Review: Scythe by Neal Shusterman


“You have three hundred sixty-five days of immunity.” And then, looking him in the eye, said, “And I’ll be seeing you on day three hundred sixty-six.”

Scythe reeled me in with the profound inquisition as to whom, if anyone, should be allowed to decide who dies. My opinions of immortality and death were thoroughly shaken by the time I set the book down. Reading has the power to shape my view of the world. Books like Scythe, and authors like Neal Shusterman, are a constant reminder of that influence.

My Rating: A

Goodreads Synopsis: 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.

Plot: The world building in this novel was phenomenal. Death and illness no longer exist. People are “revived” (brought back to life using advanced medicine) if they sustain any serious injuries, either by choice or by accident. However, to prevent overpopulation an organization of “Scythes” kill people at seemingly random. This world also does away with government, relinquishing all control to the “Thunderhead”, an artificial intelligence. The only catch is that the Thunderhead is not allowed to interfere with the Scythes. The story start out with Citra and Rowan, two apprentices to a Scythe. Neither of them wanted the gruesome job in the first place, but they are quickly caught up in the power and the intrigue that comes with controlling death. My only complaint for this book is in regards to the romantic subplot, which I found to be half-hearted and unnecessary. The plot of Scythe had me on the edge of my seat. As soon as I thought I knew where it was heading, it would take a sharp turn in a direction I never expected. This book does have lots of elements of violence and can be brutal, but this never seemed to overwhelm me. It’s written as a science fiction/dystopian adventure, not a horror novel.

Characters:  Citra is a competitive, fierce, determined and brave heroine. She contrasts with Rowan, who is more laid-back and concerned about doing the right thing rather than being right. I definitely preferred Citra’s point of view to Rowan’s. I think this is because I relate to her more. I also don’t think that Rowan’s character arc is complete yet, though I am interested to see what is in store for him in the next book. A distinct divide emerges in the way that Citra is trained to be a Scythe compared to Rowan, furthering the contrast between these two characters. Shusterman does a great job setting readers up for the question: what would you do in this scenario?

Overall:  After reading this book, I had some major post-book depression because Scythe asks so many deep I-need-to-ponder-my-whole-existence questions. Some examples: is our mortality what keeps us human? Is it ethical to kill another human being to keep population down? How do you live forever without losing sight of who you really are? These questions could keep me up all day and night, which is why I enjoyed this book so much. The people this book will appeal to most are those that like questions such as these where there is no clear answer. On top of that, it truly is a well-written science fiction/ dystopian novel. I can’t wait to see how the rest of the series turns out.

Ending Rating: 8/10 I needed just a little bit more information at the end of this book to make it satisfying. However, this wasn’t a deal breaker.

Would I recommend it?  Yes, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I would recommend it to anyone who likes Marie Lu or fans of The Hunger Games series.

Is this book on your to-read list? What are your thoughts on immortality? Can we ever really cheat death?



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