Reading/Interest Level: Young Adult
Author: Neal Shusterman
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Citra and Rowan live in an advanced society where death is a thing of the past and population size needs to be controlled. This is the work of a scythe. Scythes are tasked with permanently killing (or “gleaning”) a certain number of random people every year. Everyone fears scythes, but they also command respect. So when Scythe Faraday asks both Citra and Rowan to be his apprentices, they hesitate. But each feels a draw to the mysterious occupation and agrees to train. However, corruption lurks in the society. The more the apprentices learn, the more they realize that their society needs scythes who are honorable and fair—otherwise the scales could tip and gleaning could become nothing more than legalized murder.
Though Scythe does closely follow the expected archetypes of a popular young adult novel, the concept is original and thought-provoking. This book is more suitable for a young adult audience, as darker themes like death and mortality are explored in great depth. Though there are some compelling characters in the book, the best-written characters are only secondary. Unfortunately, the two main characters, Citra and Rowan, are disappointingly two-dimensional. However, author Neal Shusterman is very skilled at writing about the book’s concept in such a way that something as unthinkable and far-fetched as legal killings being regularly carried out by trained assassins ultimately seems normal by the end. In this way, Shusterman builds a world that is very different but also believable. This book is the first in a trilogy, and the book ends with certain plot points left unresolved, likely to be pursued in the subsequent books, along with continued character development.
*Contains moderate violence, mild language, and mild sexual content.