Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Review: Scythe by Neal Shusterman


Scythe by Neal Shusterman


Series: The Arc of a Scythe #1
Pages: 435
Genre: Young Adult Dystopia
Publisher: Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: November 2016

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.

I’m pretty sure that Neal Shusterman is my favorite author of dystopias. I love his Unwind series, and I may have lost my chill a little when I first heard about Scythe. Shusterman puts so much thought into his dysfunctional worlds. They’re far-fetched, but they’re sooo complex.


Scythe is set in a future where humans have conquered death. Disease no longer exists. Bodies can be put back together quickly. People can be brought back to life. The average human is hundreds of years old and has many children. In order to control the human population, the world government decides that the planet needs scythes, people whose job it is to permanently kill others. The main characters, Rowan and Citra, are teenagers who have been apprenticed to a scythe. Neither of them wants to be a scythe at first, but as they get deeper into their apprenticeships, they notice widespread corruption within the scythedom. What happens when the most powerful organization on Earth starts spinning out of control?


“Human nature is both predictable and mysterious; prone to great and sudden advances, yet still mired in despicable self-interest.” – Scythe



The worldbuilding is my favorite part of this novel. Neal Shusterman has thought of everything. A world where very few people have experienced death would be quite different from ours. A lot of art and literature would lose its meaning. Murder would no longer exist. Families would become huge, sprawling, many-generational things. If humans were immortal, there would be less incentive to get stuff done quickly. The author does a great job of showing the positives and negatives of a world without death.


“I wonder what life will be like a millennium from now, when the average age will be nearer to one thousand. Will we all be renaissance children, skilled at every art and science, because we’ve had time to master them? Or will boredom and slavish routine plague us even more than it does today, giving us less of a reason to live limitless lives? I dream of the former, but I suspect the latter.” – Scythe



Most dystopias are depressing, but this one is surprisingly funny. There’s lots of gallows humor, which I appreciate. I also like the parallels between the scythedom and real-world governments. I may have laughed out loud when a few scythes were outraged about a potential ban on flamethrowers. Because life’s not worth living unless you can own a flamethrower.

This is a big book. It’s over 400 pages. Normally, I’d get bored with a book that big, but I never got bored with ScytheThe plot moves quickly, the world is unique, and the characters are unpredictable. Citra and Rowan change a lot over the course of the novel. They’re both likeable kids, so they’re easy to root for.

As much as I love this book, I do have two complaints:

First, some of the “twists” aren’t twists because they’re predictable. Maybe I’ve just read too many dystopias, but some of the plot stuff in Scythe has been done before in other books. I saw it coming. I don’t want to be more specific because I don’t want to spoil the novel for anybody.

Second, have you read Shusterman’s Unwind series? Scythe is basically Unwind 2.0I know that the books are written by the same person, and they’re bound to have similarities, but there is a lot of overlap. Rowan and Citra have similar personalities to Connor and Risa. (Their names even start with the same letters!) Both books address the same themes. (Should humans be allowed to decide who lives and who dies?) Reading Scythe definitely gave me a case of déjà vu.

Luckily, I love Unwind, so I didn’t mind Unwind 2.0.

Despite my complaints, I’m going to read the next book in the series. I need to know what happens next!




TL;DR: A must-read for dystopia lovers. Someone needs to put the sequel in my grabby little hands right now.



Do you think any Scythes keep bullet journals? Get it? "Bullet" journal? For notes on killing? I thought it was funny. 







48 comments:

  1. Wow, this does sound intriguing! Being immortal sure would have it’s pro and cons, but to have no more illnesses that take yet life would be something! Great review! I hope you enjoy the next book in this series too.

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    1. I’m currently reading the sequel and loving it. It’ll take me forever to get through because it’s over 500 pages.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  2. My son in law has this on audio and is caught laughing out loud numerous times. So I believe you that it’s funny. I haven’t read this test but it’s in my list. Sounds very intriguing. Great review.

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    1. I definitely laughed out loud a few times. I’m glad nobody was around when I read it!

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  3. The world was my absolute favorite as well. Shuterman made it sooo believeable and surprisingly light and had some humor like you mentioned. I saw Neal Shusterman a few weeks ago at the Thunderhead signing and his next book sounds AMAZING. It's about what happens when a community runs out of water and the chaos that ensues.

    I hope we both read Thunderhead soon. It looks like there are some passages from the cloud in that book!

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    1. I’m reading Thunderhead right now, and there are chapters from the cloud’s POV. Shusterman’s next book sounds so cool. I’ll definitely be reading it.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  4. I love when an author really puts a lot of thought into the world-building and includes even little things that the reader might not have expected or thought about.

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  5. HA! Bullet journals...love it. I haven't read anything else by this author, though I want to, so I really loved Scythe. I NEED the sequel like PRONTO. I'm glad to hear that you mostly really loved it. It does read quick for a longer book!

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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    1. I’m reading the sequel right now, and it’s very good so far. You need to read it.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  6. The premise is pretty unique, and it sounds great the way the author really delves into that and explores how different life would be. The humor sounds great too lol. I haven't read Unwind, so I wouldn't even have the deja vu problem! Great review!

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  7. Sounds like good stuff. I have this and Unwind and have been debating which to read first. I'll probably go with Unwind just because it appeals to me a bit more, but they both sound like great reads actually.

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    1. YES! Read Unwind. It’s twisty and bizarre.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  8. I'm hoping to pick this one up soon! I almost bought it when it was first released, but decided to wait to get it from the library :) Wonderful review!!

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  9. Not quite a fan of dystopias, but this one has always got great reviews! I need to look up the other books you mentioned too.

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    1. If you don’t like dystopias, you probably won’t like this series. It’s very much a dystopia.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  10. I haven't read anything by the author before, but this one sure sounds intriguing! I'm glad you loved it, despite the predictability, and I hope the sequel is even more amazing!

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    1. So far, I don’t love the sequel as much as the first book, but it’s still good. I’m only about 200 pages into it. The sequel is massive.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  11. Yay!! You know I adore Shusterman, so I pretty much jump up and down whenever someone loves his books. Have you heard that Unwind is supposedly getting picked up as a TV series (probably on Netflix or Hulu, it sounds like).

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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    1. I’ve heard about the TV series. I don’t have Netflix or Hulu, though. The series might be a good excuse to get them.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  12. I've been wanting to read this as I think the idea is fascinating, but am reluctant as I am not a fan of descriptive gore. Could you let me know if this book would make me squeamish please? Or are the killings more of a behind the scenes/matter of fact type?

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    1. There is A LOT of death in the book, but most of it is pretty matter-of-fact. I didn’t think any of the deaths were overly descriptive.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  13. Great review darling. I do love it when the author writes some great world building, makes all the difference especially with unique elements initiated in this story. Very fascinating.

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    1. YES! Worldbuilding can make or break a book for me, especially in science fiction.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  14. I am liking the new look on the blog :) I have a copy of the audio of this book and can't wait to read it. I haven't read his work before so I shouldn't have a problem comparing it to his other books.

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  15. Sadly, I have Unwind (the whole series) and Scythe sitting on my shelves unread. I do love dystopians, even if they are a but predictable. Great review and thanks for reminding me to pick this book up!

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    1. Here’s another reminder: Pick up Unwind and Scythe. They’re very good. :)

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  16. I've had this on my shelf since it came out and I STILL haven't read it! I didn't love Unwind, so I'm not sure if I would enjoy this or not... I do like that it's fast paced though. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Scythe and Unwind have similar characters and themes, but the worlds are different. If you didn’t like the world in Unwind, you might like Scythe.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  17. My co-blogger has been trying to get me to read this. She loved it! I just saw they are making this into a movie too.

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    1. I agree with your co-blogger. You should read it. :)

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  18. I absolutely loved the world building too, but keep debating on picking up the sequel because it didn't wow me. Glad you loved this!
    Tori @ In Tori Lex

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    1. So far, the sequel is less awesome than the original, but I’m only 200 pages in right now. My opinion might change. I’m still enjoying the sequel a lot.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  19. Did your blog change a little or am I losing my mind? Either is equally likely but it looks... Idk, different today. Good different though! Anyyyyway. I love this book. I see what you mean about the similarities with Unwind (hey, maybe these kids are descendants of Connor and Risa, you don't know!) but I also feel like this one is maybe even more pertinent and well-constructed than Unwind? Idk it's hard to decide because Neal Shusterman is such a freaking genius. I am glad you liked it though!

    Also, I chuckled at the "bullet journal" thing, well punned.

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    1. Yes, the blog did change a little. I decided to alter things just enough to make people believe they’re going crazy.

      I actually wondered if the characters are distant relatives of Connor and Risa. That would be really cool if they were.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  20. You make this sound so good! Unwind has been on the wishlist forever. I need to finally read some Shusterman.

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  21. I think I said almost exactly the same thing, about Scythe being thematically twins with Unwind, but since I loved Unwind, it wasn't really a negative. Re-reading it for the Cybils made me appreciate it in its own right more.

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    1. I didn’t know that you reviewed this one. I’ll have to look for your review (unless I did see it and then forgot. I don’t know what I’m doing with my life sometimes). I loved Unwind, so I didn’t mind reading about the same themes again.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  22. I hadn't read his other series, but that's interesting to know that they overlap so much. That would be sort of disappointing as a reader. I did enjoy this book, though, and look forward to the sequel - mostly because everyone seems to rave about it!

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    1. At first, I was disappointed that this series is so similar to the author’s other series, but I got over my disappointment pretty quickly. Both series are entertaining.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  23. YES YES YES this review shows me how much I need to hurry up and read this one. I love grim reaper stories, and am always looking for more of them. But I also really love world building, and you mention it as the main strength for the novel. Then a fast moving good plot, complex characters... agh, it almost sounds too good to be true.

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  24. Ha, I didn't even notice the overlap with Unwind (but I didn't really enjoy that one so don't remember much), but now that you mention it, YES. I still really loved Scythe though, and I'm happy you did too! I'm due for a reread before I dive into Thunderhead.

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