A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What 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.
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What's the story?
Opening in the aftermath of the sinking on an entire island, THE TOLL finds in Greyson Tolliver in a unique position, able to converse with the god-like AI (artificial intelligence) known as Thunderhead when the rest of humanity is cut off from it. Having been captured by a cult-like religious group calling itself "the Tonists," he is reluctantly elevated as "The Toll," one of the two most powerful positions on the planet. Opposed to him is the megalomaniacal Goddard, who has his own agenda for humanity. Other characters from the earlier books take sides in the epic struggle, until the fate of humankind rests in one desperate gambit for freedom.
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how The Toll deals with the subject of death. Would life have any meaning if there was no such thing as death?
In The Toll, humanity made aborted attempts to establish outposts on Mars and the Moon. Should humankind assume that there are reachable planets that offer a second chance at not destroying themselves? How might society change its mind about climate change, for example, if people could live for centuries?
Is it possible to become desensitized to violence? Do violent games or movies have addictive qualities?
- Author: Neal Shusterman
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, Adventures, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
- Publication date: November 5, 2019
- Number of pages: 627
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: April 24, 2020
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