Book Review: Scythe by Neal Shusterman

book review Scythe by Neil Shusterman coverThou 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 lifeβ€”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 scytheβ€”a role that neither wants. These teens must master the β€œart” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.

My Review:

Right off the bat the bestest things this story has going for it are its originality and it’s well-written. I haven’t read any story, YA or other, that comes close to the premise of this book.

We have conquered death. No one dies naturally anymore. You still age, but when you get tired of looking old, you can reset to a younger age. At the time that this is taking place you can reset into your 20s, but the possibility of resetting into your teens was near IIRC. So to maintain population control, Scythes are used to choose people and glean (kill) them. You have a 50/50 shot at reaching your 5000th birthday before getting gleaned πŸ™‚

What’s it like living in a society where death has been conquered(for the most part)? One hobby for adrenaline junkies is to throw oneself off of a 40-story building, enjoy the ride down til you splat on the sidewalk, spend 4 days speed healing and come out good as, or better than, new. Your first speed healing treatment is covered – any subsequent stays, you have to come out of pocket.

Something else this story has going for it – The Thunderhead. What we know as The Cloud today evolves into the Thunderhead. A repository for all the knowledge in the world. You no longer have to study anything, just ask the Thunderhead. It analyses just about everything. Take for example, infrastructure – the Thunderhead analyses and determines what roads need to be built to meet the needs of the population. The only thing the Thunderhead doesn’t mess with is population control. Society believes that that should still be in the purview of someone with a conscience.

That someone is the aforementioned Scythe. A sort of Grim Reaper without the grim, unless they’re visiting you then I guess it would be dreadful. A Scythe and their family are immune from being gleaned as long as the Scythe is on the job.

Those individuals that do not want the job, are best suited for the job. Throughout the book I kept thinking, I want that job! I saw the value and the importance of it. The benefits for me and my family did not escape my notice. Something else that did not escape my notice was the fact that I would have to kill people. I’d have to meet my quota of bodies for the rest of my life.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to be apprentices under The Honorable Scythe Faraday. Neither wants the job but walking away isn’t a good option.

The plot painted itself into a corner leaving only four possible outcomes, two of which would not have made any sense. I was underwhelmed with the ending. Don’t get me wrong – the ending makes sense, but I didn’t care for it. Having said that, I am not sure what I would have preferred. Maybe your baby boy here is outgrowing YA πŸ™‚

You and your family members have a 50/50 shot at making it to your 5000th birthday. You could guarantee a 100% shot if you were selected as a Scythe. Could you do the job?

I will definitely continue on with the series. Highly recommended. Put this on your TBR if it’s missing, move it up if it’s already there.

How cool is that cover?

4/5 Stars


  1. Your review is the first that has managed to convince me that this one is not to be missed… and I have a seen a lot of reviews for it… Nicely done, even if the ending wasn’t as boombastic!

  2. This is great! I actually just finished this as a buddy read, so I will have a review up at some point. I am chomping at the bit for the sequel. I did not expect to enjoy this book as much as I did!

    1. Danielle I may be officially losing it. I swear I read a review of this book on your blog. I vaguely remember feeling bad for not commenting on the review. I refuse to believe that I am going nuts so that leaves two options:’re not being completely forthcoming or 2. this version of me has crossed over from a parallel universe. I think we both know which option is more likely don’t we Danielle? I think it’s safe to say that I don’t belong here. Somewhere there’s another version of me accusing you of backdating a review of Scythe to make it appear like you read it early this year.

      Whew – I’m glad we got that sorted out 😁

  3. Yikes, even if I knew I wasn’t gonna die, I don’t think I’d wanna throw myself off a building lol. Wouldn’t it still hurt??? I do agree this is a super interesting premise. Even the Thunderhead thing is interesting. Sounds like it was executed pretty well too. And would I be able to do that job if it meant the safety of myself and my family? It really makes you think!

    1. Neither would I πŸ™‚ I’d die of a heart attack before I hit the ground. The short and not-bordering-on-possible-spoiler-territory answer regarding pain is, you’re only saving yourself from death, not from pain. Kristen, having the Thunderhead means that you could dedicate all the time in the world to learning to play the theremin πŸ˜› I’d be there, front and center for your first recital πŸ™‚

    1. Thank you. I’ve heard the second book is even better. I’m number three on holds at my library and I am telepathically telling those with books out to speed it up πŸ™‚

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