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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
The Toll is primarily a sci-fi thriller, but it offers plenty of opportunities for discussing free will, ethics, and the possibility of an afterlife. If dying is rare, how does the definition of living change?
Knowing that our bodily existence is finite gives meaning to our lives. Kindness and empathy are more important than ambition and success. Doing the right thing is often not easy.
Positive Role Models
After the destruction of the island of Endura, various survivors scheme to stay alive as Overblade Goddard kills loyal scythes left and right. Greyson Tolliver is the only person on the planet who can still hear the voice of Thunderhead, the nearly omniscient AI steering the course of humanity. Tolliver and his allies struggle to give humanity a second chance at transendence.
Violence & Scariness
The main subject of The Toll is death, and violence is meted out constantly throughout the book, mostly by stabbing but with some variety. Many deaths are impermanent, and readers who've followed the saga this far should not be surprised at the bloodshed.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
No one seems to have much time for or interest in romance. Greyson hosts overnight guests in his sleeping quarters, but there are no details of any nocturnal activities. One character is gender fluid and is attracted to women and men.
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Swearing is infrequent in The Toll: a handful of "damn" and "hell," with one or two instances of "s--t" and "f--k."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this final volume in the trilogy started in the 2017 Michael J. Printz Honor Book Scythe, by Neal Shusterman, is set in a future where most of the human population is immortal but a few are chosen to die at the hands of mysterious officials known as "scythes." There are many scenes of violence -- mass murder, beatings and torture, and intimate killings -- which may upset younger, more sensitive readers. Strong language is limited to one or two uses each of "f--k," "s--t," "hell," and "damn." References to sex are very infrequent.
Is It Any Good?
Super-sized science fiction sagas can sometimes test the patience of readers, but this epically convoluted trilogy rewards readers who persevere until the breathtaking ending. In The Toll, favorite characters appear in new roles, and each chapter brings fresh complications. Author Neal Shusterman orchestrates the narrative's endgame with high levels of suspense and humor, bringing to a conclusion a saga whose captivating premise has been explored from every interesting angle. The Arc of a Scythe books will appeal to readers who relish moral conundrums but want plenty of action to accompany the mind-bending philosophy.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.