Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Book Review: Scythe by Neal Shusterman


Goodreads Overview:

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.

Jacque's Review:

The Delaware, Ohio Library hosted Neal Shusterman for an author event at one of the local schools. I hadn't read any of his books, but I had heard of him and even had Scythe on my TBR list. I finished reading it a couple of days before the event, so I at least had a clue about some of his writing. He told several stories about the inspiration for his books, which I found fascinating. He worked as a summer camp counselor when he was younger and told stories to keep the kids entertained and in line. He was one of the favorite counselors and the kids couldn't wait to hear his stories each night. He translated that experience into a career writing for middle grade and young adults. In fact, he told stories for the majority of the presentation and the audience was hooked. I added several of his books to my TBR list as he was talking about them. 


The futuristic society in Scythe has conquered death and aging. Citizens can "turn the corner" when they start to look too old and want a more youthful appearance. Of course, people probably don't want to go back to their awkward teenage years, so they return to maybe their 20's or 30's. You could theoretically have generations of family members who all look the same age. In order to keep the population under control, Scythes have a quota of people they have to kill or "glean" each year. There are rules to prevent Scythes from discriminating and there are even ways to grant and receive immunity. On the surface, it all seems to make sense until a group of Scythes band together and start abusing their power. They turn gleanings into major events and start gaining power from the fear they are spreading.

Citra and Rowan are both apprentices under Scythe Faraday. He has been doing the job for a very long time and is compassionate when it comes to his work. We quickly learn at the first of the tri-annual conclaves that there is friction within the scythedom. Not everyone wants to live by the rules that have been set, so they use Faraday's having two apprentices as a way to manipulate the group. They decide to split them up under different trainers and put them head-to-head with the winner having to glean the loser. 

Throughout the rest of the book, we get to see how the different factions operate. Rowen is training under Scythe Goddard, who is part of the group that is conducting the mass killings. Citra trains under Scythe Curie, who is more in line with Scythe Faraday's way of operating. Their training styles are completely different from that point forward and the stark differences between the factions becomes very clear. There is a surprising twist shortly before the final conclave that really brings everything full circle. What is in store for Citra, Rowan, and the future of the scythedom is left hanging in the balance at the end of this book. I purchased a copy of Thunderhead, the second book in the series, at the event and plan on reading it sometime this summer. This was an exceptionally good start to the series and I can't wait to find out what will happen next.

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