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Scythe
2016
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In a world in which the only way to die is to be killed by a scythe, Citra and Rowan compete to earn a position as a scythe's apprentice--a competition that will see the loser die by the hand of the winner. - (Baker & Taylor)

""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 becomesa scythe must kill the one who doesn't"-- - (Baker & Taylor)

Forced to become trained killers in a disease-free world where people can only die if eliminated by professional assassins, teens Citra and Rowan reluctantly train under a master reaper who informs them that the one who successfully kills the other will become his apprentice. By the best-selling author of the Unwind dystology. Simultaneous eBook. - (Baker & Taylor)

Two teens must learn the “art of killing” in this Printz Honor–winning book, the first in a chilling new series from Neal Shusterman, author of the New York Times bestselling Unwind dystology.

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery: humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now Scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.

Scythe is the first novel of a thrilling new series by National Book Award–winning author Neal Shusterman in which Citra and Rowan learn that a perfect world comes only with a heavy price. - (Simon and Schuster)

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Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* In the year 2042, humans conquered death. Now, in the postmortal society of MidMerica, people can live for millennia, either reanimated from fatal accidents or "turning the corner" when they get old by resetting themselves to a younger age. But Earth remains the only habitable planet and so exist the Scythes, tasked with keeping the population in check: those who a Scythe gleans stay dead. Citra and Rowan are two teenagers in this world, chosen to apprentice the Honorable Scythe Faraday (Scythes abandon their own names and take the names of historical innovators). Neither teen wants to learn the ways of a Scythe, and neither wants to begin gleaning lives, although Faraday tells them that, actually, only the uneager have any business accepting the mantle of a Scythe. The plot, which follows Citra's and Rowan's year-long apprenticeships, is certainly interesting enough: the two are both allies and competitors, as only one will be given the dubious prize of Scythedom, and there's an inevitable hint of forbidden love. More fascinating, though, are the questions that Shusterman raises in his exploration of this seemingly perfect future. Murdering teens are nothing new, but this is not the brave new world of The Hunger Games (2008). This society isn't a totalitarian regime masquerading as a paradise, nor is it a postapocalyptic wasteland. It's an actual utopia, a place where a sentient Cloud, known as the Thunderhead, has wiped out poverty, racial inequality, and mental and physical disease—a place where lives are long and death, even with the Scythes, is virtually nonexistent. (The statistics: "Everyone knows the chance of being gleaned in this or even the next millennium is so low as to be ignored.") The world is at peace and tragedy has been minimized—and, honestly, it's kind of boring. There have been, of course, other future-facing books that deal with the eradication of death, like Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go (2005), and others that explore the bounds of immortality, as in Natalie Babbitt's Tuck Everlasting (1975), and this pairs wonderfully with both. But few endeavors ask the questions Shusterman faces head-on: in a world without death, what becomes of life? On a field trip of sorts, Faraday takes Rowan and Citra to a museum, and Rowan notes that postmortal art lacks the urgency and turbulence of art created before the eradication of death. Similarly, Scythes are required to keep journals, and frequent musings from Scythe Curie ("The Granddameof Death") appear throughout the narrative. "We are not the same beings we once were," she says. "Consider our inability to grasp literature and most entertainment from the mortal age. To us, the things that stirred mortal human emotions are incomprehensible. Only stories of love pass through our postmortal filter, yet even then, we are baffled by the intensity of longing and loss that threatens those mortal tales." And then the more troubling question: "If we are no longer human, what are we?" Static and stale, for one. Many of Shusterman's secondary characters here come across flat and bland because their world has made them that way. There's no struggle, no desire, no vibrancy. It's not to say there's no tension in this world—Citra and Rowan face increasingly higher stakes as they race toward the end of their apprenticeship. A rogue group of Scythes begins killing beyond their quota, corrupting the power they possess to take a life, and a sequel is heralded by the explosive ending. But the world around them spins contentedly on. Shusterman is no stranger to pushing boundaries. Scythe owes an obvious debt to Unwind (2007) and its sequels, and this succeeds as a sort of shadow companion to Patrick Ness' Chaos Walking trilogy: instead of exploring the ways in which men are monsters, this deals in what happens to men when there are no monsters. When our reach does not exceed our grasp, when comfort is more easily obtained than struggle, when our essential humanity doesn't burn out but becomes slowly irrelevant, what becomes of us? Readers will find many things in these pages. Answers to such unsettling questions will not be among them. Copyright 2016 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews

With new technology, mortality is a thing of the past, except "scythes" are responsible for "gleaning" to restrict population growth. Citra and Rowan are selected as scythe apprentices; neither wants the role. Then a radical scythe, who does enjoy killing, insists that the winner of a contest glean the losing apprentice. A philosophical exploration of life and death packaged as a high-action adventure. Copyright 2017 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews

With new technology, mortality has become a thing of the past, with one exception: "scythes" are responsible for "gleaning"—that is to say, killing—their fellow citizens to restrict population growth to a sustainable rate. Teens Citra Terranova and Rowan Damisch are both horrified and intrigued when Honorable Scythe Faraday selects them to be his apprentices, to train with him for one year and compete to see which one will become a scythe. Neither wants the role, but: "‘Therein lies the paradox of the profession,' Faraday said. ‘Those who wish to have the job should not have it…and those who would most refuse to kill are the only ones who should.'" But then a dangerously radical scythe, who does enjoy killing, insists that the winner must glean the losing apprentice, setting off a cascade of events that leads to a much more personal, and deadly, contest. Using diary entries and character musings, Shusterman explores aspects of death, including the ways mortality lends meaning to life; his canvas is large enough that he can entertain both gruesome and humorous aspects, while the central question—could you kill if required to do so?—will keep readers transfixed. As events wind up, Shusterman's moral questions become more and more pointed while the stakes become higher and higher, leading to a philosophical exploration of life and death packaged as a Jason Bourne–like high-action adventure. anita l. burkam Copyright 2016 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews

Two teens train to be society-sanctioned killers in an otherwise immortal world.On post-mortal Earth, humans live long (if not particularly passionate) lives without fear of disease, aging, or accidents. Operating independently of the governing AI (called the Thunderhead since it evolved from the cloud), scythes rely on 10 commandments, quotas, and their own moral codes to glean the population. After challenging Hon. Scythe Faraday, 16-year-olds Rowan Damisch and Citra Terranova reluctantly become his apprentices. Subjected to killcraft training, exposed to numerous executions, and discouraged from becoming allies or lovers, the two find themselves engaged in a fatal competition but equally determined to fight corruption and cruelty. The vivid and often violent action unfolds slowly, anchored in complex worldbuilding and propelled by political machinations and existential musings. Scythes' journal entries accompany Rowan's and Citra's dual and dueling narratives, revealing both personal struggles and societal problems. The futuristic post–2042 MidMerican world is both dystopia and utopia, free of fear, unexpected death, and blatant racism—multiracial main characters discuss their diverse ethnic percentages rather than purity—but also lacking creativity, emotion, and purpose. Elegant and elegiac, brooding but imbued with gallows humor, Shusterman's dark tale thrusts realistic, likable teens into a surreal situation and raises deep philosophic questions. A thoughtful and thrilling story of life, death, and meaning. (Science fiction. 14 & up) Copyright Kirkus 2016 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews

In the future Earth of this grim novel from National Book Award–winner Shusterman (Challenger Deep), the digital cloud has transformed into the self-aware Thunderhead, whose benevolent totalitarian rule has turned the planet into a utopia. There's no poverty or crime, and everyone is guaranteed immortality. Well, almost everyone. Because babies are still being born, population growth must be limited. Thus evolved the Scythes, an organization whose members are charged with "gleaning" citizens at random. Sixteen-year-old Citra and Rowan are chosen by a Scythe named Faraday to train as apprentices. Neither likes the idea, but they're given no choice. Later, Citra becomes an apprentice to Curie, a legendary Scythe, but Rowan is apprenticed to Goddard, who kills for sadistic pleasure. Calling to mind Le Guin's "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas," Shusterman's story forces readers to confront difficult ethical questions. Is the gleaning of a few acceptable if it maximizes the happiness of all? Is it possible to live a moral life within such a system? This powerful tale is guaranteed to make readers think deeply. Ages 12–up. Agent: Andrea Brown, Andrea Brown Literary. (Nov.) Copyright 2016 Publisher Weekly.

School Library Journal Reviews

Gr 8 Up—In a world in which humanity has conquered death (no aging, no disease, no poverty, no war), ruled by the Thunderhead, an omniscient evolution of today's cloud, Scythes are the only ones who are allowed to take a human life. They are considered to be the best humanity has to offer, and they roam the world "gleaning" people in order to keep the population in check. Scythes are treated like royalty and feared. The last thing Citra Terranova and Rowan Damisch want is to become Scythes, but when they are chosen by Scythe Faraday to become his apprentices, they are thrown into a life in which they need to master the art of death. They prove to be apt pupils, but when Scythe Faraday mysteriously gleans himself and Citra and Rowan are apprenticed to two other fearsome Scythes, they will have to put their skills to the test against each other. Intertwined with the fascinating concept of humanity conquering death and the idea of Scythes is the prospect that perhaps this is not the ideal world in which to live. Humanity has perfected itself—so what does that leave it to accomplish? Shusterman starts off this series in dramatic fashion as he creates an engrossing world that pulls readers in and refuses to let them go. VERDICT A truly astounding, unputdownable read and a fast-paced beginning to an excellent sci-fi series. A must-have.—Tyler Hixson, School Library Journal. Copyright 2016 School Library Journal.

School Library Journal Reviews

Gr 8 Up—In a world where humanity has conquered death and a fraternity called Scythes are the only ones allowed to kill people in order to curb overpopulation, Citra Terranova and Rowan Damisch must cope with their newfound and terrible responsibilities as apprentices in killing. A brilliant and gripping sci-fi thriller that acutely explores the consequences of worldwide immortality and asks readers to think critically about the nature of morality.. Copyright 2016 School Library Journal.

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