Scythe by Neal Shusterman | Utopia has its problems…


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In a world where natural death has been eradicated and immortality is a standard expectation from life, Citra and Rowan are chosen as apprentice scythes – scythes being professional killers chosen to keep the population at bay. Thrown into a morbid world forever testing their morals, we learn about this new world order as we watch the two train for the hardest job of their lives.

So, it’s fair to say the world building in this was by far its strength, in my eyes at least. Apparently in this world infinite knowledge has been achieved, and so everything on Earth runs smoothly. A utopian ideal is created; everyone’s equal, no government is needed, and even death has been beaten. How does that work? Well, you’ll just have to read the book to find out, won’t you? But my intrigue was instantly caught. I wanted to see if this was all planned out, whether it could appear realistic. Though I think realistic would be taking it a bit far…it still had me flipping the pages of the first half quick enough, eager to make sense of this world.

What didn’t have me so eager though was the romance that was bound to bloom. Without saying which characters under which circumstance or whether it works out or not (because spoilers), all I’ll say is I was not on board at all. Try again next time. Or rather, don’t. God forbid a book has both a female and male character without them falling madly in love. *rolls eyes* Ugh.


The overall story behind this book seemed quite unique, and I did find it to be a quick read each time I picked it up. I expected it to have a darker atmosphere surrounding it – what with the ‘trained as professional killers = death is around at all times’ scenario – but I suppose once it becomes a way of life, the dark feeling wouldn’t have been so intense. Learning about these lives though could’ve been extended slightly, I feel. We’re told, rather than shown, that Citra and Rowan are training in many deadly skills, and we kind of just have to put faith in the author telling us so because we don’t really see them train at all. One minute they’re random people off the street, bat an eyelash and suddenly they can take you down with their bare hands. Standard.

(TW – the next paragraph mentions suicide)

On the topic of death (when is it ever not the topic of death in this book?), I did find myself uncomfortable with how suicide was handled in this book. If anyone dies, they can just regenerate and be brought back, so suicide is mostly unheard of. However that does mean that what we would consider suicidal acts are instead treated as games, something not to be taken seriously because they get another go. On the flip side, it turns out scythes are *allowed* to commit suicide, making it a privilege. I understand that in this world, the society probably would view it this way, being as desensitised to death as they are. I just…found something off about it literally being game or privilege. Especially because absolutely none of the scenes depicting it as a game were necessary.

I also found myself uncomfortable at times with how people were described – in particular, overweight people. There are only two people in this book that are specified as being overweight, and both of them are treated appallingly in terms of description. I’m talking being compared to planets and the like. It wasn’t necessary AT ALL, it just seemed cruel.

Call me out for nitpicking all you like after this tirade of negativity, but I’ve not had to mention this in other reviews. Just saying.


“The greatest achievement of the human race was not conquering death. It was ending government.” 


Despite all those smaller details, it is an enjoyable story. Politics and power relations still managed to be a dominating feature of the story despite this “equal” society, and it was intriguing to see where the loopholes formed. Seeing deep rooted inequality in a place that seems utopian on the surface is always an idea I like exploring. There was an interesting take on today’s society too, dubbed the “Age of Mortality” and referenced as an ancient world, much like how we discuss Ancient Greece and Rome nowadays. Drawing on the comparisons between societies then and now only helped solidify the world building and set this fictional history into place.

So, a pretty mixed review. The world and story itself proved an entertaining read, keeping at a quick enough pace to keep me flipping the pages. But it’s smaller details proved problematic at times, and I just can’t get over how let down I am about its falling into the romance trope when there was literally no need. But nevermind. It had quite a good ending, I’ll say that for sure. I just don’t think this one had enough for me to take it any further than this first book.

*Thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book. This in no way affects my opinion.

Rated 3/5 stars

3 stars

I’d love to know your thoughts on this book if you’ve read it!

Until next time,





10 thoughts on “Scythe by Neal Shusterman | Utopia has its problems…

      1. It’s honestly one of my favorite YA series. The premise is a dystopian future where life is untouchable since the moment of conception. But, teenagers can be “unwound” (all their organs are harvested and donated) between the ages of 13-18. It’s a very chilly, but unique story! I hope you give it a try some day!

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Fascinating review! I loved this book when I read it, but I never thought of some stuff you pointed out in this review, like the suicide thing, which now that you said it is kind of fucked up. I’m still excited to read the next book tho, but I can totally understand your thoughts on it!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. ive not read this but i highly recommend his unwind series, it was amazing! stuck with me so much.

    im excited for this but im worried nothing can ever live up to unwind bc it haunted me


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