Book Review: Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Please welcome the newest member of Team Midsummer: Leia! Leia and Jess both grew up in the suburbs of Charlotte, NC but didn’t meet until they were both students at East Carolina University. After serving as Orientation Assistants during the summer of 2008, they stayed in touch. Give a big welcome to her and help us celebrate her first official review:

Leia holds her Ph.D. in Educational Foundations and Inquiry and is currently a professor of Educational Research. She has been an avid reader for as long as she can remember, and is absolutely obsessed with everything Potter. Her favorite book series include Harry Potter, A Court of Thorns and Roses, and the Gemma Doyle trilogy. She is also obsessed with pugs.

 

 

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.

Scythe is the first novel of a thrilling new series by National Book Award–winning author Neal Shusterman in which Citra and Rowan learn that a perfect world comes only with a heavy price.

I needed a good story to help break through my post-ACOWAR book hangover, and I certainly found it in Scythe. I have meandered between books, not really committing to any one in particular (and finishing all at a slow pace since none could keep my attention for long)… until I stumbled upon this book.

Shusterman is a name that I tend to hear in passing in the book clubs that I frequent, but I had never read his work before. A friend picked up Scythe and insisted that it was right up my alley – and I can’t thank her enough. It is a fast paced read which picks up to a break-neck speed about halfway through. This is definitely a book that I lost sleep over this week.

Humanity has reached a point where death is no longer a guarantee. Instead of continuing to age, individuals are able to turn back their genes in order to relive their younger years – often resetting to their early twenties. Sickness and pain are things of the past, as “nanites” are injected into the bloodstream of all people in order to keep their bodies healthy and healed. “Splatting,” the process of killing yourself in creative ways, has become a popular past time – splatters are revived and able to continue their lives within a few days. This presents a problem, of course, as people continue to reproduce and the earth is more and more populated.

In order to cull the population, Scythes are trained and ordained to glean the lives of individuals. Each Scythe, however, is given the freedom to glean as they see fit. The book follows Citra and Rowan as they serve and apprenticeship under the great Scythe Faraday.

Citra and Rowan are fantastic as main characters, and I found myself holding my breath as their journey into Scythedom intensified. While a romantic interest between the two is hinted at, it is not a main part of the story itself. This would normally be a turn off for me – I am definitely a fan of romance – but its near-absence never phased me. I feel that anything more than what is present would have felt wrong for the characters, which are focused instead on perfecting the art of death.

I am notorious for predicting story arcs and twists, but never saw the majority of this book coming. Because of this, I am hesitant to say more about the book, lest I spoil something for future readers. The experience was one that I will not soon forget.

4.5 Bards

 

Book Review: A Million Junes by Emily Henry

Please welcome the newest member of Team Midsummer: Liz! Liz met Lyv way back at a To Write Love On Her Arms conference and they stayed in touch.  Then, as Jess and Lyv became friends, Jess and Liz “virtually” met via Tumblr, and finally met in person at YallFest 2016.  Give a big welcome to her and help us celebrate her first official review:

About Liz:

 

Liz is a History major with a double minor in archaeology and statistics, who is currently on a hiatus from going to school. Her first love is history but her second love is reading. She didn’t get into reading until she was 21 and she found comfort and courage in the characters. The series that really started her love of books was Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas. Romance novels are her guilty pleasure but her real love is YA books. Some of her favorite books are Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo, A World Lit Only By Fire by William Manchester and of course literally anything Sarah J Maas writes.

 

 

In their hometown of Five Fingers, Michigan, the O’Donnells and the Angerts have mythic legacies. But for all the tall tales they weave, both founding families are tight-lipped about what caused the century-old rift between them, except to say it began with a cherry tree.

Eighteen-year-old Jack “June” O’Donnell doesn’t need a better reason than that. She’s an O’Donnell to her core, just like her late father was, and O’Donnells stay away from Angerts. Period.

But when Saul Angert, the son of June’s father’s mortal enemy, returns to town after three mysterious years away, June can’t seem to avoid him. Soon the unthinkable happens: She finds she doesn’t exactly hate the gruff, sarcastic boy she was born to loathe.

Saul’s arrival sparks a chain reaction, and as the magic, ghosts, and coywolves of Five Fingers conspire to reveal the truth about the dark moment that started the feud, June must question everything she knows about her family and the father she adored. And she must decide whether it’s finally time for her—and all of the O’Donnells before her—to let go.

 

I feel like it should be known i have never been a big fan of Romeo & Juliet. Their relationship is unrealistic.  I typically try to avoid books that have the Romeo & Juliet storyline, but I received an ARC so I decided to give it a try anyway.  I am so glad I gave it a try!

A Million Junes follows June(her real name is Jack but everyone calls her June) and Saul and their desire to be together but mainly needing to know why their families hate each other. Which leads them to learning why and how their families are cursed. Finding out what the curse is, is a whirlwind adventure.  Although it might not keep you on the edge of your seat, it does keep you interested.

When I first found out Saul was 21 I was worried this would be a book about a man much older than the main character because June is still in high school. For me, I automatically get worried when a book mentions age differences specifically if one of those people are in high school.  If the characters are not consenting adults or at least both in high school, I will put a book down and never pick it up again.  But it turns out June is 18. The fact that the main characters are two consenting adults is wonderful (compared to Juliet being 13 and Romeo being an age that is never disclosed, but we can assume is older than Juliet).  

When I first started this book I expected everyone to die (how could I not?! The description said it was like “Romeo & Juliet.”).

SPOILER ALERT:
I was happy when nobody ended up dying but enough does happen where for most of the end you expect one of the characters to end up dead.  The more information you get about the curse the more you assume someone is going to die. There is simply no avoiding it. A Million Junes didn’t fall into the YA cliche of “and they lived happily ever after.”  There is still room for these characters to grow but you don’t feel like you are being left with a cliffhanger.  If the author wants to write a sequel she could, but I think where it ended is a good place.

My favorite quote from A Million Junes was :

“‘June, Moments are like cherries.  They’re meant to be relished. Shared – not hoarded.  You can clutch one terrible moment or experience all the rest.  Your life is slipping past in brilliant little bits…’”

I am someone who spends a lot of time thinking more about the bad memories than the good. This quote made me realize I am missing out on so many good memories by holding on to the bad ones. There is absolutely nothing wrong with letting the bad memories go and living in the now and enjoying your life as much as possible. I feel like part of the reason I enjoyed reading about June so much was because of the journey she went on and the growth she experienced.

This book was a happy surprise for me.  I am so pleased I picked it up and gave it a chance.

3.5 Bards!

You can pre-order A Million Junes now!

 

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