities of being a scythe, and this is Faraday's first test. As scythe apprentices, they learn how to kill and, in some cases, how to deal with death and grief and moral questions. They also find out about mass murders, the emotions experienced by repeated gleanings, and what happens when their body of government, the Scythedom, is corrupted. However these two are unique in that no other scythe has taken two apprentices, and Citra and Rowan form a bond from their experiences. This bond is tested in multiple ways, and it's rather a dance to see if they will survive the harrowing plot twists that spring up.

As I briefly talked about, this book embraces the leap in science that has discovered how to prolong life, "reset" life in years, and even "respawn" life when one experiences an event that would ordinarily cause death (falling from a building, commonly called 'splatting'). Another theme is that of mass murders as a prominent scythe and his cronies revere this form of gleaning and use it constantly and with delight. It's an inside, calmly scientific view of terrorism and despotism, one that can easily be taken one step further into potential genocide and ethnic cleansing.

Another element is of mystery as something happens to Scythe Faraday that causes Citra to dig further and hide her sleuthing, Rowan to become a sort of spy/assassin, and together their dynamic actions rock the very core of the Scythedom. Be prepared for this book to challenge your ideas, bring a new perspective, and make you want to read the next, Thunderhead as soon as possible.


Kara is a teen librarian living in the southeastern US with her husband (who listens to books), young daughter (who sleeps with books), and dog (who tastes the books). She loves all sorts of books, but mostly YA, and will never catch up to all of the wonderful things to read.

1 Person left their mark:

  1. I enjoyed your review! Neal Shusterman is a favorite author of mine. I also listened to the audiobook and thought the narrator did a good job. Thunderhead (on audio) is mid-tbr pile due to some review commitments, but I can't wait!

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