Book Review: Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Scythe // by Neal Shusterman

Book 1 of Arc of a Scythe series

Pub Day: November 22, 2016

Publisher: Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing


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.

My Thoughts:

I bought Scythe several months ago. The cover was really eye-catching and I saw several people on Twitter raving about it. As it so often happens though, my print books then end up sitting pretty on my shelves forever while I keep reading the ARCs I have on my Kindle. Especially since organizing my shelves, I’ve found myself sitting at our dining room table, staring at the easily found spine of Scythe. December is a relatively slow month for ARCs for me after a super full November so I decided to cave and finally squeezed it into my lineup. And I am so glad I did!

Overall, I had a great time reading this book. It drew me in right from the start and I hated not being able to read it all the way through at once. I stayed stuck in the story even when I walked away. I thought about this society and the characters even while reading other books. I found the whole setup incredibly intriguing in a way that I don’t often feel while reading books of this genre. Fantasy books are my favorite to read and get lost in. I have read several this year that were absolutely incredible to me for varying reasons, such as The Bone Ships and The House in the Cerulean Sea, but I don’t usually feel this… Contemplative? I am struggling to find the right word. Our real world is nowhere near immortality the way it was achieved in this story. Yet it still felt realistic and achievable in a way that made me contemplate its society as a possibility for us in a distant future and consider the different issues with a different attitude than I usually have while reading.

I liked the idea of using two impressionable teenagers to showcase the two major opinions of the Scythedom. While we did get to read from the point of view of several other characters as well, the majority of the book was narrated by Citra and Rowan, allowing us insights into their thoughts and motivations as well as their doubts and fears. The story kept moving at a good pace with a few plot points that I was not really expecting, probably because I was so distracted by the ethical issues brought up in this book. This was a major plus to me. I enjoy having those types of conversations in real life and very much liked reading about them here as well. Having gleaning journal entries at the beginning of each chapter to facilitate these thoughts was a smooth way to add to your understanding of the world and its issues.

But despite all of this raving, there are still some things that I struggled to come to terms with. The biggest issue is the use of so many different, by then considered archaic, weapons for the killing, I mean gleaning, of people. I understand that without those weapons, the story would have been very different and it would have been difficult to set up the same ethical dilemmas. But for a world to be touted as peaceful and modern, this seems really cruel when in contrast there are so many possibilities to glean painlessly. I do like how Scythe Faraday chose the people he would glean, but that doesn’t mean he has to use that actual method to do so. Also, while I do understand the desire to bring back those that became deadish by accident, tripping in front of a train or other such things, it does seem silly to do so for those that kill themselves repeatedly on purpose and to deny death to people that feel they no longer want to live for their own reasons. If they are worried enough about overpopulation to have gleaning quotas for scythes, then why not make people live (or die) with the consequences of their purposeful actions? If you have read this book or series, let me know your thoughts on those things (without spoilers of course in case they do get explained later) and why they may be the way they are. I love a good discussion that gives me a perspective I wouldn’t have found on my own.

Overall though, I definitely recommend Scythe. It not only kept me on my feet with anticipation but it also kept my analytical side engaged. While there isn’t the type of detailed world-building you might expect from a books like The Bone Ships, the apprenticeship setup still allows you to learn so much about this world of near-immortals. I have seen it put into the dystopian, sci-fi, YA and other categories and would say that it fits either one of those. It does very much remind me of a YA novel, a genre I often struggle with, but here it definitely worked for me. I cannot wait to read the rest of the series. I hope the hubby will get them for me for Christmas.

Affiliate Link:

If you think you’ll enjoy this awesome book, I would appreciate if you consider purchasing it here.

I am super excited to be a part of as an affiliate. With every book sale that is done through my shop link here, at no extra cost to you, I receive a percentage which will be used to continue to bring you book-related content (probably going straight back into Bookshop). What is really awesome though is that a percentage will also go to support independent book stores across the country, which has already helped support (and even save!) many book stores during the COVID struggles.

About the Author:

Neal Shusterman is the New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty award-winning books for children, teens, and adults, including the Unwind dystology, the Skinjacker trilogy, Downsiders, and Challenger Deep, which won the National Book Award. Scythe, the first book in his latest series, Arc of a Scythe, is a Michael L. Printz Honor Book. He also writes screenplays for motion pictures and television shows. Neal is the father of four, all of whom are talented writers and artists themselves. Visit Neal at and

About the Publisher:

Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, one of the leading children’s book publishers in the world, is comprised of the following imprints: Aladdin, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Beach Lane Books, Libros para niños, Little Simon®, Margaret K. McElderry Books, Paula Wiseman Books, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Simon Pulse, and Simon Spotlight®. While maintaining an extensive award-winning backlist, they publish acclaimed and bestselling books for children of all ages.

I love this cover and am hoping to get the other 2 books in this series for Christmas. I’ve been struggling to think of things to wish for Christmas but aside from books, I really don’t know. I’m lucky to say that there really isn’t anything I truly need.

Since ya’ll are fellow readers, what are some things you’re wishing for this year?

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