Scythe: Arc of a Scythe, Book 1 by Neal Shusterman is a Perfect Ten!

Shusterman, Neal. Scythe: Arc of a Scythe, Book 1. Simon & Schuster, 2016. 448p. $18.99. 978-1-4424-7242-6. 5Q 5P S NA

In this gripping and disturbing novel of an immortal and perfected humanity, all knowledge is controlled and kept by the Thunderhead, an artificial intelligence that sees to the needs of every human, except for the Scythes. Humans only “work” or “go to school” to stave off complete boredom as these things are rendered useless by the Thunderhead. Because of chance encounters with Scythe Faraday, Citra and Rowan, both high school students, are chosen to be apprenticed, and one of them will be selected as a Scythe after a year’s time. They must leave their homes and families to begin training immediately, with the one promise that their families will be spared from the pool for gleaning, which is society’s term for legal human culling to control population.

The story is entirely compelling and intricately deals with the philosophically challenging issue of legal, compulsory euthanasia. With two strong and interesting main characters (one female and one male), it is filled with details that fully realize a future both bleak and promising. The sophisticated plot reveals the reason for Scythes gradually and raises questions about the value of human “perfection.” This outstanding book is a must-have purchase for all libraries serving young adults, especially where genre fiction and well-written, literary fiction is popular.—Karen Sykeny.