Normally, I don’t write reviews for books by established authors. Scythe was published in November 22nd, 2016 and already has 1,994 reviews on Goodreads, so my 1,995th is not going to have a big impact on Shusterman’s sales. But as a mom with one bookworm and one reluctant reader, I am always on the lookout for books that will pull in a tween/teen boy. This is one. My son picked it out and after he’d finished it, he literally pulled the book I was reading out of my hands, put this one in it, and said, “Read this first.”
Scythe is set in a Utopian world where death, disease and war have been conquered. “Splatting” or jumping from great heights to feel the thrill of an adrenaline rush, only to be revived afterwards, has become a thing. Because where there is no fear of death, life also has less joy and purpose.
But population levels still need to me managed. This is done through scythes, men and woman who humanely reduce the population. Scythe is about two teens, one girl and one boy, who are chosen as apprentices to a scythe, and about their struggle to learn the “killtrade” and grapple with the task of selecting humans to “gleaned.”
This topic sounds gruesome, and there are certainly scenes involving killing. But Shusterman focuses not on the blood and guts but on the moral dilemma that the apprentices face. He shows the “gleaning” process for several different scythes, helping readers to draw their own conclusions about the ethical implications of the different methods.
But the real draw for this story is the two teen apprentices, Citra and Rowan. The teens feel genuine. Readers will feel their tension as they come to see that the scythe is a necessary profession in this world and is best done by the people who are least drawn to it, those who place the highest value on human life. When Citra and Rowan discover a bigger problem facing their Utopian world and try to right it, it leads to action, adventure, and plot-twists that keep the pages turning.
Scythe was released November 22, 2016.
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