Scythe by Neal Shusterman


Goodreads: Scythe
Series: Arc of a Scythe #1
Source: Library
Published: 2016


Humanity now lives in a utopia where hunger, disease, and death can no longer touch them.  To keep the population under control, they created the Scythes, individuals who “glean” a certain number of individuals each year.  The Scythes must adhere to the highest code of morality, gleaning only when necessary and avoiding bias.  But when Citra and Rowan are taken on as apprentice Scythes, they begin to see that corruption is eating the Scythes from within.


Scythe is a powerful book that raises questions about the nature of death, the possibilities of AI and the limitations of humans.  Set in a utopian world where disease and hunger has ended, wars are ended because governments are no longer needed, and humans can “turn back” their aging bodies and be resurrected from fatal accidents, Scythe suggests that humans will always be fighting a moral battle against themselves.  Created as “tools” of society to stop over-population through gleaning, the Scythes occupy a separate and thus higher class.  Ordinary citizens bend over backwards to please them, lest the Scythes glean them or their loved ones, and the Scythes answer to no one but their own sense of duty.  Thus, it is only a matter of time before some Scythes begin to see themselves as truly superior.

Shusterman takes great care to create a convincing world, answering questions readers might raise such as: why don’t humans just go to Mars, what kinds of accidents or fatalities are irreversible, why don’t Scythes influence each other by going after each other’s families, and so forth.  One senses that the book is set in a real world, one with places and people not shown, but still existing.  The level of detail is at once impressive and immersive.

The characters are equally intriguing.  Citra and Rowan do not want to be Scythes–and it is for that reason that they are chosen.  Scythes are meant to answer to a higher law, gleaning only because society wields them as tools.  They each approach their roles differently.  Scythe Faraday tries to be impartial by gleaning based on old world statistics.  Scythe Curie tries to be merciful by gleaning those who seem weary.  But neither seems comfortable with their jobs.  And, indeed, the Scythes who delight in their work are the ones who become the enemy, even as their reasons seem increasingly persuasive to the community.  Why not enjoy their work, they ask?  Don’t others get to enjoy their jobs?

Scythe is an exciting and a compelling work, one that takes a philosophical approach to the issues it raises.  Readers are expected to engage with the world, to grapple with its dilemmas and to question the various viewpoints raised.  It is a pleasure to read a YA that takes itself so seriously.  I can’t wait to read the sequel.

5 stars

32 thoughts on “Scythe by Neal Shusterman

  1. Andrea says:

    Brilliant review! Wow, I might have to start up a list for all the books that bloggers made me interested in, because DAMN, this book sounds si freaking cool!! The concept behind it fascinates me and it sounds as if it’s a bloody brilliant read…. Definitely will look it up more!!


    • Krysta says:

      I know! My to-read pile is far too long thanks to other bloggers!

      It’s a great book! It’s interesting because it’s not really another YA dystopian novel. Actually, Shusterman claims it’s a utopia. I think the idea is that society/the government isn’t really corrupt. Society is actually doing pretty well. But when you give a group of people like the Scythes power, corruption follows.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Jackie B @ Death by Tsundoku says:

    Wow. I will admit, this sounds QUITE intense. Your penultimate line really nails my own thoughts, “It is a pleasure to read a YA that takes itself so seriously.” Schusterman is so prolific, but I have yet to pick up any of his works. They are all a bit… well, I shy away from books with darker themes.

    I cannot find a release date for book three. Arc of a Scythe is a trilogy, yes? Any idea when we can expect the final book?


  3. (Danielle) Books, Vertigo and Tea says:

    You captured this one brilliantly! Debby and I just finished Thunderhead and I am loving this series and how entertaining but equally intelligent it is. He has nailed that balance of humanity and fun while soliciting all of the appropriate questions and emotions!


  4. Sammie says:

    Oooh, I’ve been wanting to read this one for a while, and your review just makes me all the more eager! Unfortunately, there’s a hold, and I’m stuck suffering in this limbo of waiting and pretending not to be impatient. T_T Great review!


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