Book - 2016
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""In a world where disease has been eliminated, the only way to die is to be randomly killed ('gleaned') by professional reapers ('scythes'). Two teens must compete with each other to become a scythe--a position neither of them wants. The one who becomes a scythe must kill the one who doesn't"--
Publisher: New York :, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers,, [2016]
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9781442472426
Branch Call Number: YA Shusterman
Characteristics: 433 pages ;,22 cm


From Library Staff

2017 Printz Award Finalist

PROMPT: A book about death or grief –--

Scythe is a dystopian novel about teenage grim reapers. If you want a more serious work, When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize last year. ---

This staff list also has several relevant titles: Read More »

"It provides an interesting and nuanced perspective on the future of death and population control, while providing an entertaining and engaging story of two teens struggling to find their place in an alienating world." -- Tara, West Blvd. Branch

From the critics

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Not worth the hype, in my humble opinion. While it made a compelling story that kept me reading, and I can see the value in reflecting on the positive role of death in making room for the living, ultimately the story lacks much merit. The basic premise was never really justified.

It just doesn't make sense to have the society the story describes. (Okay, in a future where all disease is cured, we would have to have a system for letting some people die anyway, but why not just decide not to revive a certain percentage of those that get "deadish"? Why would you need special scythes running around killing people? Why would the artificial intelligence (the "Thunderhead") separate itself from that process, and that process alone? I was waiting for the author to explain that conceit, and it never came.)

Reading it as protests against police violence heat up, I was waiting for the author to make the connection between scythes and those that have a monopoly on violence in our society (police), but that social critique never came.

I also found other things to be irritated within the story like, for example, the lack of cultural awareness in the scythe names. Western scythes name themselves after scientists or engineers, like Marie Curie and Robert Goddard, but the one Chinese scythe is named "Scythe Mao" after the dictator Mao Zedong? And, the one Japanese scythe was named "Scythe Hideyoshi", presumably after Toyotomi Hideyoshi (his family name is actually Toyotomi, so it should have been "Scythe Toyotomi") who formalized the class system of Japan? It's like the author didn't know that there are SO many awesome scientists and philosophers of the East to choose from!

Read it if you want some entertaining distraction but there are many better young adult novels which are fun reads and will stand the test of time to boot.

Jun 04, 2020

Far-future utopian sci-fi novel where grim reapers have become oath-bound public servants? Sign me up. Very cool concept. I loved the concept of the Scythes, especially how a different Scythe's journal entry would act as an epigraph in between each chapter. The twists and turns make sense, leading to a very satisfying ending. Works self-contained, but also leaves plenty of room for future instalments.

Jun 01, 2020

Wow. What an interesting concept! I love how imaginative this book is! I can't wait to read the sequel Thunderhead!

About halfway through reading this, I couldn't figure out what the hype was about. Yes, this concept is wickedly creative and truly makes you think about what would happen if this was our world. Yes, I liked the characters, but I didn't love them.

But by the end, I was so completely hooked into this story that I will defend it until my dying/gleaning day. This was so cool and high concept and twisty to the point that I couldn't figure out what was coming next even if I tried really hard (which I did).

Character-wise, having Citra and Rowan begin the story in basically the same normal place leant their respective paths so much more weight and relevance. I won't spoil anything, but the way that they diverge, and how they get there, is SO. INTERESTING. It makes me wonder how much conditioning truly does impact humanity as a whole, how different people could be if they just grew up in a different house or a different country or a different time.

I said it before, but it's worth reiterating: the twists and turns of Scythe actually had me gasping out loud. It's like Shusterman knows what readers want and makes us believe it won't happen and then BOOM, he offers you something that you didn't even know you wanted but you actually needed it all along. There's no wishing that something would happen and having to deal with a long, winding path to get there. Shit happens, and you just kind of have to adjust to the whiplash and keep moving forward with the characters.

The world that Shusterman has created is both terrifying and infinitely imaginative. A world where humans have the Thunderhead to guide them, to lead countries and eradicate diseases and assign careers, does seem utopian at first glance; if we could live forever, who would say no? But the inclusion of the Scythes' journals is a masterful way of exploring the idea of immortality. What would it actually mean if we never had to worry about death? What would we all do with that kind of freedom, that kind of reassurance in our daily lives? Having a world that has gone stagnant is such an interesting choice and it creates this environment that feels somehow bleak and blissful all at once. And it's refreshing to read a dystopia where society isn't brutally stratified. This is a world where everyone has everything they want, and I found it enthralling and so thought-provoking.

I get it. I get the hype. I'm adding to the hype. I adore this story, and I can't wait to see what happens next in Thunderhead.

This was truly the definition of an awesome book! It had likeable characters and several twists! The overall plot was cool as it’s possible that we could actually develop technology to conquer death. The characters were well developed as everyone of them had distinct personalities. This book kept me interested the entire time! Overall definitely an exciting book, would definitely recommend!

Mar 17, 2020

After reading Scythe, I now understand why I had to wait two weeks for it to be available. Epic book.

Mar 11, 2020

This book was a literary masterpiece! Am I being excessive by saying this... probably but this book was just so incredibly good! In this dystopian novel humanity is so medically advanced that people can no longer die, because nobody can die the population has risen. To combat this epidemic a new job title was created called a "Scythe." basically a scythe has to "Glean" people, also known as KILLING PEOPLE! Each scythe has a yearly quota on the number of people they must glean (kill). There are good scythes who really hate gleaning (killing) people and there are bad scythes who really enjoy it and are basically murderers! The story will delve into those two unique personality types and it was just a really interesting social construct to read about. In this book a Sythe named Faraday takes on two apprentices a girl named Citra and a boy named Rowan. The two will be taught the art of killing and must never fall in love...but you know how that never works in YA. This was such an amazing read I loved the subtle romance in the novel, but I also extremely loved the way psychology comes into play throughout the novel. This story really makes you delve in deep and really think about the type of scythe you would make. Also the ending was stunning! I couldn't have imagined a better ending, I was really happy with the outcome. Lucky for me this book is a series so there's a lot more Scythe adventures to come. The moment I finished this book I immediately wanted to pick it back up and reread it again. That's how much I loved this novel.

sarahbru17 Feb 11, 2020

Characters: 8/10
Plot: 10/10
Writing: 9/10
This was definitely a fresh twist on the dystopian genre; it was dark without being too gruesome, and intriguing in a way that kept me turning pages. I'd be interested in the sequels in the future, though it's a bit grim (ah-ha) for me to plunge into right away.

Jan 23, 2020

I really liked this book. It ends with a good cliff hanger to hook you into the second book.
I feel that the pacing is a bit off at times but, most of the time it's good.
I'm excited to read the second book sometime.

lgmosher Jan 13, 2020

So it's a little slow.... I understand the need for back ground and understand it just feels like Shusterman drags a little in the beginning and it didn't really seem to pick up.

There seemed to be a lot oh "eh... Why did we need this" in there. It kinda took away from the story.

Have you ever been reading, going line through line, but not really registering what you just read yet the next paragraph, next page didn't need you to? I was about halfway through the book and began to wander as I read.

It's was quite stagnant for a while. Once you hit about 100 pages things just seemed to drag on and on. It resulted in me scanning and hoping things would get start getting interesting.

I don't even know where to begin on how it ended. I agree with the decision and I liked how Rowan took things in his own hands... But a little explanation as to why he could get away with it would have been nice.

All in all it was enjoyable. Enough that I'll read the second... But it wasn't as good as the ratings have you to believe it would be.

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May 17, 2020

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Add a Quote
Apr 04, 2019

"Guilt is the idiot cousin of remorse."

Apr 04, 2019

"Outside the rain finally began to fall, surging in fits and starts. “I love the way it rains here,” he told her. “It reminds me that some forces of nature can never be entirely subdued. They are eternal, which is a far better thing to be than immortal."

Apr 04, 2019

"Everyone is guilty of something, and everyone still harbors a memory of childhood innocence, no matter how many layers of life wrap around it. Humanity is innocent; humanity is guilty, and both states are undeniably true."

Mar 08, 2019

"We become settled in the inconsequential drudgery of our lives, until suddenly we look at ourselves in the mirror and see a face we barely recognize begging us to turn a corner and be young again"

Sep 06, 2018

“Well, she could learn self control tomorrow. Today she wanted pizza.”

JCLChrisK Nov 30, 2017

No one rages against the system anymore. At most, they just glare at it a bit.

Apr 26, 2017

She wanted to believe she wasn’t capable of it. She desperately wanted to believe she wasn’t Scythe material. It was the first time in her life that she aspired to fail.


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Jan 16, 2020

In a world where we take life for granted behind computer screens and instagram accounts Scythe has come along and reminded us that life is out here waiting to happen.

Imagine a society where if you put yourself at risk of death an appointed Scythe gleans you. This is all done to control overpopulation. Sounds to me like insurance companies except they don't kill you they just up your payment. Natural death is old school and in this post-mortal age two friends are chosen to be Scythes. The Scythenom appoints them as apprentice scythes until their final test: to glean each other. Who will win?

I enjoyed reading this book because damn can you imagine? The advanced technology used in the story seems like it could really happen. Not the gleanings of course but the artificial intelligence, the way humans deal with disease. It really made me wonder.

Dec 21, 2018

fairly good sci-fi about these people who are the designated gleaners of society, they choose who and how to lessen the population, and of course the corruption that occurs in a society where someone is all powerful over everyone else, and of course the good guys who always follow the rules

Apr 26, 2017

It has been three hundred years since humanity turned the corner, leaving behind the Age of Mortality. With the arrival of infinite computing power, a benevolent AI known as the Thunderhead emerged to rule this new deathless society. But although accidental death is a thing of the past, humanity still lives on a single finite planet, and so population growth must be limited. This task was deemed to require a human conscience, not to be entrusted to a computer, and so the Scythedom was born. Citra and Rowan have been selected to apprentice to Scythe Faraday, a job that neither of them wants. But there is corruption at the heart of Scythedom, and the Thunderhead is powerless to intervene. Reform must come from within.


Add Notices
Mar 14, 2020

Violence: There is a lot of death.

Mar 14, 2020

Sexual Content: People mention sleeping together.

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