Thou shalt kill.
A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.
Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.
THIS IS A SPOILER FREE REVIEW
I had no idea what this book was about before I started reading it. I picked it up because it’s a Printz Medal winner, so it had to be good, right? Yes. I went in totally blind but it paid off so well. I absolutely loved how Neal Shusterman took a no-holds-barred look at the role death plays in our lives and explored the problems of immortality. All of this packaged up with characters to cheer for and a fascinating world. I can’t wait to have this book for my shelves.
What Worked for Me
What an incredibly cool idea! I mean, the idea alone is cool, right? Death is a commandment? There are rules and addendum and provisos to killing? And the system isn’t all as it appears? I am so here for it. But it’s one of those books where I needed several days to digest it because at the end, it felt like I’d stepped off a roller coaster: I didn’t know what I felt, just that I felt something powerful.
Although many bestsellers today might prove otherwise, ideas alone don’t sell. Neal Shusterman took a great idea and turned it into an amazing novel. He took his time with the world, which was so well thought out and incredibly detailed, but not so much so that it was info-dumping. He chose to plant details that you would need to know in order to fully appreciate the later events of the book. So, despite how it felt sprawling, it wasn’t confusing. It made sense; it was fascinating.
One of my favorite parts of the world was how, when you got tired of your older years, you could “turn the corner” and reset to a younger age, so families became a bit hodgepodge with grandmothers being the same physical age of their granddaughters, etc. Another one of my favorite parts is a bit more gruesome. Rowan’s friend was known for his “splatting,” which is what it’s called when you deliberately fall to your “death.” It was mostly just an inconvenience to your parents; you’re immediately rushed to a hospital and revitalized, then you’re out a few days later. Creepy, but cool, right?
Then, on top of that, the plot was exciting! So many great twists. Combined with the fluid writing style, it felt a bit like hurling headlong down a slope, but it wasn’t so rushed that I couldn’t take a breath now and then. The plot was well-balanced and easy to keep up with. With the way it ended, I can’t wait for the next book.
What really brought it all together was the characters, especially the two narrators. I really rooted for them. They were just these teenagers thrown into this life without any say in it. But just because you don’t choose something doesn’t mean you aren’t suited for it. I liked their spunk and I liked their sparks. They had more than a passing resemblance to an Annabeth and Percy dynamic going on, but for those of you who are wondering: this isn’t a romance book. It’s so much bigger than the two of them.
This book does more than entertain: it makes you think. It takes a hard and close look at how it might be if we were to achieve immortality. It makes you think about the role death plays in our lives and really shines a light on how the inevitability of death gives our lives meaning. It’s a book I feel I’d like to read again just for the way it makes me think about things through a different lens.
I don’t have any real issues with this book, to be honest. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
A brilliant idea brilliantly executed. Definitely worth a read.
435 pages • Book 1 • Published November 2016 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers