“Scythe” By Neal Shusterman

One of the best YA thrillers I’ve read all year, Neal Shusterman’s Scythe takes place in a distant future where all disease has been wiped out.  There’s no war, no racism, and all the needs of the people can be met.  People can live forever thanks to both nanites within their bodies and quick medical treatment at local “Renewal Centers”. And they can regain their lost youth  if they want to “turn the corner” (reverse their aging) & have their bodies rejuvenated.

Unfortunately, living seemingly forever leads to more extended families and resultant overpopulation.  (Apparently, space travel and underwater exploration to other uninhabited worlds, not to mention birth control, are not available options.)  So the Artificial Intelligence that controls this future society known as “The Thunderhead” creates a society of professional killers, or “scythes”, to randomly select persons they consider having outlived their usefulness or just plain lack potential, for a “gleaning” (killing by assorted methods).

Two teens, Citra and Rowan, are selected as scythe’s apprentices and quickly discover, despite their appearance of nobility and sacrifice (the scythes live simple, non-materialistic and celibate lives), the underlying corruption of this group.  Think a more lethal version of office politics, where people like the ambitious and very bloodthirsty Scythe Goddard, aren’t above killing any competitors.

Scythe presents a wild OTP depiction of a dystopian future where some teens, like Rowan’s friend Tyger, are so bored with living forever, they commit suicide just for kicks (the Renewal Centers bring them back to life anyhow).  The scythes themselves are treated like famous celebrities, and some even have groupies! . Most scythes are expected to kill one victim a day, but Scythe Goddard, who loves to party with his followers, , likes to save time and wipe out crowded office buildings and shopping malls full of people in one pop!  As a consequence of living forever, people are now so lethargic they don’t even bother recording dates or history any more.  And (MILD SPOILER) during a staged fight, one of the two protagonists has to literally kill the other to save them!

Neal Shusterman (Challenger Deep: Unwind), while occasionally keeping his tongue in cheek (it’s sometimes hard to take the proceedings seriously), spins a compelling exciting thriller that holds your attention from start to finish. There’s some much appreciated humor to lighten up the story, and the underlying implications of what this future is really about has me eager to  read the next installment of this proposed trilogy.  Check out Scythe if you love fun thrillers!

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