Review of Scythe by Neal Shusterman

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

I went into reading Scythe knowing that it had been generally well received. I’ve had some disappointing reads of late and I wanted to read something new that would blow me away and i’m glad to say that’s what I got!

From the opening pages, it was clear that the sense of dread that was being conveyed made this far from a typical utopian read.  It immediately raised an important hypothetical; in a world where everyone has the potential for immortality yet still being afforded the ability to procreate, how do you maintain the population numbers? The Scythes carry out the task of Gleaning, a true death – and I have to say I found their way of selecting those to be gleaned pretty genius. It ensured that everything was as fair as it could be in the circumstances and the imposition of quota’s ensures that there are no more gleanings than necessary, however, there are always those who take their calling too seriously….

Scythe follows the travels of Citra and Rowan, flung into the world of the Scythes as unwilling apprentices.  They are strong characters and I loved reading about both of them.  Unlikely candidates that they are, their development and the way their dynamics evolve is pretty special, there were a number of twists, many of which I didn’t see coming, so engrossed was I in the pages.  There is a nifty sci-fi edge to it as well, as you would expect from a Utopian future, the evolution of our current “cloud” to the Thunderhead, an all seeing all encompassing maintainer of all but the Scythe’s is actually not as creepy as it first sounds but I liked how it brought a bit of now to the future I was reading.

Scythe brings many questions about morality and dignity in death, it’s clearly a tough read at times if you’re sensitive to that issue, but I felt that it was extremely well done in its approach.  I actually found it quite fascinating to consider the individual ways that the Scythe’s ticked and how like in all walks of life there are those who are gracious and those who are all about the show. I did find it to be a very emotional read at times, especially with the more troubling aspects of Rowan’s training – I felt I couldn’t breath at the intensity of some of the scenes and the depth of the writing skill had me crying with the characters at times.

I enjoyed how each chapter was formed of 2 parts as well, Citra and Rowan’s story but also snatches of different Scythe’s gleaning journals which show that indeed the thoughts and feelings held by Citra and Rowan are nothing new to the Scythedom and they make for compelling footnotes.

For me Scythe is a book that is pretty underrated but really doesn’t deserve to be, I found myself left in deep thought at the end of the pages and it still has me thinking now. It’s a great read that I don’t hesitate to give 5 stars to.

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