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Scythe by Neal Shusterman Review

Rating: 5/5stars

Genre: Science fiction, dystopia, biopunk, YA.

“We are not the same beings we once were. So then, if we no longer human, what are we?” – From the gleaning journal of H.S. Curry

ARE YOU READY FOR THE BEST BOOK YOU WILL EVER LAY EYES ON. Then great, go check this out right now!

This story takes place in a future where humanity has conquered all things: hunger, disease, war, misery, and even death. Each person has nanites in their body to repair wounds, numb pain, and even prevent depression. Even youth can be eternal, as you can always “turn a corner” back into a younger version of yourself. If someone was to “die” or rather as they call it, become deadish, they can quickly be taken to a revival center where, after a day or two, will become good as new.

However, to keep the population under control now that everyone is immortal, humans created Scythes, men and women who are to glean – a nice word for kill – a certain number of lives every year. Being gleaned by a scythe is considered a true death, one from which you can’t be brought back from.

Citra and Rowan are chosen due to their compassion and strengths to apprentice to Scythe Faraday—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life. The best of them gets to become a Scythe, while the other will have to try and return to their normal life. That is, until the other Scythes decided the winner of the two must glean the loser.

While in training, it becomes apparent the corruption beginning to take root in the scythedom. Will the two of them be able to make any difference? Or will the obstacles they’re faced with be too great.

There is so much about this book that I love that I’m not even sure to begin.

This story is told in third person. We get to hear from such a variety of characters that it adds a great element to the story. We get to see things from Citra, Rowan, other scythes, and side characters who aren’t in the story from long. Each chapter starts with a journal entry from different Scythes. This gave a break to the narrative and set a good stage for a lot of world building. It also was filled with deep thoughts that often left you wondering. Many challenging the pleasantries of immortality and the Utopia they live in. On of my favorite of these entries is from Scythe Curie, and it reads:

If you’ve ever studied mortal age cartoons, you’ll remember this one. A coyote was always plotting the demise of a smirking long-necked bird. The coyote never succeeded; instead, his plans always backfired. He would blow up, or get shot, or splat from a ridiculous height.

And it was funny.

Because no matter how deadly his failure, he was always back in the next scene, as if there were a revival center just beyond the edge of the animation cell.

I’ve seen human foibles that have resulted in temporary maiming or momentary loss of life. People stumble into manholes, are hit by falling objects, trip into the paths of speeding vehicles.

And when it happens, people laugh, because no matter how gruesome the event, that person, just like the coyote, will be back in a day or two, as good as new, and no worse—or wiser—for the wear.

Immortality has turned us all into cartoons.

Followed also by the ending of another entry:

Mortals fantasied that love was eternal and its loss unimaginable. Now we know neither is true. Love remained mortal, while we became eternal.

Beyond just the beauty and style of writing, the characters are amazing as well. Each one is complex and with the right amount of flaws to make them human.

Citra is smart, strong, and compassionate. But also competitive, which leads to mistakes being made.

Rowan is brave, cunning, and goes through so much interesting character development that I don’t how to even touch on it.

Scythe Faraday is the mentor you wish you had. He’s wise, resourceful, and filled with so much pain you can’t help but hurt for him.

Scythe Curie is a complete badass. The Grand Dame of Death haunted by her past, but having learned from it, becoming a better person and scythe because of it.

And the Thunderhead, the smart computer membrane with a conscious. It’s completely replaced government all over the earth and turned the planet into a Utopia. It’s basically my favorite character, despite you not really getting to experience it in it’s full glory until the second book.

The plot for this story is also fantastic. It’s filled with many twists and turns that I wasn’t sure where it would go. I was excited to see how it would play out and never really guessed what would happen further ahead than the book intended. It never disappointed me.

The only thing I didn’t like about this story was the romance between Citra and Rowan. Of course, I knew it would happen, considering it’s YA and features two characters of the opposite gender. It wasn’t brought up much in the text, and although I appreciated it’s lack of emphasis on this part, it also made it seemed rather forced. There wasn’t much chemistry between the two. This was my second reading of the book, and it felt more natural this time around then the first, but I still think it came on awfully sudden.

So go forth and buy, rent, borrow, whatever you have to do to get a copy of this book. It’s amazing in it’s physical and audiobook form (seriously, the narrator does an awesome job). My favorite read from last year and my favorite read from this year (so far) too.

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