This time last year I wrote a review for Scott Bergstrom’s YA novel The Cruelty claiming it was going to be in my top ten kids books for 2017. And it was. Twelve months on and I find myself in the same situation with Neal Shusterman’s brilliant novel Scythe.
Imagine a time when all the world’s problems have been solved. There is no disease, no politics, no war, no crime, no environmental problems, no famine and no death. Presided over by the all-knowing Thunderhead (a kind of grown up Cloud), the collective knowledge of the world’s population has resulted in the perfect existence – one that never ends. Except, of course, if no one ever dies how do you keep population growth under control? Enter the Scythe, an elite group of hand-picked and well trained killers. The Scythe live outside the control of the Thunderhead and have the power to choose who will die and how.
Citra and Rowan are two teenagers set to have their worlds turned upside down. Chosen by Scythe Faraday as his apprentices, they are about to compete for the privilege of becoming a Scythe. A privilege they are not sure they want but which will give their families immunity from being gleaned. As they begin their training the moral dilemma of what they about to do, and are working to become, affects them both.
Scythe is an impressive page-turner that I found both an exhilarating adventure and an fascinating exploration of the moral implications of what is expected of Citra and Rowan as their training unfolds. Would I want to live forever if I could? Is there are right or wrong way to die? It is not hard to imagine Neal Shusterman’s world as being one we could eventually live in. As we link all our devices and back-up our information to The Cloud, surely the Thunderhead is not that far away! I am torn between being terrified at the thought and fascinated, mostly, I admit, because the Thunderhead was one of my favourite characters.
Scythe is a powerhouse of a story that will leave you pondering your existence and your future and questioning right and wrong. It also has a healthy dose of humour, romance and an ending that you won’t see coming!
In Australia we are already twelve months behind the initial release of this book, which has been available in the US since early 2017. Thank goodness the wait for book two, The Thunderhead, will be much shorter, with its release in August this year. I will definitely be waiting eagerly as there is every possibility that Neal Shusterman may be holding two places in my top ten kids books for 2018 by the end of the year!