I’ve read a few of Neal Shusterman’s novels and they’ve all been based on a strong, interesting premise.
Unwind is based around the idea that children between the ages of 13 and 18 can be unwound by their parents, a kind of post-birth abortion, where their bodies can be harvested for organs. One scene still haunts me. The protagonist’s bully undergoes an autopsy, his body harvested for transplantation, from the feet up. While conscious.
Downsiders is about a community living beneath the streets of New York City and the conflict when this underground society clashes with the rest of the world.
While both Unwind and Downsiders are set in contemporary or near future settings, Scythe is set well into the future when the Cloud upgrades into an artificially intelligent and all knowing Thunderstorm, which governs the entire world. All knowledge has been discovered and is accessible to everyone. The environment has been stabilised, and poverty and war are a thing of the past. People can turn “the corner” and become physically young again, and death has been conquered. Deadish is the closest humans come to dying, wisked away and patched back together from almost anything. But how do you manage a sharp increase in population when people can live forever and it’s normal to have dozens or more children?
Scythes are individuals who live outside of the Thunderstorm’s control and influence. Isolated from the rest of society, they’re worshiped and feared because each year they have a set quota of people to permanently make dead. It’s a Scythe’s choice of who and how, as long as it follows their ten commandments. In a world where dying no longer exists, murder is a necessity.
We’re introduced to two teenagers, Citra and Rowan. Both are empathetic and do the unthinkable, argue with a Scythe when he comes to take a life. The Scythe takes them both on as apprentices and they end up pitted against each other, vying (somewhat involuntarily) for the position after their apprenticeship.
The story is interesting and I had no trouble being sucked into it; however, I would say the main narrative idea fascinated more than the characters. I had to look up the characters’ names to write this review, but I would still recommend any of Neal Shusterman’s novels.