Scythe (Arc of a Scythe, #1)
by Neal Shusterman
Cover Artist: Kevin Tong
Review by Bill Lawhorn
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781442472426
Date: 22 November 2016
In a world that moved beyond death, there was a need for some to cull the herd to control the population. That duty was taken up by the Scythes. They are exempt from many of the rules, but they have their own rules, which are very strict.
Citra Terranova is a pretty normal teen, that is until a Scythe comes to their door. You never turn away a Scythe because if you fight one, your whole family is gleaned. This time the gleaning was a neighbor, and Citra is asked to apprentice as a Scythe.
Rowan Damisch is getting along. He isn't popular, but isn't concerned about it either until the day a Scythe comes to his school to glean another student. Rowan in the heat of the moment decides to be there for the gleaning to support the soon to die. This choice leads to his opportunity to become a Scythe.
Scythes have a lot of freedom in choosing their kills and in living their lives. There statistics are maintained and if they get too skewed, they face reprimand and potentially the loss of choice of who and when to glean. But they always retain the option to glean themselves. If they do, they aren't brought back.
Citra and Rowan end up as apprentices together, something which hasn't been done before. There are no rules against it, but factional fighting will set the two against each other for the right to become a Scythe. The future of Scythe practices lies within the choices of the next generation, for the taking of lives eventually leads to the end of each Scythe.
This is the first book in a new series and as such is a good entry point for readers. Told in the third person, the action unfolds as Citra and Rowan learn what it means to by a Scythe. They learn the differences in methods and the cost to individuals. Struggling with life and freedom are two constants in a teen's life making this story relatable.
The setting with a post death world in interesting as it creates a limitation for people. There is only so much room on the planet so a way to control population is needed. Even the solution which was created is imperfect and somewhat random. In some ways the Scythes have fallen into the trap the Jedi faced as they brought in members who were truly not ready or psychologically a good fit for the duties required.
This one of the best YA novels I read from 2016. The world building was excellent and internal struggles of the characters are relatable.