Neal Shusterman’s book Scythe paints an interesting contrast between life without death, and now. It is set in a “post mortal” world where there is no death, but in order to control population, people must kill. These people are scythes. They are chosen from the ranks of the best people in the world, the people who don’t want to be scythes.
The book focuses on two of these people, Citra and Rowan. They are both 16 (YA lit cliché alert) and going through sometimes strenuous high school (YA lit cliche alert). Family life in this dystopia is different, because science found a way to circumvent aging. 100 year olds can look like they’re 23 whenever they “turn the corner”, so families are extremely large.
Rowan first bumps into Scythe Faraday, his mentor, in high school when Faraday kills a random jock, who rowan defends despite not knowing him. After a tense debate of morals, where Faraday introduces that, in his view, statistics was the just way to decide how to kill, Faraday admires his righteousness, and invites him to an opera.
Scythe Faraday finds Citra when he is about to Glean (or kill) her neighbor, and stops at Citra’s place along for a dinner along the way. Citra questions Faraday despite her parents warnings, and dresses him down. She receives an anonymous invitation to the opera.
At an opera, Faraday bring Rowan and Citra to an art gallery, where Faraday teaches them about the passion invoked when death is impending. Over time they are trained as apprentices, facing tests that scythedom has to offer, and facing the dilemma of being in the business of ending lives.
Overall, I’d rate the book 9.5/10. It needs to improve how it describes various things, but otherwise is amazing. It is not alone in the saga, with its sequel Thunderhead (You’ll understand if you read scythe) I highly recommend it to any tweenager.