Author: Neal Schusterman
Series: #1 in the Arc of a Scythe series
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
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.
There is no doubt in my mine that Neal Schusterman writes some of the most through-provoking YA dystopia that I’ve read in recent years. It might not be as viscerally blood and gore like the Hunger Games; but he manages to impact the reader in ways that will make you cringe just from the power of the writing. There is one scene from his first book that I read (Unwind) that to this day makes me shiver when I think of it. When an advertisement for his newest book, Scythe, popped up in my Goodreads feed – it was a done deal that I was going to be getting my grubby little paws on it (and huge thanks to my local library for having such great librarians who buy awesome books like that).
What would you do in a world where there was no death? no cancer, no car accidents? where you could opt to reset your life and start over? where if you did “die” (or go splat) that your body would heal itself? that is the world that Schusterman has written about in Scythe. Yet, in any kind of world, there must be some form of population control and that is where the Scythe’s come in. Scythe’s are those special people who have been trained in the art of taking lives – do they do it by poison, or by beheading, by stabbing or some other form of death. There are even Scythe’s who specialize in mass death…The first book in the Scythe series is the story of 2 teenagers who are apprentices to become a Scythe and their journey through the process.
In typical fashion, Schusterman raises many questions – the main ones for me focused around the idea of causing purposeful death? when you don’t call it murder in the societal sense. How would you pick who to kill? and in what method? how would you ensure that you aren’t focusing too much on any specific gender/race/religion when choosing your victims? In between the training that the apprentice Scythe’s undergoing, is the hint of a revolution in the core of the Scythedom – there is a reason behind the quote – ultimately power corrupts ultimately (John Dalberg-Acton) – what is more powerful than holding the life and death of an entire world in your hands?
I will admit that I was left with many questions after finishing Scythe – but that just means, I’ll have to wait impatiently for the next installment. If you are looking for a thought-provoking dystopia with death being forefront, then Scythe might be the book for you.