Series: Arc of a Scythe #1
Also in this series: Thunderhead, The Toll
Published by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers on 11/22/16
Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopian
My content rating: YA (Nothing more than kissing, Some violence)
In a world where disease has been eliminated, the only way to die is to be randomly killed (“gleaned”) by professional reapers (“scythes”). Citra and Rowan are teenagers who have been selected to be scythe’s apprentices, and—despite wanting nothing to do with the vocation—they must learn the art of killing and come to understand the necessity of what they do.
Only one of them will be chosen as a scythe’s apprentice. And when it becomes clear that the winning apprentice’s first task will be to glean the loser, Citra and Rowan are pitted against one another in a fight for their lives.
How has the entire world not recognized Neal Shusterman’s genius? Seriously, I am SO hoping that the Unwind movie comes out (I haven’t seen any news since May!!) and that it does the series justice because people need to talk about his books more.
Scythe is one more example of Shusterman’s talent and imagination and his ability to shed light on humanity’s moral triumphs and shortcomings.
Once again, he takes a look at a dystopian (utopian?) society—this time a society where humans have defeated death, pain, poverty, and every other earthly malady. The cloud has advanced into what the world terms the “Thunderhead.” It has amassed so much knowledge that it has been able to solve all of the world’s problems. All except one—with the defeat of death, overpopulation is a major issue. Even the Thunderhead can only figure out ways to support so many people. And up till this point, space exploration has failed. So, the Scythes are born. They are meant to choose who should die (without malice or prejudice) and carry out those deaths. The Scythes are supposed to be morally superior people—putting the welfare of the world above all else. But while the Scythes are led by a strict code, some have found ways to skirt the rules
What Fed My Addiction:
- Become the thing you hate? Both Citra and Rowan are horrified at the thought of being Scythes when they are recruited. After all, who would want to bring death in a world where death has been defeated. Scythes are both revered and feared (and sometimes despised). But the Scythe who recruits them insists that Citra and Rowan’s reluctance is exactly what shows that they are perfect for the job. It is their compassion and judgement that Scythe Faraday believes will lead them to be perfect candidates. Citra and Rowan’s struggles with becoming the thing that they’ve hated and learning why it might actually be necessary are fascinating. I especially loved Rowan’s specific struggles, but I don’t want to share them because I want readers to discover them on their own! Once again, Shusterman manages to capture the complexities of social issues without giving a “right” or “wrong” answer. This is what I love about him.
- Control gone wrong. The Scythes’ power over life and death is ripe for corruption. They are still human, and the dark side of humanity manages to bleed through, even in a utopian society.
- A dangerous world. For a world supposedly without problems, there sure are a lot of them. The stakes are quickly raised for Citra and Rowan and they find that the perfect world they’ve been raised in is becoming more and more dangerous by the minute.
- Could almost be a standalone. I love the fact that this book feels complete—it could stand completely on its own and I’d be happy—but it also leaves LOTS of room for future books in the series. This is the perfect balance, as far as I’m concerned!
What Left Me Hungry for More:
- Why did they do it this way? Okay, I have to admit there are a few aspects of the Scythedom that I didn’t really get. I understood that they didn’t want to just let a computer choose life and death. They didn’t want to give the Thunderhead that final modicum of control since it has no sense of right and wrong. (Though, I still think maybe it would be considered more “fair” to just have the Thunderhead choose who lives and dies?) BUT I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t just kill everyone peacefully with a pill or something. Even the most moral of Scythes use brutal methods of killing. They had their reasons, but I wasn’t completely sure I understood them. Still, I think part of the point was that since humans came up with the system it is inherently flawed, but a system that disregards humanity would be flawed too. Again, Shusterman is incredible at presenting these moral quandaries with no easy answers.
Once again, Shusterman is completely on point. His books make you think, they keep you guessing, they make you feel so many disparate emotions—sometimes simultaneously. I easily give this 5/5 stars and Shusterman remains an all-time favorite.
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
About the Author:
Award-winning author Neal Shusterman grew up in Brooklyn, New York, where he began writing at an early age. After spending his junior and senior years of high school at the American School of Mexico City, Neal went on to UC Irvine, where he made his mark on the UCI swim team, and wrote a successful humor column. Within a year of graduating, he had his first book deal, and was hired to write a movie script.
In the years since, Neal has made his mark as a successful novelist, screenwriter, and television writer. As a full-time writer, he claims to be his own hardest task-master, always at work creating new stories to tell. His books have received many awards from organizations such as the International Reading Association, and the American Library Association, as well as garnering a myriad of state and local awards across the country. Neal’s talents range from film directing (two short films he directed won him the coveted CINE Golden Eagle Awards) to writing music and stage plays – including book and lyrical contributions to “American Twistory,” which is currently played in several major cities. He has even tried his hand at creating Games, having developed three successful “How to Host a Mystery” game for teens, as well as seven “How to Host a Murder” games.
As a screen and TV writer, Neal has written for the “Goosebumps” and “Animorphs” TV series, and wrote the Disney Channel Original Movie “Pixel Perfect”. Currently Neal is developing an original TV series with his son, Jarrod, and adapting Tesla’s Attic with co-writer Eric Elfman for TV as well.
Wherever Neal goes, he quickly earns a reputation as a storyteller and dynamic speaker. Much of his fiction is traceable back to stories he tells to large audiences of children and teenagers — such as his novel The Eyes of Kid Midas. As a speaker, Neal is in constant demand at schools and conferences. Degrees in both psychology and drama give Neal a unique approach to writing. Neal’s novels always deal with topics that appeal to adults as well as teens, weaving true-to-life characters into sensitive and riveting issues, and binding it all together with a unique and entertaining sense of humor.