It’s been a while since I’ve read a science fiction book that I just couldn’t put down. Scythe, by Neal Shusterman, however, is just that kind of novel. It makes you hungry for more, and I believe it will do the same for your students. Need an exciting, but challenging, modern dystopian novel for your students? Then add Scythe to your high school classroom library immediately!
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What Drew Me to Scythe?
I avoided Scythe for awhile. My interest in dystopian literature really just starts and ends with the fact that I need to teach a unit centered on it. I looked at the length of Scythe, realized it was way too long for a whole class read, and never bothered to get a copy.
Wow, was that a mistake!
I still don’t think this is going to be a whole class novel for me, but I absolutely loved it! This is one of those young adult novels that I love even when I forget about my students and my classroom. I would keep this one on my personal shelf.
What Makes Scythe “Lit”?
Some of us fear the advancement of artificial intelligence. I mean, we know how the story goes, right? Robots outsmart us, realize that we are inefficient/cruel/wastes of resources, and then they seek to destroy mankind.
In Scythe, artificial intelligence has grown beyond this–it’s not only smart, but it’s also wise. So wise, in fact, that humanity intrusts it with everything.
People go to the AI–the Thunderhead–for life advice. (Imagine an Alexa who could help you with boy troubles!) It has solved all of life’s problems, including the big one: death.
But in a world without death, someone must control population growth. And what is life without the possibility of death around every corner?
Enter the Sycthedom: a group entrusted to keep population growth under control. Despite their wisdom, training, and the service they provide, scythes live separately from the rest of humanity. They alone operate outside of The Thunderhead’s control.
Most scythes work with compassion and kindness. Other seek power. Citra and Rowan, two new scythe apprentices, find themselves in the middle of this power struggle while trying to complete their training, thus saving their own lives.
Scythe pulls readers in with the world and the mysterious draw of the scythes themselves. Halfway through though, I found myself mesmerized by the inner politics of the Scythedom.
Neal Shusterman’s fictional future feels real and complete like I could step inside the story, peak around the corner, and the world would continue beyond the description on the page.
I’m always impressed by authors whose worlds are so complete, that they can manipulate the loopholes of their own making. And Neal Shusterman does just that.
Who’s the Ideal Reader for Scythe?
Shusterman’s writing is appealing to teens, but its style feels more “adult” than many other YA novels.
Since sharing my love of Scythe on Instagram, I’ve had a ton of adults comment and share that they too love it. After talking about during a nail appointment, my nail technician proceeded to devour it and its sequel, Thunderhead.
This book would definitely be appealing to more advanced readers, readers who enjoy things a little “dark,” or those readers who seem a little wiser than their peers.
It falls into the sci-fi and dystopian genre, but I think it would appeal to more than just sci-fi fans. This one is definitely worthy of being in your classroom beyond just sitting on a shelf. It would make a great lit circle or book club book. (Sign up for my newsletter here for other such recommendations!)
SCYTHE: THE CLASSROOM FACTS
Author: Neal Shusterman
Genre: Dystopian, science fiction
Setting: The future in which an artificial intelligence called The Thunderhead is in charge of humanity. The only group outside of its control is the Scythedom, which is responsible for compassionately killing humans to control the population.
Main Character: Citra Terranova and Rowan Damisch, two teenagers apprenticed to become Scythes
Page Numbers: 449
Want more novels like this one? Children of Blood and Bone offers another rich, fictitious world–think tribal, jungle fantasy! For another dark read that you won’t be able to put down, I recommend Lauren Oliver’s Broken Things.
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