Neal Shusterman is known, at least by me, and by the myriad of prestigious agencies that have given him impressive awards, for his incredibly thoughtful and interesting premises. Written in the guise of young adult literature, there is nothing childish about his writing at all. In “Scythe,” Shusterman demonstrates his incredible imagination and thoughtfulness, all placed in a vehicle that is deftly plotted and with prose that keeps the pages turning.
“Scythe” tells the story of a future which is, on the surface, perfect. Disease and pain have been eradicated. People can live forever – even accidents won’t kill you, thanks to ‘revival centers.’ Now that the cloud of the world wide web has become so intelligent as to be sentient, it has taken over government, and we live in a world of peace. The only problem? Overcrowding. An immortal population means that if babies are going to be born, we need to make room for them.
Enter the scythes. Scythes select individuals to ‘glean’ according to a set of principles. In addition to killing, they can also grant immunity for certain periods of time. This story follows the lives of Citra and Rowen, two teens who are taken on, partially against their will, as apprentices to a scythe.
“Scythe” makes you think hard about the quest for immortality, morality, and the corruptive nature of power. The pages fly by. The general excitement of the story makes for a good book even without the deeper levels. The level of violence means that younger teens might not be ready for it, but none of the violence is gratuitous. It all serves to advance the plot and/or illustrate a purpose.
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