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Book Review

Book Review: Scythe

Arc of a Scythe, Book 1

By Neal Shusterman


Thou shalt kill.

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.

♫ You might have to excuse me
I’ve lost control of all my senses
And you might have to excuse me
I’ve lost control of all my words
So get drunk, call me a fool
Put me in my place, put me in my place
Pick me up, up off the floor
Put me in my place, put me in my place ♫

It’s completely fitting that Good Grief by Bastille started playing while I’m sitting here tapping my fingers over how to rate and then express my… *ahem* lack of excitement… for this interesting and unique book. Given the stack of raving reviews, I’m in the minority but I can see both sides.

I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either… I’m the worst possible case of indifferent. (Oh the horror!) I can pin this on a couple of main issues I had while reading: the blandness of the characters and the pacing of the storytelling.

What’s the MC’s name? I can’t remember …a citrus fruit of some kind? I don’t exactly know what to say about her because trying to read her was like gnawing on a stale rice cake without water to wash it down. Rowan, on the other hand, had a little more going for him but he was still severely underdeveloped. I’m going to ignore the attempt at a romantic subplot… because it never existed. It was told, not shown, and completely unnecessary.

For the first half of the book: nothing happened. It was just like, totally boring dude.

“Whoa! Dude, you got a tattoo!”
“So do you dude! Dude, what does my tattoo say?”
“Sweet! What about mine?”
“Dude! What does mine say?”
“Sweet! What about mine?”
“Dude! What does mine say?”
“Sweet! What about mine?”
“Dude. What does mine say?!
“Sa-weeee-tah. What about MINE?!
“Dooooo-dah. WHAT DOES MINE SAY?!”

*lol Sorry, what? Oh yes… By the time the plot picked up, I kept losing momentum because of the journal entry interludes between each chapter. Talk about a choppity-chop job that gave me the attention span of a goldfish! I liked the journaling at first, but it became a drag in the second half (particularly during the climax bits). The actual writing never annoyed the hell out of me though, so that was a relief! 🙂

I haven’t read anything quite like it before, so the concept was refreshing and it made me think. Nothing really went “wrong” with the book, but I felt like a bystander in what could have been a fully immersed experience. I was there, waiting and ready for it, but it didn’t captivate me. The hypetrain left the platform with me standing, ticket in hand, feeling the wind of what could have been…

Hope in the shadow of fear is the world’s most powerful motivator.

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