Published November 22,2016
Arc of the Scythe #1
Scythe was one of the books that I had added to my Goodreads “to read” shelf, solely based on the striking cover. (surprise, surprise I know) It draws me in; I am entranced by the colors. I didn’t even know what it was about really, when I ventured into Barnes & Noble on Black Friday last year. My parents were with me, which is embarrassing enough since no one needs to see how I obsessively pet and inspect a book before purchasing it. Watching that is like watching an archeologist unearth a dinosaur bone. (Probably not the best analogy, but go with me here.)
Well, B&N had signed copies of Scythe as part of their Black Friday promotion, and after wandering over and picking it up for the fourth time, my dad was finally fed up with following me around and demanded I “give it here, I am getting it for you.” So, thanks dad, this was a great book to end 2016 on!
I was so intrigued with the concept of this book: A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Our world actually. Humanity has conquered all of those things, and has even conquered death with the help of the Thunderhead (which is basically our version of “the cloud” but infinitely more powerful and vast.) 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.
The story follows Citra and Rowan, who are both chosen to apprentice 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.
Scythe is the first book written by Neal Shusterman that I have read, and I really enjoyed his writing style! It was refreshing in its simplicity; He doesn’t load up on flowery or descriptive passages, instead everything is direct and could almost be described as black and white. But, with that being said, it felt right for this novel. I enjoyed the two separate POVs that jumped back and forth between the two main characters, Citra and Rowan, and I especially enjoyed that it wasn’t written from a first person perspective. Instead of living the events through the eyes of the characters in real-time, I felt like the Thunderhead, watching everything play out from above.
I liked the two main characters. I thought they broke a few of the YA tropes that plague the genre: Rowan was sensitive yet a bad ass, and Citra was brilliant, strong, and curious without being defiant. There is also a touch, and I really mean just a SMIDGE of romance. It never overshadows the main plot, and mainly serves to remind you that Citra and Rowan are teenagers with hormones, nothing more. It was innocent and refreshing.
I am about to sound so petty, but the only reason I couldn’t connect with the characters as much as I wanted to, was their names. For some reason, they just didn’t work for me, and I feel silly for that being my only valid reason for not liking the two protagonists.
I have seen a couple of reviews where individuals have criticized this book for its lack of world building so to say, and I cannot disagree with them. However, I think there is a very specific reason behind the lack of info the readers are given since Neal Shusterman seems like a pretty smart guy. I felt like Humanity just cares so little about the world around them now that the Thunderhead has cured and eradicated all of our world’s major issues. There is nothing left to strive for, there is nothing left that really makes life unique. So, what is the purpose in filling in all of those details for the reader? No, I think Shusterman is letting us figure out the world of Scythe, at the same pace as our two protagonists.
Yes, Scythe is a YA novel, but I thought the themes were pretty heavy if you look even a little bit beneath the surface. I loved how much it made me think about death, the future, and the corruption of humanity no matter what the age. Apparently, Shusterman does not “add hidden messages to his books” but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of material here to dwell on. I can always appreciate a book that sticks with me after I turn the last page, and that is exactly what happened here. I was probably most fascinated with Shusterman depicting humanity as a stagnant entity in this new Age of Immortality, since I had already really viewed us as such. For example though, in Scythe, the humans no longer numbers our years, because what is the point if you happen to live forever?
Overall a really great read, despite some pacing issues in the middle of the novel. I cannot wait for book two though, which already has a name: Thunderhead!