Book Review


I was originally planning to write this as three separate reviews. But I was busy working on a project at the time and didn’t have the time to devote to writing a review when I finished the first book (or the second), and I don’t know about you, but when I get wrapped up in a really good series, I get in this zone where I just automatically pick up the next book immediately after finishing the last one. And when it’s a series, it is really easy for the events of the books to run together.

I’m sure you know how that goes. So rather than beat myself up about it, I’m going to go with the flow and try something new, and just review the series as a whole (without giving away any spoilers, somehow). Yeah, I know I have my work cut out for me, but bear with me here. I think it could be fun! I didn’t include the plot summary for each book, just the links to them, since I didn’t want to give anything away.

  • Scythe
  • Author: Neal Shusterman
  • Genre: YA Dystopian
  • Publication Date: November 22, 2016
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Goodreads plot summary here.

  • Thunderhead
  • Author: Neal Shusterman
  • Genre: YA Dystopian
  • Publication Date: January 9, 2018
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Goodreads plot summary here.

  • The Toll
  • Author: Neal Shusterman
  • Genre: YA Dystopian
  • Publication Date: November 5, 2019
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Goodreads plot summary here.

The story takes place in a utopian society in the future, where technology has advanced to the point where it is overseen by the ultra-efficient and benevolent Thunderhead, which keeps things running perfectly smoothly, and has completely eliminated death. Instead, when people die, they just go “deadish” until they can be revived. But along with creating a race of immortal humans comes the issue of population growth, which is solved by scythes — a select group of people who are chosen to take lives in a process known as gleaning. Rowan and Citra are selected as apprentices to a scythe. They’re smart, and quickly dedicate themselves to this task that neither wants, even when it becomes painfully obvious that there will be dramatic consequences that they never expected.

We are above the law, but that does not mean we live in defiance of it. Our position demands a level of morality beyond the rule of law. We must strive for incorruptibility and must assess our motives on a daily basis.”

The first story focuses so much on Citra and Rowan that it was really easy to become attached to them. I liked the concept of the society and how it functions, and how while the society has advanced exponentially, people still face the same emotional and social issues. I guess no matter what changes, some things always stay the same.

The way mental illness is addressed in books can be a major pet peeve of mine, but this book is such a great example of how it could be handled (and should, in my opinion). Someone who is showing signs of depression would have it corrected, same as someone who is aging or has a metabolic issues. There’s a nonbinary/gender fluid character in the story as well, and when another character just directly asked about their pronouns, it completely won over my heart. It wasn’t a big issue, it just was.

The second book moved the storyline out from Rowan and Citra to encompass what is occurring outside of their own little world, including in the Scythedom. We start to see things from the Thunderhead’s point of view as well. I didn’t really think it would be as interesting as it was, but it’s a lot more sentient than I had expected. Not just sentient, but personable, empathetic, and caring as well.

In the third book, the storyline moves even further out and we see the full picture. The actions don’t just affect the main characters, but the world. The story jumps back and forth a little initially, but it made sense after I hit my stride. There’s vaguely religious overtones, but like the cliches, they don’t quite match up to what they were in the distant past (aka our present day). It’s almost like playing broken telephone as a kid — something is always missing when you get to the end of the line.

The books incorporate humor, action, intrigue, the value of friendship above all, loyalty, and duty, and even a little bit of romance. These are the kind of books that had me thinking about them long after I finished reading, and I definitely plan to reread them again.

People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.

Gasp Factor for Scythe: 9

Gasp Factor for Thunderhead: 12

Gasp Factor for The Toll: 8

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