Staff Writer: Kellie Bate
Awards: YALSA Top 10 Nominee 2017
Scythe takes place in a future in which death has been eradicated-no war, no aging, no illness. The only people with the power to take human lives are Scythes, who are tasked with “gleaning” people to control the world’s population. Citra and Rowan are both chosen as apprentices to Scythe Farada, and must learn the “art” of death. After Faraday mysteriously gleans himself, the two teenagers are re-assigned to different masters and are forced to put their new skills to the test against each other.
I have been a huge fan of Neal Shusterman for many years, so it pains me to say that Scythe was a little bit of a disappointment.
I’ll start with the good. I found the overall premise of Scythe very intriguing. It introduces concepts and questions I don’t think I have seen before in YA literature. The questions posed by this book and its characters really made me stop and think. “Only scythes can equalize [death], but everyone knows the chance of being gleaned in this, or even the next millennium is so low as to be ignored. We are not the same beings we once were. So then, if we are no longer human, what are we?”
I also really liked some of the secondary characters. Scythes Faraday and Curie are both very interesting, well-balanced characters. I am hoping for more insight into both of them and their backstories in the following books.
Unfortunately, the two main characters are considerably less interesting. One of my favorite things about Shusterman is his ability to write strong, nuanced characters, but both Citra and Rowan fell flat for me. They lack depth and personality beyond a few basic and stereotypical character traits. Their “romance” seemed completely unnecessary and came out of nowhere. That being said, this is the first book in the series, so hopefully there is some character development in store for Citra and Rowan in the second installment.
I also found the “villain” characters one-dimensional. They seem to have no motivation for doing the things they do. Everything is very black-and-white; everyone is either good or evil. I find the lack of gray area boring.
Overall, I give this book 3 out of 5 stars for an exciting premise and a lot of potential. I am looking forward to seeing how the plot and characters develop in the second installment, Thunderhead, due out January 9th.