by Neal Shusterman


In a world where disease has been eliminated, the only way to die is to be randomly killed (“gleaned”) by professional reapers (“scythes”). Citra and Rowan are teenagers who have been selected to be scythe’s apprentices, and—despite wanting nothing to do with the vocation—they must learn the art of killing and come to understand the necessity of what they do.

Only one of them will be chosen as a scythe’s apprentice. And when it becomes clear that the winning apprentice’s first task will be to glean the loser, Citra and Rowan are pitted against one another in a fight for their lives.

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Book #1 in Series

You know what I like about Neal Shusterman? The fact that he challenges his readers with every new concept, new world, new book he writes.

He takes the humanity out of the humans, he moulds it and twists it and puts it inside the souls of his characters. You think it’s not the same, that you are safe because this is fiction, but in fact it’s still our world, only seen through different mirror shards. This was the case with “Unwind“, for example, a story that still chills me to my bones, because it’s so easy to see it all come to life.

Another thing I enjoy in his stories is watching the way he paints the emotions through shades of both light and darkness. I remember yet another book by him called “Bruiser” and, even though I did not get to review it (back then I didn’t make a habit out of putting my thoughts and words on paper screen), I enjoyed it deeply. It still lingers in my mind after all this time.


So when I heard about Scythe I was so sure I would love it to pieces.
It sounded a bit Hunger Game-ish to me in some regards, it’s true, but I was really eager to find out more about this utopia and how the match would end.

The concept is fascinating in itself, because we are not perfect creatures, so I wondered what would take for humans to finally reach perfection and how that would taste like. Turns out this is not my style after all and I was left with a bittersweet taste.
I think I need more excitement in the books I read, and even though the characters went through a lot in this one too, it still felt like a perfectly scripted story – yes, you will think “that’s how all books are, duh!”, but I think you get the meaning well enough.

Perfection is boring, the author himself might have thought that because by the end of the story the concept is long forgotten and the characters are anything but perfect at that point, their actions too random for me to properly understand them.

The PROs

The cover is lovely. Yes, I am one of those people that judge a book by its cover and this one screams “grab me, grab me!”. I also loved the journal entries, they define some characters pretty well, showing a side of them we can not see easily through the points of view of Citra and Rowan. The beginning of the story was intriguing and it had me on my toes waiting to see it all being revealed. I also liked the scythes that got to mentor these two kids, even the bag guy had some appeal, though his cruelty was pretty messed up. There were plenty of action scenes and quite a few major turnarounds to keep me entertained. But…

The CONs

I was left with too many questions and too many red flags flapping in the wind.

The world is supposed to be perfect, though so many flaws start showing between the cracks, deepening with each page. Then there was the fact that the people supposedly lived happily ever after, instead we get to see only the sad, scared face of this world through the scythes’s eyes, and for some reason all this didn’t do it for me.

And what about the decision to have the winner glean the loser?! They were supposed to trim down the population with this method, not just do it for their own entertainment. How was that for not breaking the rules? Not to mention the non-romance – the duo had zero chemistry, still the author decided they should be romantically involved, probably just because breaking another rule was another imperfection that needed to occur for some reason I couldn’t figure out. Not the best of moves, if you ask me, as they simply didn’t work as a couple.

Also, I kept wondering, why didn’t people revolt? The omnipresent and almost-omnipotent AI had no power in the gleaning business, so they definitely could have found ways to defy the system. Hell, even rogue scythes could be born from the very fact that they were elected based on the deep dislike for the job itself. Their reasons for thinking inside the box were barely believable, because they are based on the premise that humans would be ‘perfect’ and they would follow the rules, but as I said before that was not the case here.

I don’t know, I guess I am overthinking it all.

Maybe it’s supposed to show how morality and humanity don’t go hand in hand – though we already know that. Still, why did it take so long (a few centuries if I remember well) and two teenagers to almost put the system on its knees? And why not practice what you preach (I won’t say what I mean by this, as it might spoil part of the storyline)? Why all the contradictions? Where is this story supposed to go?…


I am rounding it up to 3 stars for the moment, but as entertained as I was by the action, I couldn’t get past all the things that bugged me – after all, when I think of it that’s all I see. I am sure many people will enjoy it, though some might overthink it just as much as I did.

Book Source: ARC provided kindly by the published for review. Thank you so much!


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2 responses to “Scythe”

  1. This is exactly how I felt about this book (though I gave it 4 stars). The worst part for me was that it felt like a standalone, so I didn’t let myself connect with the characters. I saw it coming what happened with Rowan in the end, so I understood that, but I hated the romance too! It was so cold and… weird. However, I still want to read the next book. I hope it’s better.

    • Ari says:

      I felt bad about this. nI mean I loved Unwind so much, I was so sure I was going to love this one just as much… It just didn’t live up to my expectations. And the romance was a waste of the author’s time in my opinion, the story would have worked a lot better without it.

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