Want personalized picks that fit your family?

Set preferences to see our top age-appropriate picks for your kids.

Get age-based picks

Scythe: Arc of a Scythe, Book 1

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
Scythe: Arc of a Scythe, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Chilling concept fuels sci-fi thriller about life and death.
Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 8 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 10 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Explores interesting questions about the meaning of life and death, the value of compassion, and the choice of self-sacrifice.

Positive Messages

Knowing that our bodily existence is finite gives meaning to our lives. Kindness and empathy are more important than ambition and success.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Neither Citra nor Rowan wants to become a scythe, but they learn to take their duties seriously. They struggle with conflicting philosophies, but they manage to be true to themselves.


Scythe contains innumerable scenes of violence, from messy suicides to mass killings with flamethrowers to intimate and sudden poisonings or stabbings. There's a literary rationale for this bloody excess, but younger readers might be upset by it.


Citra and Rowan develop crushes on each other, but for the most part they keep their attraction well hidden.


Language is mild, with under a dozen uses of "hell" and "damn" and one or two of "ass."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Champagne is served to underage drinkers at a party.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that 2017 Michael J. Printz Honor Book Scythe, by Neal Shusterman, is set in a future where most of the human population is immortal but where a few are chosen to die at the hands of mysterious officials known as "scythes." There are many scenes of violence -- suicides, mass murder, beatings and torture, and intimate killings -- which may upset younger, more sensitive readers. Strong language is limited to under a dozen uses of "hell" and "damn," with one or two instances of "ass." There's an attraction between the two main characters, but they don't act on it.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byAngeldovey October 4, 2017

Great Message...just have to read to the end.

I disagree that this book tells children that killing is ok. Those in the book that took lives in violent ways were the bad guys, and that is very clear. Yes, t... Continue reading
Parent of a 13 year old Written byjonathanc1870 June 25, 2018

Intense Violence, Clever Writing, Fantastic Concepts

This book is a fantastic book with a well-developed world and great story telling. Readers will think deeply about mortality, AI systems, and ethical issues. Th... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old April 24, 2018

It really depends. . .

I respectfully disagree with the reviews that state this book approves the act of killing (which is called "gleaning" in the book). I think that a ki... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byViolet M July 13, 2018


I read the book, Scythe, when I was 12 years old. It's a great book, but it circles around the idea of murdering (even though they don't call it that... Continue reading

What's the story?

As SCYTHE opens, Rowan and Citra have no intention of becoming scythes, favored officials who rule on matters of life and death in a future where disease has been vanquished and death can be easily thwarted. But when they both become students of Scythe Farraday, they begin to question the meaning of life and death. And when they're pitted against each other, they will have to face the possibility of personal extermination, even as they struggle against the machinations of a corrupt band of renegade scythes.

Is it any good?

A fresh, rich central conceit is often the first step toward a superior science fiction saga, and this new novel has a winner of a premise. Readers of Scythe will be with Rowan and Citra every step of the way as they prepare for their duties as dealers of death. Author Neal Shusterman tackles big themes but keeps the action running high, with plenty of twists, reversals, and unexpected secrets. This volume delivers a satisfying reading experience, but it also leaves plenty of room for an exciting follow-up.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Scythe portrays a world where death is an infrequent occurrence. How would near immortality change civilization? Would human nature change at all?

  • How is violence used in Scythe? Is it only used for evil? Do people ever welcome death?

  • What would it be like to have the power of life and death over someone?

Book details

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

For kids who love science fiction and dystopian novels

Our editors recommend

Top advice and articles

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate