Friday, June 16, 2017

Review: Scythe by Neil Shusterman


Series: Arc of a Sycthe #1
Author: Neal Shusterman
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books
Publication Date: November 22, 2016
Format: E-Book

Page Count: 435


Thou shalt kill.

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. (taken from

"The killers are rising to power... and if they do, the days of this world will be very dark indeed."

This is such an original read, and it's executed perfectly. Bravo to Shusterman for this stellar futuristic story.

I first picked Scythe up at the recommendation of a friend, and I was surprised that I hadn't really heard of it before. Despite having done fairly well with critics and some bloggers, I can't help but feel that this 2016 release has been sadly overlooked. I, for one, plan to change that by advising everyone I know to enjoy this twisted, moving novel.

Shusterman's premise is truly fascinating. His too-perfect future rings with authenticity, and I found myself nodding at his descriptions of humanity and our quest for perfection. Unlike many YA dystopian novels, Scythe strikes me as a potential classic for years to come. I see no reason why it shouldn't eventually join the ranks of 1984 and other novels that tackle questions concerning the end of humanity. Its unique concept of "enlightened" death bringers instantly caught my attention, and I found myself racing through the novel and constantly thinking about it.

I was surprised by how much Scythe reminded me of The Book Thief. It's not really as if the two novels are similar: one is set in WWII Germany, the other in a futuristic America where no one dies naturally. However, something about the omniscient narrator and candid descriptions of human nature struck me as familiar. Shusterman tackles B-I-G themes for a YA novel, and his overarching questions are more than a little terrifying.

There's a dash of romance, but just enough to make things interesting. Citra and Rowan's relationship is so much more than a simple fling, and there are so many more important themes than their small romance. I was much more fascinated by the world-building, which is incredibly subtle yet effective. Everything from the Thunderhead to the traditions of the scythes is meticulously described, as though Shusterman doesn't want us to see too much of what is going on behind the curtain. I appreciated the simplicity of this new world, as well as Shusterman's ability to constantly pique my curiosity.

This high-stakes novel was easily one of the most intriguing books I've read this year. Although I think Scythe could probably be a stand alone, I've heard that Shusterman plans to release the sequel sometime next year, and I'm definitely interested to see how the world of death and scythedom has shaped our two protagonists. The ending of the first book gave me chills, so I'm anxious to see what new horrors and characters will enter the next installment.