Scythe, by Neal Shusterman, (Nov. 2016, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers), $18.99, ISBN: 9781442472426
Recommended for ages 12+
Scythe is my first Neal Shusterman book AND one of the best books I’ve read this year. Society lives in a utopia. We’ve defeated death, poverty, hunger, you name it. Do people turn to a Star Trek-type society and explore space and do good things? Nope, they “turn the corner” when they get tired of looking old, having surgery to bring them back to a younger face and body. They stop doing, stop trying to achieve; it’s a stagnant society that doesn’t die. That’s where the Scythes come in.
Someone has to help with population control, so Scythes are chosen to end life. There are rules: Scythes can’t glean too much from one particular race or gender; they really shouldn’t love what they do too much, and they can’t glean out of rage. Citra and Rowan are two teens chosen to be a Scythe’s apprentices, much to their consternation; things get worse when they are told that only one will become a Scythe, and the first order of business will be to glean the other.
Citra and Rowan learn that the world isn’t nearly as perfect as many want to believe, and they witness a group of Scythes who hold mass gleanings – mass murder – where they revel in what they do. They discover that this society is no stranger to corruption.
Shusterman creates a brutal world wearing the guise of a utopia in Scythe. The characters are brilliant and awful, getting inside the reader’s head and heart. He builds a society that’s stopped moving forward, where the only progress to be made is by a Scythe, dealing indiscriminate death. He gives the Scythes a comprehensive history, with journal articles by previous Scythes throughout the book, ceremonies, and rituals. It’s an intense, fantastic book that readers who want somewhere to go after reading The Giver series should read immediately.
I didn’t want to put the book down and I never wanted it to end. Thankfully, we’ll be getting another book in the series, because the ending left me breathless.
A must-read, must-add book for any bookshelf. Scythe has received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, and School Library Journal. Kirkus has also named Scythe one of the Best Books of 2016.