Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Published on November 22, 2016
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.
When Scythe first came out, it was pretty near the top of my reading list because of how much I loved the other Neal Shusterman books I’ve read. Somehow or other, I didn’t get to reading it very quickly, and here I am, almost two years later.
I really enjoyed this book. I’m often sensitive to violence in books, so I was a little nervous about that. But I found it to be a lot like the way The Hunger Games handles violence. The characters are disturbed by what’s happening and find ways to fight against it or call it out as wrong. Some things about it reminded me of Unwind, particularly the moral questions surrounding the Scythes’ role as killers.
My favorite thing about Scythe is the way the stakes just kept getting higher and higher. It felt like every few chapters, there would be some new intense twist making me sit straight up in my seat. Sometimes I suspected the twist a little bit before it happened, but even then, the revelation of it was so satisfying and the intensity ratcheted up so high that I had to keep going to find out how it all turned out.
Would I read the second one? Yes. Absolutely.
In this futuristic story world, all races are pretty mixed. Certain characters are described as “leaning” toward a particular race or other. Scythes are mandated to kill across a diverse population or else face punishment.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Mild profanity used pretty infrequently.
Kissing between boy and girl. A couple of references to sex in suggestive comments.
Most religions appear not to exist anymore. One group remains, worshipping sound and living monastic lives in secluded communes.
Vivid descriptions of deaths. Some are painless or quick. Others are crueler. This is meant to show the difference in the ways Scythes carry out their jobs. Some use more compassionate means and others seem to revel in causing pain. Rowan struggles with these attitudes, realizing he could in fact become the kind of monster who enjoys killing.
Scythes are allowed to end their own lives, and some do in the course of the story. One suicide happens off-scene. Rowan witnesses another. Sensitive readers may find scenes like this too intense.
Some Scythes use poisons or drugs to end a life, usually as a way to do it painlessly.