Scythe by Neal Schusterman. Simon & Schuster, 2016.
Humanity has entered the post-mortal age. No one really dies of natural causes anymore, since disease has been eliminated and accidents can be repaired. Even age can be undone as grandparents “turn the corner”, resetting themselves to people in their twenties, when they remarry and start new families. Everything is run by the sentient power of the internet, now called the Thunderhead. Everything except the order of the Scythes, who “reap” people – who then stay truly dead –to maintain balance.
Our two teens, Citra and Rowan, are taken as apprentices to Scythe Faraday, one of the most balanced and respected of the scythes. He tells them it’s a good sign that they don’t want to be scythes and aren’t interested in killing. But the order doesn’t take kindly to him taking two apprentices, so they are set against each and told to be rivals even as they are the only people they truly trust. There is doomed love, politics, mortal danger, high action, lots of violence, corruption in high places, and plenty of plot twists, all with lots of deep thoughts about the meaning of life.
So I totally get why it’s so popular. It is really tough to write a high-action, high-character, high-concept book. It just didn’t quite work for me – the doomed romance felt artificial, I didn’t buy wanting to raise a family and then leave your partner and start over with a new one, and perhaps most of all, I do not care for violence or high-octane plots. And yet, I know I’m in the minority on those last two.
I bet my son would love it, though, especially as the romance part doesn’t take up too much time. The second volume, Thunderhead, is out now.