A “Scything” Review

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Solenn Vincent

What if death did not exist? What if instead of naturally occuring, it had to be done by someone? These are the premises of the young-adult science-fiction novel “Scythe” by Neal Shusterman. The novel has become best-selling since its publication in 2016; it even starred on “Booktok,” a popular section of TikTok for readers. As an avid reader, I read the book out of interest for the genre.

The synopsis is intriguing: “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” (Goodreads). Similar to “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins, both series contain elements of the dystopian futures of human society and how population must be controlled. 

In “Scythe,” the idea of chosen humans being required to end the immortal lives of others is unique. The clear divide between the scythes is similar to division seen in modern-day governments; those who favor older traditions, and those who favor a newer society. The rising conflict between Rowan and Citra as they both work to become something they never wanted, and the dread of one of them being forced to kill the other at the end, is the main highlight of the story. In the background, the class struggle between scythes who hate taking lives versus bloodthirsty ones who enjoy the art of killing accentuates the difficulty of such a complex dilemma of murder (or “gleaning,” as the scythes prefer to say).

Overall, I would give the novel 4/5 stars, because while the character development and plot is well-developed and interesting, the world building is weak and leaves a lot of confusion for the readers about a different “Earth.”