Scythe by Neal Shusterman

The cover depicts a figure in profile against a red and white background, wearing a windswept red hooded robe and carrying a black scythe.

By Gabriela P.

Scythe is the first installment in Neal Shusterman’s YA trilogy. The novel is set in a fictional near-future dystopian society where immortality is the default. An all-seeing and almost all-powerful AI system has everything figured out; there is no starvation, poverty, pain, or sickness. Of course, along with age-resetting tech, this means no death. However, in order to control the risk of overpopulation, the position of “Scythe” was created. With no AI interference permitted, “Scythes” are chosen individuals responsible for death-dealing, or “gleaning”. But is it truly in the interest of the greater good? After all, we’re all only human. 

The novel follows Citra Terranova and Rowan Damisch, two teenage apprentices who find themselves grappling with being in the Scythedom, their position being one with the highest honor, and the highest burden. Within the system, politics, morality, and reasoning stand at odds. It’s not so simple as right or wrong, good or evil. Citra and Rowan may be protagonists, but are they heroes?

Admittedly, the novel’s macabre plot may be off-putting at first, but Shusterman boldly handles its darker themes with delicacy, and fills the story with endearing moments of humor and vulnerability. Readers are given the opportunity to bond with characters as they learn their strengths and faults, all while following the novel’s underlying question; what life is without death, and what gives us meaning.

Scythe is a fantastic novel with plenty to discuss. Never a dull moment, its real world parallels make it a great read for older YA readers and adults alike.

Scythe is available as a print book. an audiobook on CD, and an eBook on Libby/OverDrive. 

Gabriela is a customer service specialist at the Miller Branch. She loves long walks, reading with her dog, and a good cup of coffee.