Co-Read w/ Beth (BiblioBeth)
I was extremely grateful to have this opportunity to read Scythe alongside Beth from the epic book blog BiblioBeth. Beth made my first foray into the YA genre so much fun and we certainly had a laugh while experiencing this addictive and sensational novel together. We chatted about the book at several intervals throughout the read but kept in relatively spoiler free. I will share a short review at the bottom of this post and Beth will share hers on her blog. I think we both agree that Scythe was not only a badass novel but it was tense, thought-provoking and had some of the best reveals of a novel yet. Enjoy our chats and look out for another co-read very soon. Keep in mind there may be minor spoilers for the story within!
01.02.2018 / Walker Books / Young Adult / Paperback / 448pp / 978-1406379242
Target Audience: 14+. Readers who love bold and challenging themes (such as death) as well as brilliant character development and fascinating concepts explored well.
In a perfect world, what is there left to fear? A chilling and thought-provoking sci-fi novel from New York Times bestselling author Neal Shusterman.
A dark, gripping and witty thriller in which the only thing humanity has control over is death. In a world where disease, war and crime have been eliminated, the only way to die is to be randomly killed (“gleaned”) by professional scythes. Citra and Rowan are teenagers who have been selected to be scythes’ apprentices, and despite wanting nothing to do with the vocation, they must learn the art of killing and understand the necessity of what they do. Only one of them will be chosen as a scythe’s apprentice and as Citra and Rowan come up against a terrifyingly corrupt Scythedom, it becomes clear that the winning apprentice’s first task will be to glean the loser.
(I got a bit ahead of myself! I rushed ahead to begin with as it was a pretty awesome read from the get-go. I got to 100 pages in no time at all…)
Stuart: No rush, though I may have to read a little more as it is rather moreish… Even though the central theme is death it is quite bold, interesting and humorous (though it probably shouldn’t be…) 😁
Beth M: Starting it now! Ooh can’t wait. Does it read like YA?
Beth M: Hi Stuart, 100 pages done and ready to chat!
Stuart: I have never done a buddy read so I am not sure how this goes! I am really enjoying Scythe so far. What do you think?
Beth M: Me neither, let’s just wing it and see how it goes! I am so pleasantly surprised by Scythe so far. You know when you read the first line and you think: “I’m going to enjoy this book!” It was completely like that for me. “We must by law, keep a record of the innocents we kill.” Excellent stuff.
Stuart: I think the concept of organised death in an immortal world pretty fascinating. I like the fact that the two characters are essentially fighting for a position that neither of them want but they actually need. Who are you rooting for at this moment in time?
Beth M: Ooh, that’s so tough. I really like Citra’s attitude and the way she isn’t afraid to say what she thinks and stand up to Scythe Faraday but I also admired Rowan and the way he stood by the boy in his school who was being gleaned. How about you? I find it very ironic that they’re taking life from people yet are compared to the best of humanity – almost like avenging angels? Crazy!
Stuart: Yeah I thought Rowan’s moment with Faraday and the gleaning was cool and kind. I think Citra has too much to lose over Rowan but we will see. What do you think is going on with those diamond Scythes on the plane?
Beth M: I think they’re rogues! People that have been trained as Scythes and are supposed to be merciful but have gone to the dark side. 😱 Are you finding this book quite funny? I wasn’t expecting to be tickled at all and it’s surprising how amusing I’m finding it. I love that kids have trading cards with all the different Scythes on them! 😆
Stuart: It is funny, I have laughed quite a lot more than probably necessary but it does come across as quite humorous and witty. That was an interesting addition considering how much people intensely avoid the Scythes in general life. I am definitely getting on with Schusterman’s writing and I am eager to read more. Meet back here at 220pp?
Beth M: Great idea. I’m just intrigued about one more thing, what did you think of the whole regeneration after an accident/no disease/resetting your life back to a particular age? I thought that was a really imaginative touch and I’m really interested to see how they might develop this idea in the series.
Stuart: It is the perfect concept to breed an idea like the need for Scythes. It is kind of weird when you have grandfather/grandmother who wants to return to their twenties and how people choose to look old or have weight etc when everyone could just look perfect. It is an interesting angle on humanity and I look forward to seeing how Shusterman can adapt/mess with it in these novels.
Stuart: Page 162 caught me off guard a little! Blimey 😥
Beth M: Haha me too! That’s going to make things a hell of a lot more interesting now. I’m going to read till p170 and then read to our next checkpoint p220 tomorrow if you’ll be ready for a chat then?
Stuart: Probably by about 5ish tomorrow I should be at 220 if you are about then.
Beth M:Yep no problem talk later! 👋🏻
Stuart: Noooo! This is getting out of hand 😣 so much has changed in just a few pages!
Beth M: Tell me about it! I’m at p220 and things have changed so much in the past 100 pages! Huge shocks, big turn arounds in plot and the intrigue behind these Diamond Scythes keeps growing. How are you enjoying the gleaning journal entries?
Stuart: They are cool and quite thought-provoking I think. I like the references to The Age Of Mortality. Yeah I am worried for Rowan but I am not quite at p220 yet so I will get back to reading.
Stuart: Well that section certainly upped the stakes between our lead characters. I am afraid for Rowan at the hands of Goddard but Curie is a fascinating Scythe so it isn’t all bad. What do you think of the story so far?
Beth M: Oh my goodness Stuart, I’m totally invested. I can’t remember the last time a YA novel had this much of an impact on me! I wasn’t sure if we would find out what Citra’s bad thing she did was in the 100 pages we read, but when we did it was awful. I’m so, so worried for Rowan now, I wasn’t expecting that shocker at all, it came completely out of the blue. What do you make of Goddard and his minions? The scenes on the plane and the shopping centre were ruthless!
Stuart: Goddard for me is a difficult character. I hate the fact that he represents everything that Faraday disapproves of but he is an immensely potent character for the narrative and he is making some pretty impressive waves. I don’t read YA but this has caught me. It is slightly too nonchalant about mass, and brutal, murder but that just puts emphasis on how complacent humanity has become towards death. I have so many theories about the outcome of this novel. Who are you rooting for at this moment in time?
Beth M: I definitely agree about Goddard, it’s interesting how he seems to have to many people, especially those in charge in his back pocket. You’re right it is quite nonchalant but maybe that makes it MORE horrifying? The way in which the saleswoman was dealt with in the Conclave was particularly brutal as well I thought. I think at the moment I’m edging towards Team Rowan, although I do want to shake him a tiny bit…he seems quite impressed with Goddard’s material acquisitions. 😕
Stuart: Yeah but what he is considering due to that huge development that we probably shouldn’t talk about (woah!) is pretty noble in a weird way. Could he really do it? Or let it be done to him? Citra is obsessively competitive so I guess she could do it and worry about it later. Do you have any predictions?
Stuart: What do you think about the plausibility of our world being led by something akin to the Thunderhead. An all-powerful cloud of information?
Beth M: I feel like both of them might work together in the end? I’m not sure, they’re both huge characters it will be interesting to see where Shusterman takes it. 🤔 I really admire his nobility whatever happens and you’re right it does seem like Citra might deal with it differently. The Thunderhead is SO very strange to get my head round. The amount of things it controls is mind boggling. I love when The author goes into more details about the biological differences in humans. Like the nanites/added opiates that prevent a person from feeling prolonged pain. Wow!
Stuart: Shusterman has definitely crafted an exceptional vision of humanity. I think it is time we head to the finish. I will see you there 😁
Beth M: 👍🏻
Beth M: Do you want to have one more stop off at p326 or just go straight to the end?
Stuart: The final act starts at p339. Is that okay with you? Have you already continued reading?
Beth M: That’s fine! Reading until p339 or reading till the end? Haven’t started yet, going to continue tomorrow. 😁
Stuart: Yeah read till p339 and then chat 😁 I have reaf about 20 pages more and there is a hilarious quote that I wanted to share with you. Let’s see if you can guess what I am talking about after you continue reading 😂
Beth M: Challenge accepted!!
Beth M: OH MY GOD. p299! p299! 😱
Stuart: I haven’t started reading yet! I am still on p239. Did you laugh at the ‘The Primordial Ooze!’ bit? I did… a lot!
Beth M: Yes! Haha! 😂
Stuart: Wow! What a place to pause 😅 the development of Scythe is superb. There is so much going on but it is fascinating. How is it for you?
Beth M: I’m really enjoying it. I love how everything is so unexpected and the author keeps pulling the rug from under our feet. That part when Citra and Rowan were sparring…I think I did a little gasp out loud! 😂
Stuart: It was a smart move and shows that both of them are still in the game… well… we will see. We are in a major spoiler zone but it is getting so good! I was glad to see what that Esme business was all about. I can’t envision the ending to this novel at all!
Beth M: I was totally shocked at first re: Rowan and then when we saw what was inside his head it made a weird sort of sense. Brutal though! Yes I wasn’t sure what was going on with Esme but I think she’s going to be very important later on. 🤔 I reckon it’s going to end on a major cliffhanger- it’s a series isn’t it?
Stuart: Yeah Thunderhead is already out in the US but in the UK it is released in August. I hope something doesn’t happen that shreds Rowan of what he is desperate to remain. Volta is going to tell him, I am sure of it. Citra is too important! I hope it isn’t cheesy like self-glean and then redemption for nobility etc. But we will see!
Beth M: Yes it would be good if he could surprise us again. I hate it when things are too predictable. 😕 I’m a bit worried about Citra now considering the situation she’s found herself in!
Stuart: Let us continue and see what happens in the finale!
Beth M: 👍🏻
Stuart: I wont be free for a finale for a finale chat until tomorrow evening. Is that okay?
Beth M: That’s perfect. I’ll read the last of it on my commute to and from work and I’ll be all sorted by the time I get home.
Stuart: Tell me when you finished the book! I have so much to talk about!
Beth M: Finished! Oh dear Lord!! 😱 that was the most perfect ending don’t you think?
Stuart: Oh yeah! I was literally cheering after what happened at the monastery. And yes that ending 😁😁😁 what a ride.
Stuart: I am going to have a serious book hangover in the morning 😅
Beth M: Me too! What about that last journal entry as well? That’s really set up an intriguing second book! 🤔 Also a surprise visit from someone I didn’t expect to see? 🤗
Stuart: Yeah I thought that was a good choice. That journal entry was the best! An urban legend for evil Scythes to fear? Epic 😁
Beth M: It was the best ending. I’m a bit scared now for our terrible twosome! What were your favourite parts overall?
Stuart: Definitely the fantastic plot developments, the distinct difference in paths for the two heroes. I enjoyed the character led narrative populated with memorable individuals (both good and bad). I also loved Shusterman’s vision of our ‘perfect’ existence despite the fact it is fundamentally chilling to think we could become that disassociated with death. How about you?
Beth M: 👍🏻 I loved the whole world building. It was so imaginative and well thought out. I rooted for both characters throughout the narrative at different times and there was so many twists that there was never a dull moment. It played out like a film in my head and I constantly wanted to know what was going on!
Stuart: It was incredibly vivid. With so many harsh themes like violence, death, weapons, mass killings etc I was worried about Scythe being too dark. I found it had unsettling moments but mostly it was bold, audacious and really funny at times which was a nice idea. Shusterman does trivialise death in this novel but in doing so highlights the desperate need to hold on to life and the fear of dying. Do you agree?
Beth M: Definitely. I think it also makes Citra and Rowan respect death a bit more through their training. It was shocking how it was relatively easy to come back from though with a few days in a revival centre! 😱 Who do you think changed the most/had the biggest journey through the novel?
Stuart: Well they both changed in massive ways. Rowan going from a lettuce to an urban legend and Citra dropping her small town competitive streak in favour of something bigger to believe in. Yeah the total lack of consequences of death (some even doing on a regular basis) was unsettling. I would have to say Rowan at the moment as I was literally cheering towards the end of his narrative 😅. Who was your favourite mentor Scythe out of the three?
Beth M: Haha he was such a lettuce! 😂 The way he changed was massive, going from not wanting his school friend to be gleaned to….er what he ended up doing in the final test. It was extraordinary. I’m torn between Faraday and Curie, I loved them both and felt a bit sad at their story too. 😉 don’t tell me you like Goddard?? 😆
Stuart: No not at all. I did think he was an excellent presence in the novel to shake it all up but I would go with Faraday as he is old-school and meaningful. Curie was impressive though. Okay let’s change it up! What didn’t you like about this novel?
Beth M: Bloody good question. I would have liked to know more about The Thunderhead as an entity, how it developed, its history and what exactly it controlled. I felt it was all quite vague and was so intrigued about it, especially when it connected with Citra. Although we might get more information in the second book? Hope so! How about you?
Stuart: I hope we find out more as the sequel is actually called Thunderhead 😅. I agree, they show us this hive/cloud/presence that controls the world and Citra gets a chance to utilise its resources (illegally) but what governs the Thunderhead, how does truly keep people in line etc. What I found the most cool yet the most disconcerting is the Killcraft element. How much thought/effort/enjoyment some Scythes get from the vast array of gleaning tools. What I am trying to say is that for the most part I was impressed by how Shusterman portrayed the Scythes but there is a few moments that were a step to far a.k.a Volta and the classroom. Other than that and the fact that, like you say, some aspects are quite shallow right now, this was an impressive read 😁
Beth M: Yes, he manages the shock factor perfectly. At some points it was almost too much. For me, it was Rowan’s friend willing to “splat” himself over and over again. That gave me the chills! Wish we didn’t have to wait until the summer to read the sequel though!
Stuart: Well I have thoroughly enjoyed this co-read so thank you for taking the time to read Scythe alongside me.
Scythe is Neil Shusterman’s exceptional vision of a perfect world where even death is not a concern anymore. People can easily live multiple centuries, living comfortably with guaranteed income and security. Everything is governed by a system called the Thunderhead which only intervenes when necessary but is always watching. The only threat to humanity is the Scythes who replicate practices from the Age of Mortality. Performing ‘Gleanings’ (executions) to prevent chronic over-population and to keep the fear of death and finality that drives humanity going.
The novel follows Citra and Rowan, two teens who both inadvertently catch the attention of Scythe Faraday through remarkable acts. The old Scythe offers them both a position in the Scythedom as his apprentices. Though only one of them will be allowed to remain at the end of the year. Being a Scythe grants respect, fear, power and immunity from gleaning for a Scythe’s family for as long as they hold the position. Citra and Rowan don’t really want to take lives but they also want their families safe. Their competitive natures get in the way and the training begins. The pair have a difficult time cultivating an appropriate relationship due to the year long battle for a prestigious position. They want to care for each other but they also need distance. Learning how to decide who glean and how is a tough task. This is made even harder when the other Scythes hear that Faraday has two apprentices and it is decided that at the end of the year, whoever wins the ring must glean loser.
Scythe was a cool novel. Shusterman’s character development and expert plot reveals made this one hell of an addictive read. As Citra and Rowan’s paths diverge I found it hard to decide whose story I was enjoying more. They each get put to the test in brutal yet inspiring ways and I ended up rooting for them both. The story just kept pushing the limits of what they are capable of and it was impressive to see their narratives unfold. Scythe is densely populated with memorable characters who definitely test the reader’s morality. From inspiring individuals to bloody hungry maniacs, there are plenty of characters that everyone can relate to. Scythe contains many tough themes including death, fear, violence, hate and mass execution and there were moments that made me shed a tear. But this Scythe is mostly an amusing, upbeat and fascinating read. It does get really dark in places but the focus is really on how complacent humanity has gotten and how the Scythes are there to remind them of their mortality. The influences on this novel are far and wide. From The Hunger Games (youthful competition) and Hitman/Leon (killcraft) to Star Wars (mentorship) and so many more.
I didn’t realise that I could enjoy YA this much. I was literally cheering by the end of this read and it could not have had a better ending. I was waiting for Shusterman to fall into cliche or a predictable pattern but he always managed to surprise me every time. I need to read Thunderhead as soon as possible because there is a lot more for this story to give. Scythe is an unforgettable read that makes you consider life without death and what we take for granted in this life.
About Neil Shusterman
Neal Shusterman is the New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty award-winning books for children, teens, and adults, including The Unwind Dystology, The Skinjacker trilogy, Downsiders, and Challenger Deep, which won the National Book Award. Scythe, the first book in his newest series Arc of a Scythe, is a Michael L. Printz Honor Book. He also writes screenplays for motion pictures and television shows. The father of four children, Neal lives in California. Visit him at Storyman.com and Facebook.com/NealShusterman.