(Image from Barnes & Noble)
With no disease, no war, no government, no real pain, and virtually no death, life in MidMerica is pleasantly staid. Ambition has become a thing of the past. In fact, "with nothing to aspire to, life had become about maintenance. Eternal maintenance" (44). Citra Terranova is satisfied with her comfortable, unremarkable existence which she knows will evolve into a comfortable, unremarkable future. As just one member of a very large family, 16-year-old Rowan Damisch isn't quite as at ease, but he's not unhappy with his life either. What neither teen expects is to be given the chance to do something important, something extraordinary. Becoming a scythe's apprentice—and eventually, a real scythe—is that kind of assignment. In a pleasant world full of placid people, it's a chance to be stand out, to become something special.
As the harbingers—and executors—of death, scythes are universally feared. Although the random killings performed by scythes are deemed necessary for population control, few are truly comfortable with their presence. Citra and Rowan are no exception. They don't want to become scythes, are appalled by the idea of spending the rest of their lives killing people. Then again, they don't really have a choice, do they? As the teens learn the "art" of performing sanctioned murder, they're awakened to the harsh realities and cruel costs of maintaining a perfect world. Is it worth the heavy price? And how can two kids possibly change things if it's not?
First off, let me say that I love Neal Shusterman. His Unwind series is brilliant, one of my favorites. Shusterman has a way of examining contemporary issues in unique and surprising ways while, at the same time, telling an engaging, exciting story. I'm a fan, for sure. So, naturally, I got excited when I heard he was penning a new series. Even though the book's premise sounded a little odd, I was stoked to read Scythe, the first installment. What did I think? Honestly, I was disappointed. I expected the novel to be chilling. I expected it to be disturbing. I also expected to like it because, well ... it's Shusterman! And yet, I just couldn't get on board with the story's premise (which is, indeed, chilling and disturbing). At no point in the tale did I become convinced of the necessity of scything. Nothing about the job seemed noble or necessary. I mean, if you absolutely had to kill people off every now and then to control the population, why in the world would you make their deaths any more violent or traumatizing than they had to be? Makes no sense to me, not even in a fictional world. So, yeah, I had trouble stomaching the whole idea. Also, considering all the blood and gore, Scythe actually gets boring in places. I can't see teens sticking with it for all 435 pages. The novel does ask some intriguing philosophical questions (Can one truly know pleasure without experiencing pain? Can people really appreciate life if they know nothing of death?) that would make for some excellent discussion. Overall, though, I had a hard time enjoying Scythe. I'm still in awe of Shusterman's impressive storytelling skills, but his new series is just not for me. Bummer.
(Readalikes: Reminds me a little of the Hunger Games series [The Hunger Games; Catching Fire; and Mockingjay] by Suzanne Collins and "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson)
If this were a movie, it would be rated:
for violence, blood/gore, sexual innuendo, and language (no F-bombs)
To the FTC, with love: I bought a copy of Scythe from Costco with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger. Ha ha.